The Ped Report City 1-0 Dinamo Kyiv
As we stood in silence (unlike those at a football ground near Manchester on Tuesday)to pay our tributes to the poor people of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, it may have been ominous that a disaster was waiting to happen once the match here got under way.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in frozen Ukraine, City needed to get off to a good start and grab an early goal. Tevez was duly flattened three times in the very early exchanges and then the breakthrough came after three minutes it arrived in the form of a better than gilt-edged chance which fell to Balotelli and which Shaun Goater would have promptly despatched to the back of the net. Not so with the multi-million pound self-designated best player in the world. As his shot skied its way toward the visiting supporters in level two, were we already starting to fear that it wasn't to be City's night....again!
This was perhaps exacerbated around the half-hour when a totally needless, dangerous challenge by Balotteli on an unsuspecting Kyiv player almost cut him in half and left the Turkish referee hunting in his top pocket, sending the plantpot home.
I said last week after the journey to ice-bound Kyiv that Dinamo are no mugs. They work hard as a team and play some rapid counter-attacking football which cost us dearly towards the end of that match. I also warned readers that at the home leg we would have to be vigilant, which we were, and to not go into unnecessary challenges for two reasons. One there is always the chance of what happended to Balotelli, but more importantly every challenge, every collision , every touch of a a Dinamo player would see them writhing on the floor holding their heads in a bid to slow down the game and work the game clock in their favour. Well it all happened.
I have been a great supporter of Balotelli. I could see his capabilites, have seen some excellent goals, seen two of the best penalty kicks ever. But I have also seen tantrums for no reason, I have seen more cards that Boris Becker at a poker table, I have seen a footballer at unease with himself and finally I have come to a conclusion that I have seen a footballer that I do not want to see in a sky-blue shirt again.
For thirty minutes ten Manchester City footballers worked hard to establish themselves in this match. They ran, they tackled, they covered, they attacked, they played much of the game in the opposition's half. The missing link was one Mario Balotelli.
The fact that the team looked more balanced with only ten men speaks volumes and within two minutes Kolarov had provided us with hope when he hit a daisy cutter though many sets of legs, beneath the suspect keeper and into the net.
De Jong was as awesome as Barry was wasteful, Tevez ran all night and again couldn't get clear, Silva tried so hard to pull the right strings.
The back line was immense, every one of the contributing to a match in which they deserved more and behind them Joe Hart did his stuff well and again looked a top-class goal keeper. The fact that we were one short seemingly went unnoticed. Some say we are one short any way when Balotelli plays.
For their part Dinamo were happy to soak up the pressure, careful not to concede too many freekicks and happy to play on the break where Shevchenko put in a shift fot he team ably supported by Guisev and Yarmolenko, for the first half anyway. By the second half, having established how easy it was to see the end of Balotelli the same two spent much of the second half cheating their way to victory. Maybe we left the undersoil heating on for them, they spent so much time on the floor feigning injury and playing on the fact that the weak referee would buy every time and stop the game to their demands.
This in turn frustrated City and the fans as is often the case when Eastern European teams come to town and despite the hard work put in by the ten heroes. We left dismissed from another tournament having reached one stage less than we did two years ago.
It was pleasing to see Johnson (A) return from injury. We looked threatening when he came on. Dzeko put in a lot of work in a short space of time and was unlucky not to get a break when he was hauled down but still got up and fired a shot on target almost with one knee on the ground. And should Tevez have earned an penalty when hauled down in the corner of the box in the second half?
Barry and Yaya didn't do enough for me. Barry getting his colours blue mixed up once again and Yaya determined to confirm that he can't play if his brother is missing. Only one run of note from him tonight.
Kolarov had probably his best match for City. Even his defence was good, but his cross delivery was more SWP that Adam Johnson and much of it was wasteful.
Richards was tremendous. Unlucky with two headers from corners and quick in covering any danger provided by Guisev and Yarmolenko before they hit the ground writhing.
Milner didn't really do anything when he arrived, but Dzeko did.
Nigel de Jong was simply superb.
Mancini has been trying to make his decision on who plays up front with or without Tevez. The answer was delivered in abundance tonight. Tevez remains Tevez, but for me if we are to play with a partner for him it must be Dzeko. I would frankly consign Balotelli to the recycle bin. He can recycle himself in Milan. If we can get our money back for him, then off you go Mario. Go and tell another set of newspapers you are the best in the world..and then take a look at Tevez, take a look at Messi, take a look at de Jong and ask yourself..'Can I do that '. Even take a look at Shevchenko and ask yourself the same question. There were many of us last night at Eastlands who know the answer. You are City's Juan Sebastian Veron, our Karol Poborski, our error for this season.
What we did not need was for an already overworked team to have to fight with ten men for most of this match, whilst all Balotelli could do was get sent off and get himself off home.
So this season so far has seen me make the wrong call at opposite ends of City's football spectrum. I hammered Richards, an academy product, for his continual inadequacies but have witnessed hime recover himself in a way I didn't think he could. I have praised Balotelli, a multi-million pound waste, for perceptions, for what I thought I could see. What I couldn't see is a man that does not want to play for Manchester City, who has no heart not only for our Club but even for himself and who will be ultimately be a 'could've been'.
For years I have supported City, looked for the best in everyone, shared the joys and the frustrations. This exit has left me totally disappointed, not because of the way the team played last night, but becuase of the actions and inactions of Balotelli.
The Ryanair beckons!