Europa League verdict: Manchester City 2 FC Timisoara 0 (agg 3-0)
City qualified for the Europa League group stages with goals from Shaun Wright-Phillips and Dedryck Boyata in a game so comfortable it often resembled a pre-season friendly. The Romanians’ packed defence and lack of ambition made it a game of patience for City before the seemingly inevitable breakthrough arrived.
City’s best performers were a central quartet of Kompany, Boyata, de Jong and Vieira who exerted total control over procedings. In our previous European campaign under Mark Hughes, we made heavy weather of the early rounds by failing to dominate teams. There was none of that here.
Roberto Mancini’s side were thoroughly professional in making it four clean sheets from four matches so far this season. Joe Hart rarely had to deal with backpasses never mind shots in his easiest 90 minutes as a City keeper.
Concerns for Shay Given’s future were raised when it became apparent Joe was once again in goal. Have the club agreed to let him go? It appears not according to Mancini’s post match comments.
“The goalkeeper is a different situation to all the other players. But now we are in the group stage, maybe it is possible to give Shay games.”
With Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta also strong defensively, there was no allowing the Romanians to pose a threat. Not that they seemed overly inclined to.
To keep it tight at the back initially was an understandable tactic for Timisoara. To remain commited to defence for the whole match was bizarre.
It made the game harder for our attackers as creating openings proved difficult despite overwhelming possession. It was a situation requiring a good quality of delivery from our full-backs.
Unfortunately neither Richards or Zabaleta are consistent in this regard, though both were commited to the cause and put over a few decent balls. Wright-Phillips reminded us how he lacks the ability of Johnson to beat an oppenent when face to face. There was little end product from him once again on the right flank.
Mancini sprung a surprise by playing Jo on the left flank and having Silva in the hole behind Adebayor. Initially Jo struggled to get involved in the game, while Silva couldn’t find space and is yet to find the same wavelength as his new team-mates.
All in all it made for limited service to Adebayor. The Togolese is showing decent endeavour but it’s no surprise to hear of his dissatisfaction at the moment. He’s a player who wants to be first choice and playing on the biggest stages.
This lacklustre game in front of a half empty stadium was hardly likely to improve his mood. Both he and the management have a big job ahead to improve the situation.
Mancini swapped around his creative trio of Jo, Silva and Wright-Phillips to good effect. With Vieira pushing higher up the pitch and finding his men with sharp passing it was no surprise the first goal came from his through ball.
Wright-Phillips made an intelligent run from the left through the centre of the Romanian defence and scored with a first time shot. It was a timely reminder of Shaun’s capabilities.
Jo also became more involved when switched about and it was good to see him in a roaming role which suits his game. Despite his height, he’s no target man and prefers the ball to feet and space to move in.
Sometimes he lost possession sloppily, other times there were nice skills and a couple of dangerous passes. In each half he went close with a header to remind us that his height can be a danger.
Unfortunately he still lacks the strength and aggression to make a quality Premier League striker, though there is ability within him. There was just enough from Jo to suggest he could still have a role to play, even if ultimately he’d be better off in La Liga.
For David Silva, coming from La Liga, City fans have more optimism even if there was little here to suggest he should start against Sunderland. To often he was brushed off the ball and passes failed to reach their target. Beating a couple of defenders on the right flank and firing in a shot was by far his best moment.
The player to really shine was Dedryck Boyata. His defending and passing were immaculate. The Academy graduate also managed to get his first goal for the club, nodding home a Silva free-kick after pulling away to the far post.
The bounce of the ball favoured the young Belgian a couple of times when he sought to both tackle and retain possession, but he earned it. Still only nineteen, he looked ready to step into our Premier League side. With strength, height and composure he showed all the qualities to be a future star.
Whilst it’s always a pleasure to City record a comfortable victory, it’s to be hoped the group stages bring a little more excitement and bigger crowds. We have the squad to deal with bigger tests even if this competition is all to often a reminder of the importance of qualifying for the Champions League.