Manchester City left to dream of what could have been
Manchester City 2 Bayern Munich 0: The blow of their own elimination was undoubtedly softened by the altogether more dramatic exit of Manchester United last night but that does not change the fact that Manchester City will look back on their first Champions League season with no little regret.
They beat a considerably weakened Bayern Munich last night with goals from David Silva and Yaya Touré but once Gökhan Inler had put Napoli ahead against Villarreal in Spain with 65 minutes of this game played, City were destined for the Europa League. This was one night when they were more than happy for events surrounding their famous neighbours United to dominate the agenda.
It was Bayern who went through as winners of Group A and Napoli deservedly in second place. The Italians drew in Manchester and won the return fixture in Naples and had they gone out the competition – as they were poised to do before they finally ran out 2-0 winners against Villarreal – then it would have been hard on them. In a very competitive group, City were simply not good enough.
They were undermined along the way by Carlos Tevez's histrionics in the Allianz Arena which is probably what Jupp Heynckes was referring to when the Bayern coach spoke after the game about the team still having to develop. Not since Werder Bremen went out with 10 points in 2007 has a team failed to make the second round with that amount from the group stage, but City did not enter this competition to make up the numbers.
Roberto Mancini in particular seemed to find it hard to accept that 10 points had not been enough but he also made the point that City were in no position to turn their noses up at the Europa League. "It may not be the Champions League but for us it is still important," he said. "If we can get to the final, for Manchester City that will be good."
It will mean playing more Premier League games on a Sunday. As for meeting United, that will not be possible until the round of 16 when teams from the same country are no longer kept apart in the draw. The elimination of both sides last night will also, you would assume, only raise the stakes further when it comes to the FA Cup third-round tie between the two teams next month.
That game will certainly be more of an occasion than last night,with so many of the Bayern first team missing and the rest of them doing their best to look interested. Heynckes said that Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben were both on antibiotics, Daniel van Buyten had gastric flu and Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller were "showing signs" of fever. The last three were all on the bench with Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Franck Ribéry, but none of them played.
With the club having already won Group A comfortably, the Bayern B-team sleepwalked through much of this game. As the goals finally went in over in Spain you can only imagine the schadenfreude amongst the Bayern hierarchy up in the directors' box as City's Champions League dream withered and die.
The new money of European football are not popular amongst those who have been established at the top of the tree for generations and Bayern will be glad to see the back of City. The away fans even baited the home support by singing "Napoli" over and again when the Italians scored their first goal.
City were in danger of going out with the proverbial whimper until Silva made a goal from not very much on 36 minutes. From a throw-in on the right, Stefan Savic and Gareth Barry worked up enough space for the latter to cross the ball. In the centre, Edin Dzeko got a flick on to Silva who worked his opening brilliantly, hitting a low shot beyond Hans-Jörg Butt.
Before then Mancini had burst out of his seat to berate Dzeko at one point and barely got an acknowledgement from the Bosnian striker. Joleon Lescott was slightly unfortunate to be penalised for a foul on Butt which enabled Silva's free-kick to drift in to the Bayern net unchallenged.
Silva's goal was the kind of moment only an exceptional player gives you and it lifted the place. Sergio Aguero might have scored three minutes later when he charged into the space opened up for him by Yaya Touré's run into the Bayern box. He beat Butt with his shot but Jérôme Boateng nipped in behind his goalkeeper and scooped the ball away from goal.
There was another shot from Silva just before the break from a tight angle on the left side. He got to the rebound as well and there was a suspicion of handball against Holger Badstuber for his block but not enough for the French referee to give a penalty. At that point Napoli were still yet to score and City's dream was alive.
The second goal for City came within seven minutes of half-time in their best period of the game. Touré picked the ball up in midfield, laid it off to Aguero and from there, via Dzeko, it was passed back onto the toes of the Ivorian to clip under Butt as he ran into the area.
It was well executed by Touré who, for a midfielder, has proved himself a very accomplished finisher. The passing sequence was sharp and City looked like they might score more but the news of Napoli's goal around the 65-minute mark killed the atmosphere in the stadium – apart from the away section – and sucked the life out the game.
From then on it scarcely mattered. Even the introduction of Mario Balotelli as a substitute did not raise the spirits of the crowd. Last season Tottenham, newcomers to the competition, stormed to the quarter-finals while City have stumbled at the first hurdle. Unfortunately for City, the expectation will always be huge. They just have learn to live with that, but at least they can be pretty certain they will be back next season.
Man of the match Silva.
Match rating 5/10.
Referee S Lannoy (France).
Nervous Napoli finally strike
Gökhan Inler and Marek Hamsik got the goals as Napoli won 2-0 at Villarreal to make sure that Manchester City's victory over Bayern was in vain. Swiss midfielder Inler struck from 25 yards out in the 65th minute to settle the nervous Italians, who had struggled to make headway early on. Hamsik bundled the ball in from close range at a corner in the 76th, leaving Villarreal without a point from their six group games.