Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United: possession versus counter-attack

December 10, 2012

Manchester City Manchester united
“Manchester United stormed into a 0-2 lead, City got it back to 2-2, then United pinched the win very late on. Roberto Mancini went with Mario Balotelli upfront rather than Carlos Tevez – the rest of his side was as expected. Antonio Valencia was surprisingly declared fit, so Sir Alex Ferguson chose the same XI he selected in United’s most comparable fixture this season, the 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge in October. In one sense United were fortunate to win the match because of the manner of their late winner, in another they were unfortunate not to be 3-0 up earlier in the second half. In a match of contrasting approaches, United carried out theirs more effectively.” Zonal Marking

Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3: match report
“Samir Nasri would be advised not to show his face around Manchester City fans’ haunts for a few days after failing to show his face when it mattered most in this epic derby. Embarrassingly and expensively, Nasri hid behind the wall, opening space for Robin van Persie’s winning free-kick. Such key moments can unlock trophy cabinets. Trailing 2-0 at the break, the champions had rallied impressively. Halfway through four minutes of added time, City just had to repel a free-kick to protect their 37-game unbeaten league home record, to ensure United were only three points clear. City’s wall was initially a gang of four. Gareth Barry and Edin Dzeko, the taller players, protected Joe Hart’s near post. Then came Nasri and Carlos Tévez, who suddenly broke away from the wall, seemingly to follow Wayne Rooney. And then there were three.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Manchester United’s fast breakaways down flanks cut City wide open
“In an age where squad rotation is widespread, it is entirely normal for a title-challenging manager to chop and change between matches, but rarely have Sir Alex Ferguson’s selection decisions caused such consternation among Manchester United fans. Too often this season, United have conceded the first goal and been forced to win the match from the bench – here, Ferguson needed to get his starting lineup right. His selection made sense – he turned to the XI he used at Chelsea in October, a decision made possible by Antonio Valencia’s surprise recovery from injury. That was a sign he wanted to replicate the display at Stamford Bridge, which was sealed by a fortunate goal, but featured some fantastic counterattacking throughout the match, with an obvious pattern. Chelsea were flooding the centre of the pitch under Roberto Di Matteo, so United broke quickly down the flanks, particularly the right.” Guardian – Michael Cox

Robin van Persie scores late winner as Manchester United beat City
“It was the kind of tempestuous finale that has come to symbolise these clashes and, out of the madness, Manchester United will cherish their six-point lead over the team that caused them so many hardships last season. But where to start? The final whistle alone felt like bedlam, with Carlos Tevez and Sir Alex Ferguson contemplating whether to prolong an old argument, Gareth Barry screaming at Roberto Mancini, Rio Ferdinand nursing a line of blood above his left eye and Phil Jones, already booked for inciting the crowd, determined to milk the moment some more.” Guardian (Video)

Man City 2 Man United 3
“There is Wayne Rooney, who became the youngest player to hit 150 Premier League goals, as he put his team two up in the first half. And there is the irrepressible Robin van Persie, whose 14th of the season won a fantastic game after City had threatened a Mission: Impossible comeback.” The Sun (Video)

Barcelona’s bogey team?

December 10, 2012

“Celtic made waves across Europe with their Champions League group stage win over Barcelona. While the result was a notable upset, it was in keeping with the Catalan side’s decidedly average record against teams from Scotland. Curiously, in 18 contests Barca have won six, drawn five and now lost seven against Scottish opposition. The Bhoys’ recent triumph was their second against the side from the Nou Camp, following on from a first-leg win in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup which helped them progress to the last eight of the competition. Back in season 1960/61 meanwhile, Hibernian’s 3-2 victory at Easter Road clinched a 7-6 aggregate win in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup quarter-finals. However, when it comes to taming Barcelona, one Scottish team have a record that many bigger clubs can only dream of.” World Soccer

Reds take an important step

December 10, 2012

“No Luis Suarez but, ultimately, no problem for Liverpool. Despite the absence of their most influential player and top scorer, Brendan Rodgers’ side proved capable of not only scoring more than two goals in a game for only the third game in the league this season but also coming from behind for the first time. Yet, although that impressive comeback puts them back into the top half and just four points off the Champions League places, it’s still hard to say where they actually are as a team. Was this win an illustration of the kind of progress Brendan Rodgers has been preaching about or a mere aberration borne of a series of oddities at Upton Park?” ESPN

The Importance of Lucas Leiva
“This writer must confess, Lucas Leiva has never been his favorite Liverpool player. The Brazilian is articulate, tidy, and one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Still, my eye is shallowly drawn to flashes of genius, readily shown by those who have the luxury of playing high up field where every twist and turn could lead to a goal. It’s only natural, I tell myself. Amongst all the excitement of watching Luis Suarez twist and turn three defenders it’s quite easy to forget how much easier the Uruguayan’s job, and those of his teammates, is made easier by the Lucas’ presence. It’s all the more shameful because this writer has long considered himself too smart to be fooled by the myth of Brazil’s jogo bonito. The Seleção figured out long ago that the only way creative players flourish is with a strong base behind them. The true keys to World Cup success have always lain with players such as Gilberto Silva or Dunga. Hardly carthorses but players that excelled at the less glamorous part of the game. Still Lucas is overlooked. For shame.” EPL Talk

La Liga: Real Betis 1-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

December 10, 2012

“Barcelona had to dig deep to hold off the challenge of Real Betis and maintain their six-point lead at the top of La Liga ahead of next week’s clash with second-place Atletico Madrid. Barcelona had to dig deep to hold off the challenge of Real Betis and maintain their six-point lead at the top of La Liga ahead of next week’s clash with second-place Atletico Madrid. A brace from Lionel Messi not only ensured the Argentine’s place in history as the most prolific scorer in any given calendar year, but also secured the three points for the visitors who were forced to ride their luck at times after Ruben Castro pulled a goal back before half-time.” Barca Blaugranes

In Defence Of The Europa League

December 10, 2012

“Somebody’s got to say it. The Champions League is, for all the quality of football on show, a bit ‘same old, same old.’ Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, blah, blah… Oh, and Chelsea… usually. The Europa League, for all empty seats on show until its very latest stages, has more of the unpredictability of a genuine cup competition, even if the Iberian Peninsula is beginning to dominate those later stages.” twohundredpercent