As Moussa Dembele ran through on goal in the 87th minute, the air of Lisbon stood still and sent chills down the spine of city supporters. They were hoping that this was finally going to be the year when they would etch themselves in European folklore. But by the end of the match city fans knew that they were at the end of a nightmare result. This was a result that would haunt them for years to come. It was a feeling of disbelief and i was even wondering how could we gather the energy to get up and go to work the next morning.
Scarily, yesterday’s game against Porto seemed to bring back the memories of Lyon. All of us were expecting city to thrash Porto and send out a roaring message to the football world, but it looked as if the the Porto players did not read the script. City were tied up in knots for most of the match and looked puzzled like never before. There were no ideas as to where they should pass the ball. Despite having 60% of possession in the first half, they had no shorts on target from open play and they played more than 60% of their passes in their own half.
The first half was pathetic
City put out their best team possible and yet it seemed like they could not pass a toddler’s test. The runs from aguero and sterling were virtually absent and porto doubled in on mahrez. To help with this situation, bernardo silva played high and tried to provide an outlet for mahrez to pass the ball, but this created an other problem, there was no one to drop deep and get the ball from the defense. Unfortunately, Rodri and gundogan do not posses the engine and swiftness to carry the ball from the defense.
From a defensive sense, city looked all over the place. Luiz dias running past all four of the city defenders unchallenged before slotting past Ederson summed up city’s defense. There was a growing sense of frustration and even the ice cool ederson passed it straight to a Porto player. In all honesty porto should have been going in atleast 2 goals up at halftime.
Kyle Walker the only bright spot in a shambolic defense
If not for a fantastic goal line clearance from walker, city would have gone in 2 goals down at halftime. Walker used his physicality and pace to nullify the threat of luiz dias who looked like he would destroy city with his pace and guile. Just like in the encounter against arsenal, walker was there everywhere to rescue a defense that seemed pedestrian. Walker even made an excellent run forward in the second half that even shocked the porto defense. That burst of pace was out of this world and it was a sprint forward that was well worthy of atleast an assist.
Walker in the last few matches seems like a person transformed, all of those silly lapses in concentration seem to have disappeared. He is taking more responsibility in carrying a defense which is crying out for leadership. He is putting his hand up to do a job on the opponent’s best players. The close relationship that pep and walker have developed over the lockdown period seems to be benefiting walker immensely.
Excellent Foden and electric Torres
The introduction of Foden seemed to reignite the spark in city’s midfield. He drove through the Porto defense like there is no tomorrow and created chance after chance. Suddenly sterling was through on goal, mahrez had his shot cleared of the goal line and city were all over porto.
Torres and Foden on the left wing reminded me of David Silva and Leroy sane combining to a devastating effect in that 2017 season. Torres displayed extreme composure to cut inside and curl the ball past the Porto keeper. This was a great display of understanding between two of city’s future superstars who already seem to have got the fans pulses racing. It will be very exciting to see how they evolve and develop.
Lessons learned from the game
The goals were all the result of individual brilliance on a day when city seemed out of ideas. This would have been disappointing for pep guardiola, a man who always emphasizes team work over individual brilliance, but the best thing about the result was that despite city not being at their best they found a way through just like all champion teams do. Individuals stepped up and took more responsibility to carry the team through. Be it walker taking the responsibility to mark luiz dias despite getting a yellow card early on or gundogan taking the free kick, city’s players showed great individuality and character.
Sometimes in big games, things always don’t go your way and situations demand individuals to step up and deal with it. This was what city were missing in the past, specially on big European nights when the tactics of the manager don’t work. This game was a prime example of how to deal with situations when things don’t go well. Many times in the past, City have surrendered easily on big European nights. The moment things start to go against us we panic and bow down to the opponent. The biggest lesson from this game was to play with nerves of steel and standup for the team when things don’t go as planned.