Thursday 22 February 2018

Final curtain falls on City horror show

Borussia D'mund 1
Manchester City 0
Champions League Group D

Manchester City's Carlos Tevez tries to hold off Dortmund's Oliver Kirch during their Champions League game in Germany
Manchester City's Carlos Tevez tries to hold off Dortmund's Oliver Kirch during their Champions League game in Germany

Mark Ogden

A squad worth in excess of £320m and ambitions of mixing it with Europe's elite – yet all Manchester City have to show for their second assault on the Champions League is the ignominy of posting the worst ever record of any English club in the competition.

Chasing the consolation prize of a place in the Europa League, City instead finished rooted to the foot of Group D after Borussia Dortmund inflicted another European away defeat on Roberto Mancini's team.

Rather than challenge for a place in May's Champions League Final at Wembley, City have instead erased Ray Harford's 1995-96 Blackburn Rovers team from the record books by amassing just three points and no victories from their six group games.

Mancini's players have at least not plumbed the depths of trading blows with each other in the manner of Blackburn's David Batty and Graeme Le Saux, but after being beaten by Julian Schieber's second-half goal in Dortmund, the reality is that City have been European lightweights, regardless of the clout they possess financially.

With Manchester United due at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, however, the silver lining from City's European elimination is that they will now have only domestic distractions as they seek to retain the Premier League title.

Having insisted prior to the game that he would take the fixture seriously and field a team capable of securing the victory that could take City into the Europa League, Mancini proved true to his word by selecting at least seven players who would be expected to face United.

There was also a rare start for Scott Sinclair, the £6.2m August signing from Swansea, who has spent more time warming the bench than lighting up the City team since his arrival.

Nothing but a victory would suffice if City were to harbour any hope of securing a Europa League lifeline.

Dortmund were assured of top spot ahead of Real Madrid, so their motivation was less obvious. Trailing Bayern Munich by 11 points in the Bundesliga, the German champions hinted at domestic priorities by resting leading scorer Robert Lewandowski and playmaker Mario Götze.

Yet Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp had insisted that he wanted his team to "finish in style" and a full and noisy Westfalenstadion created a bear-pit atmosphere which suggested that the supporters echoed Klopp's rallying cry.

Dortmund were also defending a proud unbeaten home record against English clubs – a six-game run dating back to a 0-0 draw against Manchester United in 1956.

Klopp's exciting young team were unfortunate not to leave the Etihad with a comprehensive victory in October, when Joe Hart's goalkeeping heroics earned City a 1-1 draw. But despite their cavalier approach in that game, Dortmund were less ambitious on home turf and City, perhaps sensing the lack of urgency among their opponents, made the brighter start.

The game was light on goalmouth action, however, and neither goalkeeper was troubled until Oliver Kirch forced a routine save from Hart from 20 yards in the 12th minute.

It was not until the 24th minute that City gave themselves a sight of Roman Weidenfeller's goal, and even then, Carlos Tévez was denied the chance to convert Edin Dzeko's cross following Marcel Schmelzer's clearance.

Dzeko forced Weidenfeller into action in the 33rd minute, though, when he turned and shot from distance after being teed up by Matija Nastasic.

The game was clearly for the taking if City wanted it, but Dortmund were capable of striking at any moment on the counter-attack, a danger emphasised when Marco Reus struck the post shortly before half time.

Klopp withdrew the impressive Reus at the interval, but the change did not affect Dortmund's shape and they almost scored an early second-half goal when Mats Hummels narrowly failed to get on the end of Schmelzer's cross.

The near miss roused the hosts and City were forced to weather a storm for the opening 15 minutes of the half, with Hart producing an impressive save to deny Kevin Grosskreutz.

But the England goalkeeper's resistance was finally broken in the 57th minute when Schieber slid in to prod sub Jakub Blaszczykowski's menacing cross into the net.

City attempted to fight their way back into the game but it was Dortmund who went closest to scoring again, with Hart producing another save to deny substitute Lewandowski.

Hart can at least look back on his Champions League campaign with some pride. The same cannot be said for his manager or many of his team-mates. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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