Manchester City undone by late Boateng strike

Manuel Pellegrini’s side were seconds away from valuable point against German giants

Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng (centre) celebrates with his team mates after scoring the winner   against Manchester City. Photograph: Michaela Rehle / Reuters

Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng (centre) celebrates with his team mates after scoring the winner against Manchester City. Photograph: Michaela Rehle / Reuters

 

Bayern Munich 1 Manchester City 0

For Manchester City, it was a brutal way to lose. They had subdued Bayern Munich and Pep Guardiola was so exasperated he had left his technical area and was straying dangerously close to encroaching on to the pitch. But then the clock ticked into the 90th minute and the ball was at the feet of their former player, Jerome Boateng, with just about every outfield player inside the penalty area.

Moments earlier Boateng had lashed in a shot that had Joe Hart sprawling full-length to keep the game goalless. City’s goalkeeper had played with distinction, particularly in the first half when he appeared to have a magnetic attraction to the ball. Yet City were culpable in those final exchanges of defending too deeply and Boateng made them pay with a slashing right-foot volley that took a slight deflection off Mario Götze and arrowed diagonally into the far corner.

Bayern had created the best chances but it was another night when it seemed like Guardiola’s side have gone backwards rather than forwards since he inherited the team from Jupp Heynckes that made us wonder if they were going to take over from Barcelona as the most brilliantly assembled side of the modern-day era.

This was certainly a good time to face Bayern, with Franck Ribery among on extensive injury list and Arjen Robben restricted to a place on the bench.

So much of their play is based on that pair’s ability to menace on the wings and pin back opponents, so it was bound to alter the way Pep Guardiola’s side were set out. Yet Bayern still had Thomas Müller and Götze playing alongside Robert Lewandowski and the two wide players quickly showed their qualities.

Müller’s ability to find space in dangerous areas was a prominent feature during those early periods of Bayern pressure. His first chance arrived within 40 seconds and it was only a slight stumble as he went past Joe Hart that meant he turned the ball into the side-netting rather than the exposed goal. Müller was essentially playing as a right-wing but his elusiveness has always been one of his great assets and it needed one of Hart’s saves to keep him out from another central position later in the first half.

Götze put another chance wide and Hart was quickly down to his right when David Alaba had a chance to take aim just after the half-hour mark.

Lewandowski hit the same part of the side-netting as Müller after trying to go round City’s goalkeeper and Guardiola was certainly entitled to reflect that on the balance of play it was only Hart who had managed to keep them out before half-time.

Yet it was not the swaggering, all-conquering Bayern that City have encountered before and Pellegrini’s side had cautiously started to put together some neat passing moves of their own before the interval. What they lacked was real penetration.

Their wide players, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri, seldom threatened to get behind the home defence and for long spells Manuel Neuer was largely inactive, especially in comparison with the goalkeeper at the other end. Pellegrini had started with Sergio Aguero on the bench, preferring the greater physical presence of Edin Dzeko, and the Bosnian looked alert and eager to be on the ball. City, however, always tend to look a more dangerous team when Aguero is operating through the middle.

Yet there were signs early in the second half that Bayern were starting to become frustrated and unusually careless. Neuer could be seen playing a poor ball from his goalmouth to Medhi Benatia, who could only knock it out for a corner. Müller skewed one cross straight out for a goal-kick and Guardiola, of all people, will not want to see a replay of that moment when the ball came to him in the dugout and he tried to knock it back for Juan Bernat to take a throw-in. His pass sent it over Bayern’s left-back and another ball had to be fetched. Guardiola looked mortified, rubbing his head with both hands.

City had started to look a little more compact by that point, with Fernandinho doing a fine job to shield their defence and Bacary Sagna deputising well for the suspended Pablo Zabaleta. David Silva relishes these big occasions and almost scored with a diving header just after the hour. Not for the first time this season, however, Yaya Toure left the impression he is some way short of last season’s form.

Aguero and Robben were both brought on in the closing stages and the Bayern man quickly set about showing his worst traits, with one of those exaggerated falls that have become just as much his trademark as those brilliant surges from the wing. Silva thought he might have won a penalty before Boateng’s late, decisive act and there was still time for Aguero to have a chance to equalise. He could not take it.

Guardian Service

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