Pep Guardiola dropped his first points of the season when his side came back three times to draw 3-3 in the Champions League at Celtic Park on Wednesday night.
City were caught cold and fell behind for the first time this season after just three minutes when Moussa Dembélé bundled the ball over the line from close range despite being marginally offside.
The Blues responded well and were level in the 11th minute when Fernandinho was able to control a wayward Aleksandar Kolarov shot and finish past Craig Gordon in the Celtic goal.
Celtic then re-took the lead in the 20th minute. Full-back Kieran Tierney’s attempt to flash a cross across goal was inadvertently turned in for an own goal by the unfortunate Raheem Sterling.
But Sterling then scored City’s goal of the night at the other end to make it 2-2.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) September 28, 2016
The hosts then took the lead again at the start of the second half when some poor defending from Kolarov allowed Dembélé to score with a superb overhead kick.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) September 28, 2016
And then City got the final goal of the night when some smart work from David Silva allowed Sergio Agüero to force a save from the goalkeeper and Nolito scored from the rebound.
The draw leaves City with four points in second place in Group C going into the double header against Barcelona. Here’s James Cunliffe with four pieces of education from the night.
Streak finally ended but Celtic deserve the credit
After ten straight wins the Guardiola train was finally halted, by none other than Celtic, and the Bhoys deserve credit for that.
Brendan Rodgers set his home side out in a positive manner and used the Scottish crowd to his advantage. From the get go, the green and white army swarmed City with intense pressing play and for fifteen minutes of the game were undoubtedly the better team at 1-0 up. In fact, City were fortunate to find themselves level after Fernandinho equalized not long after Moussa Dembélé’s opener.
With license to roam forward, Celtic’s fullbacks, Kieran Tierney in particular, caused City some real problems down our right-hand side. Kolo Touré was the rock at the heart of the home defence, with the help of Sviatchenko, the Ivorian comfortably dealt with Sergio Agüero throughout. Dembélé, despite being outnumbered by Kolarov and Otamendi, held the ball up well more often than not and his lightening pace gave Celtic a consistent out-ball from the back. Celtic were the better fighting team all-round and their efforts to win second balls and 50/50 challenges paid off.
All in all, City were disappointing to go down three times due to lackadaisical defending but it was nothing less than the home side deserved.
We still need fullback reinforcements
Obvious weak spots for me in the draw were the fullbacks. Although the first goal was unfortunate to not be called offside, Gaël Clichy was caught sleeping in the City high-line and it was his lack of concentration which ultimately led to James Forrest’s cross into the box. The Frenchman didn’t, and hasn’t for some time, offered City a real attacking threat going forward. And Pablo Zabaleta was just awful, we need to have a word about our adored stand-in captain.
Now at 31 years of age, Zabaleta has gone way past his peak of being the league’s best right-back. I mean, it doesn’t look good when former City flop Scott Sinclair is running you ragged, does it? You could almost tell that Celtic were targeting the Argentinian in the match and it was working, I think after a while Zabaleta lost his confidence completely and was in the second half losing the ball far too easily. It’s not the first time it’s happened to him this season, even in City’s victories Zabaleta has been given a hard time from the likes of Marko Arnautović and Arthur Masuaku.
City’s ageing fullbacks have always caused question for concern in the build up and during transfer windows. Whether Guardiola deems the youth product Pablo Maffeo good enough to step in or he has other ideas for new signings, I think it’s time to think about saying goodbye to our Argentinian warrior.
It’s not all doom and gloom
As exciting as the match was, City fans came out of it with a huge sense of underachievement but it’s not all doom and gloom. Don’t get me wrong, we should be winning these matches but their were plenty of positives to be taken from it.
Starting off with debunking the theory that Celtic’s high press exposed Guardiola’s tactics, individuals were more to blame for the goals conceded than the style of play. I can’t recall one occasion where Celtic won the ball high up the pitch and almost punished City for playing out from the back, the goals came from just overall inexcusable defending.
Another positive note to take away from the draw was City’s resilience to fight back three times in a single game. Since the start, it’s been all plain sailing for Guardiola’s men and Tuesday night was the first time they had to claw back from going behind, and they did that thrice!
Finally, Celtic’s home form in the Champions League group stage is phenomenal. The Scottish champions have only ever lost there once at this stage, beating Barcelona, Manchester United and drawing to Bayern Munich along the way. So, in the end, a draw at Celtic Park is not as bad as it may seem for the sky blues.
— Graham Ward (@exohms) September 28, 2016
Thank you for booing Raheem Sterling
In a hostile crowd of over 60,000, City players were booed and whistled throughout the entirety of the game, and they all looked intimidated but one man – 21-year-old Raheem Sterling.
To the idiots who sat in their thousands booing a young English talent during last season, thank-you. Sterling didn’t seem phased one bit by Wednesday night’s incredible atmosphere, he was the City player, maybe most surprisingly, that stepped up to the plate and shone.
Raheem Sterling was great again tonight and probably the only City player who actually had a good game.
— Typical City (@TypicalCity) September 28, 2016
It was probably because he was used to it, playing in this type of environment comes second nature to Sterling after his first year in a City shirt and it’s made him a stronger man today. His direct dribbling at defenders is refreshing to watch and the composure and trickery for his goal was another complete embodiment of the player he has become under Guardiola this season.
Written by James Cunliffe
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