Monday 22 January 2018

Final act of rebellion exposes flaws in grand ambitions

James Lawton

James Lawton

This was supposed to be the night when Manchester City came of age. Instead, chaotically, incoherently and, in one appalling phase in the second half quite shamefully, they learned quite how much growing they still have to do.

As one powerful aid to this process, they have the clear imperative of getting Carlos Tevez out of their building as quickly as they can.

His refusal to appear in the second half, as Bayern Munich played City to almost a standstill, was the final act of a player whose continued presence at the club can now only be a source of poison.

City, after a bright, confident start, were suddenly in a bad place at the wrong time and it was one horribly underlined by the Tevez rebellion.

It left their manager Roberto Mancini, who had reason to believe that he had left behind the worst of the doubts had so threatened his regime, once again reverting to a policy of caution.

To be fair to him, though, it was a crisis so quickly unfolding, and so profound, that any hint of continued adventure was always likely to be the first casualty.

Bayern had spent the best part of 24 hours lecturing City on such potentially vital matters as financial prudence and planning in what they believe is the new unfolding landscape of European football -- and also threw in a quite bit of their own illustrious history.

All in all, it was not so much a welcome to Bavaria as an extreme provocation for City to produce one of the better performances in their relatively miniscule experience at this level of the game.

For most of the first half they did precisely that, playing the ball with a fine touch and moving with an ease befitting their skill levels and wage bill. Unfortunately, though, it was apparent soon enough that there is a little more than mere bombast to this Bayern, who are running away with the Bundisliga. They talk the talk, indeed, however, they also walk the walk at a level of efficiency that quickly enough reduced City to a state of embarrassing disrepair.

The bitter truth was that if players like Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri have brought new levels of flair they have yet to impinge on a problem that came back in all its disturbing impression of anarchy once Mario Gomez had swept two goals past Joe Hart in a few minutes before half-time.

The eruption, which left Mancini shaking his head, as well he might have done, came when Edin Dzeko was pulled off in favour of Nigel de Jong. Dzeko was incensed by his withdrawal and it was obvious that the close presence of Carlos Tevez was the opposite of soothing. What we were reminded of, inevitably, was the question which City's more brilliant work this new season has tended to consign to the past.

Last night, unfortunately, it came back with maximum force. Certainly the arrival of De Jong at a point when City needed to revive some of their first half fluency, and coherence, suggested strongly that Mancini's instinct was inclined more to damage control than the kind of convincing restatement of attacking instincts he now considered a remote prospect.

For City, it may not have been the end of the world, but it was cert- ainly a heavily drawn punctuation mark, one that became even more pronounced when it was clear Tevez had made his final act of rebellion.

This was, it seemed to be accepted by Mancini, a night when the possibilities of City skill and beauty had been condemned to the margins. It meant a long and rueful journey home from a place of much self-satisfaction. But Bayern also had a level of self-belief and performance that for some time at least can only be a somewhat fanciful ambition for the team who thought they had already played their way into the league of ready-made winners. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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