City ended the Champions League group stage on a high with a thrilling comeback win over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Tuesday night – a result which, combined with Juventus’ 1-0 defeat in Sevilla, sees the Blues topping their group for the first time ever in the competition.
Under-fire Manuel Pellegrini’s side went in front in the 16th minute when David Silva lashed home at the near post to finish off a lovely move. However, it didn’t take long for the visitors to hit back and City went in at half-time 2-1 down and, as usual, ruing some poor defending.
The Blues looked tired, listless and lacking in ideas for much of the second half until birthday boy Raheem Sterling popped up from close range in the 80th minute to level the scores. Two minutes later, the 21-year-old was again on the scoresheet before substitute Wilfried Bony ended the match as a contest by tucking one away at the second time of asking in the 85th minute.
Here’s how I rated the Group D winners on the night:
1 Joe Hart – 6/10
Had very little to do aside from picking the ball out of the net twice in the first half, and there wasn’t much he could have done about either goal. He did almost grab an assist with a superb torpedo kick in the first half and did well to parry a deflected shot towards the end, so it wasn’t all bad news.
22 Gaël Clichy – 4/10
For someone who’s supposed to be naturally right-footed, he sure seems to be very uncomfortable when it comes to actually using it. Having a great game at right back is probably a lot to expect of someone who’s so used to playing left back but Clichy had a torrid time on Tuesday night, particularly in the first half. Mönchengladbach had so much joy down the left in fact, that it almost felt like City didn’t even have a right back on the pitch at times. Would young Pablo Maffeo really have done much worse?
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 5/10
This wasn’t Otamendi’s best game in a City shirt unfortunately, particularly as you’d expect him to have done something about both Mönchengladbach goals yet he was nowhere to be seen. He did well to win the ball back on several occasions and played it out with a few of those clever disguised passes he’s so fond of, but his positioning was often poor and contributed to what was a disorganised defensive performance overall.
20 Eliaquim Mangala – 6/10
City had already conceded far too many goals this season as a direct result of Mangala failing to close someone down quickly enough and it was little surprise to see it happen again on Tuesday night. This was far from one of his worst games for the club and he was probably better than Otamendi on the night, but it sometimes feels as though he can’t possibly get through 90 minutes without doing something amateurish and he’ll never progress as a player until his concentration drastically improves.
11 Aleksandar Kolarov – 7/10
Was as culpable as anyone for Mönchengladbach’s second goal by allowing Raffael to tap in unchallenged from an onside position four yards from goal. That said, the Serbian did improve as the game wore on and his insatiable appetite to get forward and some good link up play with Sterling were big factors in his team’s comeback.
42 Yaya Touré – 6/10
Started the game well with some intelligent passing and clever footwork but you could be forgiven for forgetting he was on the pitch until he came to life again towards the end. Once he had awoken from his slumber we were even treated to the (rare nowadays) sight of him breezing past opposing midfielders as if they weren’t there on a couple of occasions. I don’t care what anyone says, City are still a better side when Yaya’s on the pitch, but his manager does need to come up with a way of getting the best out of him because he’s no longer the player he was. Playing him as deep-lying playmaker with two energetic box-to-boxers alongside him, as he did in this match, seems like a sensible idea.
25 Fernandinho – 7/10
Offered a great deal of energy and high pressing in the centre of the field and was on hand to pick up loose balls and drive forward when the situation required it. His passing was a little slapdash at times but we can have few complaints from another solid night’s work from the Brazilian.
18 Fabian Delph – 6/10
Worked extremely hard during the 65 minutes he spent on the field but his inexperience at this level perhaps showed at times with some poor decisions in possession and it wasn’t a great surprise to see him make way for Wilfried Bony when a tactical switch was required in the second half.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 5/10
A frustrating night to forget from the Belgian’s point of view in which he seemed to lose the ball every time he got it and was unable to make the most of any of his numerous crossing opportunities. He knows as well as we do that he can and will do better.
21 David Silva – 8/10
The way he phenomenally plucked the ball out of the rainy air and killed it stone dead in front of the East Stand in the first half was worth the admission fee on its own and for large portions of the match he was a class apart. He linked up well with Sterling on several occasions, most notably the clever one-two which resulted in Silva smashing home the opening goal, and the little Spaniard even won a header in the build-up to City’s third. He did seem to drift in and out of the game as the night wore on, but you get the feeling he’s still just short of full fitness.
7 Raheem Sterling – 8/10
Frustrated at times and seemed to be playing as if he’d had a bet with someone that he wouldn’t use his left foot under any circumstances. His back-heeled assist for the first goal was excellent, however, and the second of his two late strikes was taken particularly well so you’d have to look back on it as a successful night’s work in the young man’s career. I was ejected from a nightclub for vomiting on myself on my 21st birthday. I’ve no doubt Raheem will have fonder memories of his.
15 Jesús Navas – Came on too late to mark
Replaced De Bruyne with 25 minutes to go and gave City the energy, pace and width they’d been crying out for down the right hand side. Much of his team’s attacking threat seemed to go through him in the final stages of the match and though is crossing didn’t always find a target, he did pick out Sterling for the equaliser at the fourth or fifth time of asking. Job done.
14 Wilfried Bony – Came on too late to mark
His exclusion from the starting line-up for this match perhaps speaks volumes about the level of faith Manuel Pellegrini has in him at the moment but when he was introduced he held the ball up well, laid on one goal and scored another. His performances during the last 11 months and his suitability to this team have been discussed at great length, but six goals in all competitions this season is far from the worst return in the world.
3 Bacary Sagna – Came on too late to mark
Resting him for most of this one was probably a wise move from his manager, as was bringing him on with 10 minutes to go in order to inject some freshness down the right and stabilise that side of the pitch.
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Written by Dan Burke