What a night, what a night.
The cold realisation after beating Tottenham that a few days later we would be back to face City in the League cup was not the most exciting prospect.
Pre game was fun, meeting up with a friend who has finally got his arse into gear to buy a season ticket. This was someone who I hadn’t seen for nearly 10 years and glad to say he is still in fine fettle.
For those that are interested, more change in the seats behind me for this game. Kids for a quid gave me the opportunity to have a family with 3 under 5’s (not them !) sitting behind me. Believe it or not they were better than the Surrey Train Squad of Genk and Rapid fame.
I fully expected lots of changes on both sides with City having a significant upper hand. No fun in that. And to an extent that’s what I got. Wholesale changes on both sides. Unfortunately, City’s second team had 3 players who played in the Euro 2020 final for England, with 2 more in the bench. We had Noble, Dawson, Lanzini, Yarma, Vlasic and Areola coming in, and Moyes saw sense enough to leave Rice and Antonio completely out of it.. Slight gulf in quality !
And it showed. City’s domination of possession (64% according to the BBC, I thought more) was precise, and smooth. Do they ever miss a pass ? But no cutting edge. Sterling had a couple of runs at Johnson, but was getting no change from a lad really making his way in this squad. I sort of get what people have been saying about City not having a striker now. Without that focal point they are relying on mistakes from the opposition. Not that Areola had nothing to do. Out of the 2 keepers he was easily the busiest, but handled everything with ease, and an agility that maybe has made Fab stand up and raise his game as well. One save from a Stone header would have been talked about for weeks if it was Ederson or Alisson. Keep it up Alphonse, the start is only round the corner.
With the odd bit of counter attack from us, the game followed the same pattern all night. City attack, we get the ball, and provide a poor pass back to them after a small amount of possession. But our defending was resolute. Johnson, as already stated played a blinder again. Dawson and Diop were solid and Cresswell was just Cresswell.
The only player who struggled was Yarmalenko, and I think that may have been due to the quick closedown at high quality from Stones and Ake. Also, he was a bit isolated meaning normally his best available pass was backwards, quite a way backwards. Lanzini was getting bounced about in the middle, but held his own just about.
As the second half went on we saw more of the ball and there were chances for Masuaku (who was good all night, for his first game in a while). Yarma had a clear opportunity taken away after some lovely interchange with Johnson.
We continued to apply pressure, post our subs, as Bowen, Fornals, and Benrahma came on and brought up the effort and creativity levels. Towards the end of the 90 Coufal came on for Lanzini and I assumed this was to take a penalty. And like that penalties were upon us.
Up steps Noble. No problem. Then Foden. Big problem as he lashes it wide. Then we go one for one with Bowen, Dawson and Cresswell getting ours . Our last penalty, and the one to win the match, I assumed would be taken by Coufal. And up steps Benrahma. The same fella who was shocking against Spurs and has shown to be very hot and cold. By this time my nerves are shredding. The stadium is silent. Both teams watch on……..
AND HE SCORES
And that’s that, time to get home. What a night !
What a night again. For the first time since the move, I felt like a fan again if that makes sense. Getting sucked into the drama, revelling in the atmosphere. The sheer joy of that last penalty. Having a sore throat in the morning !
MOTM Areola. Top man all night, made some big saves. Big shout out to Noble, who kept everything tidy, and Johnson, who based on the subs, kept a fit Coufal out of the team. Can he do the same away against Villa this Sunday?