Advent Calendar – 23rd December: Bayern Munich 2-3 Manchester City, 2013

With Advent now under way and the countdown to Christmas now on, Typical City is looking at an incident, player or match specific to the club that corresponds with each date. In today’s edition, David Mooney reminices about City’s famous 2-3 against Bayern Munich in 2013…After 12 minutes of the final match of the 2013-14 Champions League group stage, City fans would have been forgiven for cowering behind the sofa and praying that somebody would just take the team out the back and shoot them through the head. End it. End the suffering and put them out of their misery.

At the Allianz Arena, Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze had both scored already and Bayern Munich were leading 2-0. City had barely kicked a ball and had the TV companies broadcast the match at high speed with the Benny Hill theme over the top of it then it wouldn’t have been an injustice to the gulf between to the two teams.

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Worse, Manuel Pellegrini had named a weakened side and it looked as though it was going to be an embarrassing evening for all involved with the English team.

But 12 minutes in, something happened. Something changed. Whether the home side eased off the gas or whether City decided that they didn’t want to be on the receiving end of a record battering in the top European competition is up for debate, but either way the visitors remembered that they were allowed to take part in the match too.

The game was a dead rubber. Both teams were safely through to the knockout phase, with the German team topping the group and three points ahead of their opponents. A 3-1 win in Manchester gave them a better head-to-head record at the start of play, but City still had the chance to win out ahead of them with a better result in Germany.

At 2-0 after 12 minutes, that seemed somewhat unlikely – but more on that later.

As the game approached the half hour, City had steadied themselves and were looking much better. It had seemed like Bayern were going to attempt to keep them at arm’s length for the rest of the fixture, though David Silva made sure that it would be uncomfortable for them if that was the game plan. He got onto the end of a cut back after a Jesus Navas cross to tap the ball past Manuel Neuer and reduce the deficit.

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In truth, by this stage many a City fan wouldn’t have complained at a 2-1 final score defeat. It retained the dignity, which could so easily have been mauled entirely in the opening stages. The players had other ideas.

It began when Silva slipped James Milner through on the left flank. He was going nowhere when Dante stepped across him in the penalty area. The midfielder didn’t need asking twice and he allowed the defender to clip his leg and then tumbled to the ground like a sack of spuds, as the ball rolled out of play. It was certainly soft, but the referee pointed to the spot.

Aleksandar Kolarov – captain for the evening – stepped up and rifled the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal, sending Neuer the wrong way, a minute before the clock touched the hour mark. Out of nowhere, the visitors were level and in full control of the game – how a match can swing.

Three minutes later, it got even better. Everybody missed a ball through the Munich box, as Navas played it low and hard across the penalty spot. A swing and a miss from ex-City defender Jerome Boateng allowed it to fall to Milner, who was arriving late – and the midfielder opened his body up and bent it around the goalkeeper into the bottom corner.

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The comeback was complete. From 2-0 down, the Blues got themselves in front at Bayern Munich and had a real chance to top the group with one more goal. However, it seemed that nobody realised – Pellegrini didn’t spot that his side would have the better head-to-head record if they were able to sneak a 4-2 victory and he wasn’t alone; it wasn’t until after the game that many realised the potential.

The manager did go for it, however, He brought on Alvaro Negredo for David Silva and switched to a 4-4-2 from his 4-5-1 set-up on 73 minutes – and it almost paid dividends. The Spanish striker robbed the ball from Dante and went through on a one-on-one with Neuer, but on his right side he couldn’t find the finish that City wanted.

With Aguero on the bench, the Chilean chose instead to swap Dzeko for Rodwell and came under fire from many for a more defensive-minded substitution given the circumstances. However, that followed a flawed logic – there was no guarantee that bringing Aguero on would have ensured the fourth goal that would have won the group, while City had lost control of the match and were struggling to keep possession with only four in the middle of the pitch.

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Aguero might have offered a better chance of scoring for the visitors, but they had barely touched the ball in the time they’d been playing a 4-4-2 system – and no team will score without having possession.

In the end, the fans had to settle for one of the most memorable comebacks in the competition’s history and second place in the group.

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Written by David Mooney.

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