November 18, 2017

Lucky Man City benefit from late show of generosity by battling ten-man Bayern

More than twenty members of the Red Dragons fan club would make their way from London and beyond to Manchester’s Etihad Stadium for week five of the Champions’ league group stage, as Bayern looked to maintain their hundred percent record in this year’s competition. It would be a game of dramatic twists and turns that would see the visiting Bayern fans shocked after twenty minutes, ecstatic at half-time and left simply speechless at the end.

With the men from Munich already through the knockout stages and guaranteed top spot the match would ultimately be of little consequence for Pep Guardiola’s men, but this would not prevent their slightly weakened a reworked team from giving their all in what would be a pulsating and at the end rather bizarre encounter.

The coach would make two key changes to the eleven that had started against Hoffenheim at the weekend, with the inexperienced pairing of Sebastian Rode and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg coming in for Thomas Müller and Mario Götze to form a new-look attacking midfield partnership. The teams would take the field on what was an uncharacteristically mild but slightly damp late November evening in Manchester, and during the pre-match formalities both sets of fans would be united in turning their back on the playing of the UEFA anthem as a protest against the organisation’s shoddy treatment of away fans in Moscow.

The home team would start brightly, but after this initial flurry Die Roten would settle down and find their rhythm, bossing the play in the middle of the pitch with consummate ease – much to the annoyance of the somewhat subdued home supporters. The visiting supporters meanwhile would be in great voice, keeping things going with a steady stream of anthems from the Südkurve song book.

Bayern would be well on top as the game approached the twenty minute mark, but out of nowhere things would suddenly be turned on their head. A well-timed ball into the Bayern box from ex-Chelsea man Frank Lampard would be played towards Sergio Kun Agüero, and the muscular Argentinian would outmuscle Medhi Benatia before being clumsily brought down by the Moroccan centre-back. The whistle would blow, and the referee would point to the penalty spot.

Although the Bayern fans would protest the Czech official’s decision from the stand replays would show that there was little doubt about the correctness of the decision, but his showing Benetia the red card was more than a little harsh. Whether he was the last man was arguable and the challenge had been more goofy than malicious – but the number five would have to go.

Jeers would ring out from the Bayern end as Agüero dusted himself down to take the penalty, and although Manuel Neuer would do brilliantly in diving to his left the Argentinian’s Elfmeter would be perfectly placed to give the home side a slightly flattering lead.

The Bayern coach would respond to this technical setback by bringing on Danté fand sacrificing the unfortunate Rode, and while the defence would be able to retain its shape the midfield would have to find ways of coping with the one-man deficit with both Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben shifted away from their out and out flanker roles to adopt a slightly more defensive position. City would look to press immediately after the restart, but the ten-men Bayern side would quickly recover their poise after what to other teams would have been a mortal blow – particularly away from home.

At times Bayern would never look as though they were a man down, and their positive play would be rewarded five minutes before the break. After Robert Lewandowski had been brought down just outside the eighteen yard box, Spanish genius Xabi Alonso would almost nonchalantly roll the ball past the sky-blue defensive wall and past a leaden-footed ‘keeper Joe Hart into the bottom corner of the net. The city ‘keeper could arguably have done better, but nobody had been expecting that.

A rampant Bayern would continue in this vein as half-time approached, and just moments before the whistle would send all of the visiting supporters into a seething, delirious mass. Jérôme Boateng would send in a high looping ball from the right touchline, and the roving Lewandowski would beat his marker to guide a looping header into the top right-hand corner from eleven yards. The home crowd were reduced to silence.

Nobody would have known Bayern had played for more then twenty minutes and come back from a goal down with ten men: as well as leading 2-1, they had also dominated the possession stats with a scarcely believable 65%.

The second half would see the Bavarians consolidate their lead, retaining possession intelligently whilst continuing to look dangerous as they passed and weaved into opposition territory. City would have their chances with Jesus Navas testing Neuer and James Milner shooting wide, but as the clock ticked on it looked as though Manuel Pellegrini’s side would be undone by not just a weak Bayern side but a weak Bayern side with ten men.

Robben would have sight of goal but only scuff a weak shot straight at Hart. Lampard would force Neuer into a flying save, and with Bayern holding their shape and the ‘keeper in good form one could sense the desperation of the home crowd. While the visiting supporters had been in good voice throughout even when Bayern were trailing, the home fans would remain strangely silent, eliciting a rendition of “you only sing when you’re winning” in near perfect English from the Südkurve.

Neuer would make his way into the referee’s notebook for procrastinating over a goal-kick and Bastian Schweinsteiger would replace Ribéry to loud cheers from the Bayern fan corner, and as the game entered the final five minutes Bayern were strolling to a fifth straight Champions’ League victory… Only for what can be described as a moment of horror.

Bayern would safely be in possession, but a badly-timed looping pass across the field by Alonso would be intercepted by City substitute Stevan Jovetić. The Montenegrin would find Agüero, who unlike many others would refuse to be fazed by the figure of Neuer as he tucked ball past the Bayern ‘keeper into the bottom right-hand corner. Alonso had been outstanding up to that point and on another day that pass would have elicited applause, but on his thirty-third birthday it would be Spaniard handing out the presents.

The home crowd would suddenly spark into life, and as they started to smell blood one could suddenly see the missing man in the Bayern team. The home side would continue to press as the clock ticked into injury time, and right at the death would be presented with another gift. Boateng had been excellent all evening with a strong and assured performance, but in dealing with what should have been a simple clearance he would get into an awful tangle. Unable to gain control of the ball the centre-back he would be robbed by the irrepressible Agüero, whose calm and composed finish would complete what had been a dramatic finale.

Bayern had almost seen things through with a man down, but two arguably avoidable mistakes in the closing stages would effectively hand City the three points on a plate. However, the Bayern fans would remain in good voice as the team mad their way to the touchline after the final whistle. While disappointed with the defeat, it was a game where Bayern fans could once again be proud of their team. Football is what it is, but there was no way that Bayern deserved to lose.

It would be Bayern’s first defeat since the DFL-Supercup against Borussia Dortmund in August, and once again their mission to go through with a perfect record would be scuppered by Manchester City – almost a year after the Citizens’ comeback from two goals down to register the same 3-2 scoreline at the Allianz Arena.

Ultimately the result wouldn’t really matter for Guardiola’s side, but they will be looking to round off the group stage at home to CSKA Moscow. City meanwhile are now in a three-way battle for second spot with the Russian Champions and AS Roma.

UEFA Champions’ League Group Phase Week 5
City of Manchester (Etihad) Stadium, Manchester, 25.11.2014

Manchester City 3:2 (1:2) FC Bayern
Agüero 22 pen, 85., 90.+1. / Alonso 40., Lewandowski 45.

Manchester City: Hart – Sagna (68. Zabaleta), Kompany (c), Mangala, Clichy – Fernando – Jesus Navas, Lampard, Milner (66. Jovetić), Nasri – Aguero (90.+4. Demichelis)

FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Boateng, Benatia, Bernat – Alonso – Rode (25. Danté), Højbjerg – Robben, Ribéry (81. Schweinsteiger) – Lewandowski (84. Shaqiri)

Yellow Cards: Clichy, Zabaleta / Neuer
Red Cards: – / Benatia

Originally published on the website of the Red Dragons London, the United Kingdom’s premier FC Bayern München fan club

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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