Another Champions League Wednesday and, hopefully, we have another night of nail-biting, heart-breaking drama in store. Sorry Celtic fans but your last minute loss was football gold. You can console yourself with that along with an admirably stout performance.
On to tonight’s action. Manchester City have yet to crack the Champions League code and with one point from their opening two fixtures, Mancini’s men need a win here. Has a side ever qualified from the group stages having picked up just one point from three games? Without researching that particular stat I’m going to say no. It could have been even worse were it not for Joe Hart’s heroics against Borrusia Dortmund.
Thankfully they’re playing Ajax tonight. The former European giants are without a point and were beaten 4-1 by Real Madrid in their last game. A draw does neither side a lot of good but defeat will all but mean the end of their European adventure for this season. Unless they finish third and make it in to the Europa League but that’s like splitting up with Cheryl Cole and then being asked out by Sheryl Crow. You’ll say yes but only because you have nothing better to do.
For Arsenal, despite some less than convincing performances so far, they’ll have one foot in the next round if they win tonight. I’ll keep an eye on how things are going for them tonight too as they host Schalke 04.
Ajax 3 – 1 Manchester City
The cavalry charge never materialised for Manchester City, despite deploying all their attacking weapons in the second half. The ref blows the whistle to end the game. City have one points from three games and finishing third looks their most likely target now. With three games to go you don’t know what could happen but we can probably take a good guess.
In to injury time in Amsterdam and City’s qualification chances are going up in smoke. Suitably enough.
Dzeko meets a Kolarov corner but Vermeer gathers easily. Less than three minutes plus injury time for Mancini.
Arsenal have gone 2-0 down after a goal from Affelay.
With Dzeko, Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli on the pitch, can City still salvage a draw at 22/1? It’s not like they don’t do comebacks.
With Real Madrid losing 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund, as things stand City’s Champions League hopes are fading fast.
Yaya Toure goes in the book for pulling back Siem de Jong. The big Ivorian hasn’t been at his best tonight which has allowed Ajax to play the ball through midfield far too easily.
A possible tug puts Nasri off and he skews his shot wide. In London Huntelaar has put Schalke 1-0 against Arsenal. Miller goes off and Balotelli comes on.
And here comes Balotelli!! This game just keeps getting better.
Mancini goes back to a flat four back-line as Ajax threaten to further embarrass his back three. Enoh comes on for Sana and Kolarov goes in the book. After a generally timid first half this game has livened right up.
Dzeko is in on goal again. He rounds Vermeer but he stumbles just enough and Vermeer gets back in to position to make a save. Ajax go right down the other end but Babel’s long distance shot makes for a comfortable save for Hart.
At the other end Dzeko is in on goal but this time Vermeer comes rushing off his line to make a big save. Sergio Aguero comes on for Gareth Barry.
Could and possibly should have been four for Ajax. Joe Hart comes rushing out to close down Sana who wandered through a massive gap in the City defence. Great save.
Just minutes after going 3 at the back, City go 3-1 down. Eriksen’s shot is deflected in off the boot of Gael Clichy. Time for Balotelli.
Goal!!! Ajax go 3-1 up!!
Price Update: Ajax 4/6, Draw 2/1, Man City 11/2
Lescott goes off to be replaced by Kolarov. Mancini goes to three at the back.
This is the kind of situation you’d want to bring on super-sub Edin Dzeko. Alas his powers fade noticeably without at least 45 minutes on the bench before playing.
Considering Mancini has a team of giants he won’t have been happy with conceding a goal from a corner. Ajax defender Moisander gets up well and you can’t criticise the finish. The woeful defending is a different story.
GOAL!!! Ajax take the lead through Niklas Moisander.
There’s clearly more bite to City’s play already in this half. They’re 7/5 to win but you can’t help but feel if they put their foot on the gas they could steam-roll this Ajax side.
Micah Richards clears the ball off his own face and out for a corner. The Ajax fans found it rather amusing. Hart claims the corner kick with little fuss.
City go straight on the attack with the words of their manager still ringing in their ears…probably. Mancini doesn’t look like a screamer to me.
The second-half kicks off in Amsterdam.
Price Update: Ajax 3/1, Draw 8/5, Man City 13/10
Half-Time: Ajax had most of the possession but looked largely impotent in attack for the majority of the first-half. Someone must have slipped Siem de Jong a little blue pill because he certainly rose to the occasion and rammed that one home. A fair scoreline for what we’ve seen. Not a great game but hopefully that goal will lead to a spicier second-half.
A good ball in to the City box from Alderweireld is met first time by Siem de Jong and what a strike it is. Hart is left standing as the shot rockets in to the bottom corner.
GOAL!!!! Ajax equalise through Siem de Jong
Ryan Babel has a shot from distance. Joe Hart has to make the save but it doesn’t require a very good one. Ajax look to be getting frustrated already.
Another potentially dangerous Ajax attack ends with a speculative and none too accurate shot at goal. This time Lasse Schone is the culprit.
Yaya Toure looks to be struggling a touch with that ankle knock. Ajax are controlling possession but have yet to figure out what to do with it. A free-kick in to the City box ends up in Hart’s arms without any undue curfuffle.
Ajax have more of the ball but as van Rhijn puts his shot over the bar, it’s another case of the home side making the wrong choice when they get close to Hart’s goal.
City just look more dangerous when they get forward. A Dzeko back-heel puts Micah Richards in. He hits a well-struck shot but it’s too close to the keeper.
City are now 4/11 to take all three points after Nasri’s goal.
City haven’t really done an awful lot but their first decent attack leads to a goal. After being fed in to space by James Milner, Samir Nasri side-foots a well placed shot from the left of the box past Kenneth Vermeer. Very good goal indeed.
Manchester City 1-0. Nasri.
Ajax are looking the more threatening. Siem de Jong fails to get his header on target after a decent ball over the top. Christain Eriksen then makes space on the edge of the box but puts his shot wide of Hart’s post…..just.
Toure hobbles back in to the fray.
It may have looked innocuous but I spy a little claret coming from Toure’s ankle as the physios strap him up on the sidelines.
Yaya Toure goes to ground after an innocuous challenge. Sometimes they can be the most damaging. He’s a player City won’t want to lose.
City are getting on the ball a little more now. Just prodding and probing at the moment. Mancini will want his midfield players to control the ball more.
Christian Eriksen goes close with a shot from just outside the box. The City defenders stood off the Ajax players there. They looked unusually indecisive.
An over-hit Ryan Babel cross?? Cutting sarcasm aside Ajax have had more of the ball in the opening five minutes but City are comfortable.
Ajax mount the first offensive action of the game. Not the John Terry kind thankfully. They win a corner but it comes to nothing.
We have KICK-OFF!!
Will we get a Neville score-gasm tonight if City hit the net? Probably not but I’ll root out the graphic just in case.
Andy Gray fancies Arsenal and City to win tonight. You can read his thoughts here.
Graeme Souness, the man who brought Julian Dicks and Neil Ruddock to Anfield, is complaining about Joleon Lescott’s apparent tendency to hoof the ball out of defence. What next a tirade about planting flags in centre-circles?
Injuries and tiredness have been used to explain the swath of changes to the Man City line-up by Roberto Mancini. Then there’s the usual patter about respecting the opposition and other bland niceties. See any other pre-match interview with a manager who isn’t Ian Holloway to fill in the blanks.
Apparently ‘stront’ is the Dutch word for not being very good, which applies to Mr Babel’s rhymes. Thank you Google translate.
This isn’t exactly team news but I had forgotten Ryan Babel was currently plying his trade in Amsterdam. Liverpool fans will be familiar with this sentiment from his time at Anfield where he spent more time making terrible rap records and not enough time being of use on the pitch. I won’t even start on Christian Poulsen.
7.00pm TEAM NEWS!
City are without the injured David Silva. Super sub Edin Dzeko is given the nod ahead of Carlos Tevez.
1. Kenneth Vermeer
24. Ricardo van Rhijn
3. Toby Alderweireld
4. Niklas Moisander
17. Daley Blind
20. Lasse Schone
5. Christian Poulsen
8. Christian Eriksen
19. Tobias Sana
10. Siem de Jong
49. Ryan Babel
1. Joe Hart
2. Micah Richards
4. Vincent Kompany
6. Joleon Lescott
22. Gael Clichy
42. Yaya Toure
18. Gareth Barry
7. James Milner
16. Sergio Aguero
8. Samir Nasri
10. Edin Dzeko