Saturday, 18 February 2012

FC Porto v Manchester City: post match thoughts.

Although the media reaction to the game has been fairly muted and instead has focused on other incidents during the match, City's victory over Porto should not be under-appreciated by the fans.

Make no mistake about it, Porto are no mugs and they rarely lose at home in any competition. In fact before facing City, they had only ever lost once on home soil to English opposition. Let's not forget that Porto are also the current holders of the Europa League and won the Champions League in 2004.

City fans may have been left rolling their eyes after realising that the referee was the same one that sent Balotelli off in their last Europa League game and let Dynamo Kiev's time wasting and play acting go largely unpunished. But hey, we're getting used to this being screwed over malarkey, aren't we? Thankfully it has rarely affected the final result in the league.

The first half saw City rather frustrated as they made several good chances which were seen saved by the Porto keeper, Helton (or Elton) if you were watching on ITV1. Balotelli, Richards and Nasri all had shots that were destined for the back of the net, saved by the Brazilian.

Despite City creating the better chances, it was Porto who took the lead within half an hour when Hulk had space for a cross on the left and whipped the ball in with a low drive. Verela got to it first after losing Clichy and prodded the ball home from 6 yards. Hart did make contact with it but not enough to turn it away from goal.
Although City were 1-0 down at the break, due to the chances that had already been created, you were still positive that City could get themselves back into this game. On 55 minutes, City did exactly that with a slice of luck that has been sorely missing of late.

Yaya, stood just inside the Porto half, lofted the ball into the box which was put into the net by Pereira (perhaps the most naturally miserable looking person on the planet), due to some fine pressuring by Balotelli.

Sergio Aguero came off the bench and replaced Balotelli on 77 minutes and it was him who sealed the victory for City 7 minutes later, Yaya Toure once again the provider. The big Ivorian bursting into the box after being put through by Nasri, unselfishly knocking the ball square to Aguero who could not miss.

It was a performance and comeback to be proud of, City played quite well throughout and limited Porto to very few decent chances despite the number of shots they actually had. Even the £80m forward, Hulk, looked more like the incredible sulk. He came up against Richards, Kompany and Lescott during the 90 minutes and barring his first-touch cross in the first half, he made very little impact on the game. The impact on the ground was considerably greater as he spent a lot of time hitting it after falling over all too easily.

Lescott once again proved his credentials and hardly put a foot wrong, he certainly got my vote for man of the match. After Mancini's stern words in the last couple of weeks, Balotelli also put in a very professional performance and Mancini will be hoping he stays that way until the end of the season. In fact although it couldn't be said in the first half, at the end of the 90 minutes, I'm not sure anyone had a particularly bad game overall.

Unfortunately it took a rather unsavoury incident for City to get a real headline from this game. The Club have put an official complaint in after both Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure reported racist chanting from a section of Porto fans.

Interviewed after the game, Yaya said he 'heard something' but didn't state what it was but Porto officials instantly denied such claims before actually looking into them.

The official Porto stance on it is that “nothing abnormal” had taken place and that “No one noticed anything strange, not even the Uefa delegates that worked closely with Porto during the match.”

Rui Cerqueira (Porto's spokesmen) then went on to embarrassingly describe what he felt was a misunderstanding. He said that Porto fans were actually chanting "Hulk, Hulk, Hulk" and City fans were chanting "Kun, Kun, Kun."

I think we all knew this was total rubbish. City fans are well known for chanting "Kun, Kun, Kun" aren't we? Especially when Mario is on the ball and Aguero is on the bench. Last I heard, we chant "Sergio, Sergio" but that may just be my dodgy hearing.

Perhaps unfortunately for Rui and Porto, video footage of at least one incident that has been posted on Youtube showing a section of Porto fans making monkey sounds when Balotelli failed to score in the first half. There were several incidents reported at the end of 90 minutes.

There can be no excusing this kind of behaviour. City were not saying all Porto fans are racist, but it is clear that a section of them clearly are and picked out Balotelli for treatment. If UEFA fail to act on this, especially after video evidence has come to light, then they are sending the wrong message to Clubs and fans throughout Europe.

City are now in a very strong position going into the 2nd leg at the Etihad Stadium, a 2-1 lead with both goals coming away from home. There is still a job to do, but City are strong favourites to head into the round of 16.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

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