Under the reign of Charles III as under the scepter of Elizabeth II, England remains England, land of majesty, little world, seat of Mars, home of Manchester City, which is still Manchester City, Guardiola’s bench, the Guardiola of all life. The same coach as always, obsessed with dominating his rivals by keeping the ball as close as possible to the opponent’s goal. It can’t be any other way when the vast majority of teams do nothing but withdraw shamelessly when they step on the same pitch as City.
Ederson Moraes, Aké (Walker, min. 54), Laporte, Manuel Akanji, Gündogan (Rodrigo, min. 93), De Bruyne, Julián Álvarez (Bernardo Silva, min. 87), Rico Lewis, Mahrez, Foden and Erling Braut Haaland
Joel, Wöber, Rasmus Nissen Kristensen, Júnior Firpo, Luke Ayling, Forshaw (Pascal Struijk, min. 80), Degnand Wilfried Gnonto, Jack Harrison (Crysencio Summerville, min. 65), Marc Roca (Sam Greenwood, min. 58), Weston McKennie and Bamford (Brenden Aaronson, min. 80)
goals 1-0 min. 18: Gundogan. 2-0 min. 27: Gundogan. 2-1 min. 84: Rodrigo.
Referee Andy Madley
Yellow cards Degnand Wilfried Gnonto (min. 46), Rodrigo (min. 71) and Weston McKennie (min. 92)
As much as in Spain the visionaries proliferate that clinging to the big data now they point to a conservative regression in City, a kind of dark strategy to let themselves be dominated, taking advantage of the fact that Haaland is a tank, determined that Haaland is not a tank, nor is his art to run the 100 meters but to move like lightning in a shoe box. The key to the evolution of the City is the unchecking in reduced spaces, the exchanges, the treadmill of endless movements that unhing the most hermetic defenses. Zagas like that of Leeds United, who went to the Etihad this Saturday to park a double-decker bus in their penalty area, and before half an hour they suffered a 2-0 loss and a rain of very clear chances. Bad news for Madrid, which is waiting for City at the Bernabéu next Tuesday to start the Champions League semifinal.
Sam Allardyce hasn’t changed his nature under the new regime either. He is still the same English coach, good-natured, paternalistic, and fossilized in the remote past. The Leeds coach led his team according to parameters outdated since Guardiola revolutionized the game more than a decade ago. His footballers, pocketed around the goalkeeper, Joel Robles, began by losing their marks in the whirlwind of movements and ended up withdrawing to the posts because they could not find better spatial references. They gave up so much ground that they freed up City’s wingers and midfield, ruled by the subtle Gündogan. Around the 24th minute, City added two identical goals: openings by De Bruyne and Haaland, passes by Mahrez and shots by Gundogan from the balcony of the area.
“Today we cannot afford to make mistakes!” Gundogan shouted, with all the force that his sparrow voice allowed him. The captain led the harangue in the round that he formed with his colleagues before the game. What followed was a master class in precision and management. He sent and passed the ball at the same time and around him, and with the collaboration of McKennie and Allardyce, even the messy ones were ordered. The distracted Akanji looked diligent, the heavy De Bruyne looked dynamic, and rookie Lewis expertly claimed the ball.
De Bruyne returned from his mysterious week-long absence as if he had never been injured. Just as suffocated as always, as conclusive as usual, alert and quick to give the most damaging passes at full speed, the Belgian was placed in the second point that Guardiola has designed for him as if he were the pilot’s seat in an airplane. From there he took command of the attack. He helped him Julián Álvarez, whom Guardiola has transformed into fake ruffle. Only Haaland and the centrals occupied more or less defined positions. Others can be identified as fakedeceitful to continuous or part time, always exchanging positions.
City manipulated the game at will until the final minutes. Even with the rotations of Bernardo Silva, Rodri and Días, three fundamental players in the team’s operation. Haaland’s chances multiplied with a lack of success. A couple of sticks, a couple of stumbles, a good stop by Robles, left the Norwegian blank after adding 35 goals in the Premier last day. The collection of in-depth unchecks without spaces was an anthology. After the 80th minute, Foden caused a penalty. The news was that Haaland did not strive to continue breaking records: he gave the ball to Gündogan. Let’s see if he converted a hat trick.
Guardiola: “Erling has to take the penalty, but…”
“Erling, you have to shoot!” Guardiola yelled at him from the sidelines, more concerned with closing the game than with sentimental issues. Guardiola did not notice that the best news of the day was discovering that an egomaniac like Haaland represses himself to make friends with his teammates. Great teams are built with gestures like Haaland’s. “Erling”, explained the coach, after the evening, “is the best shooter in the squad and he is the one who should take the penalties, especially if we go 2-0 [y el partido está vivo]; but his gesture shows the kind of person he is. He doesn’t just think about records. For him it is as important to score goals as it is to help his teammates. He thinks about the team ”.
Gundogan ran into Robles’ glove, who deflected the ball to the post. On the next play, after a goal kick and a couple of rebounds, Akanji allowed himself to be outwitted by Rodrigo and the Spaniard made it 2-1. Guardiola grabbed his head. Concern spread at the Etihad: a draw could return Arsenal to the lead if they beat Newcastle this Sunday. It will not happen like this. The victory consolidates the growth of City just in time, when May begins to warm the Island and jasmine blooms in Chamartín, almost an inexorable sign of the Champions League semifinals.
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