Man of the Match: No doubt, it’s Joe Hart. Manchester City’s goalkeeper came up with seven saves, many of them on point blank shots, keeping his team alive for 89 minutes. It will be easy for people (including myself) to say Manchester City didn’t deserve a point for this game, but only one team had Joe Hart. City deserves credit for nurturing him. Today was part of their payoff. For one day, Hart lived up to the hyperbolic claims he is the world’s best goalkeeper.
Packaged for takeaway:
Aside from an initial, mind-numbing first 20 minutes (that you should just fast forward through, if you’re going to watch this later), Borussia Dortmund was clearly the better side. Able to move with ease through City’s defense, Dortmund outshot the English champions 22-12.
Roman Weidenfeller did have to make two big saves of his own in the first half, stopping Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko after City’s forwards beat BVB’s high line.
In truth, it wasn’t so much the whole defense that City beat as much as Neven Subotic, who had a poor day. Running in front of Subotic and behind Hummels, City’s forwards were able to get on to passes played behind the defense. At times Subotic was lagging behind the rest of BVB’s line, at others he was just beaten for pace. Regardless, it was a problem BVB had to solve.
Eventually pressure through the midfield helped protect BVB’s defense. Ilkay Gundogan came up from his holding role to play along side Jacob Blaszczykowski, playing much of the match through the middle while Marco Reus went left (Mario Götze right). The line of four through the middle harassed Yaya Touré and Jack Rodwell, the latter coming on in the 34th minute for an injured Javi García.
The Rodwell substitution looked like it was going to be decisive when his turnover led to BVB’s goal. His 61st minute square ball was intercepted by Reus at the edge of City’s defensive third. Reus streaked in past an unprepared defense to beat Hart for what looked like it would be the match winner.
Subotic had something to say about that. In the 89th minute, Agüero turned on a left-footed volley at a sharp ankle right of goal. The shot hit Subotic squarely on an outstretched right arm. It was ball-to-hand, but it was a call every referee in the world would make, giving Mario Balotelli the opportunity to salvage a point for City.
Tracking back to a question asked in the preview, was this match BVB’s breakthrough? They certainly outplayed a big team, and while they may not have gotten full points, we’re smart enough to see the disparity between the teams.
But that disparity seemed more Manchester City’s doing than Dortmund’s. It’s difficult to imagine this match being played again and City being this bad. The central defense was terrible, the midfield was non-existent, meaning the forwards had little service. It’s not often we see Vincent Kompany and Yaya Touré marginalized like this.
The performance leaves City on one point through two rounds, and while they have a back-to-back with Ajax coming up, they’ll be under pressure to get full points. If they get them, they’ll be on seven with matches at home with Real Madrid and at Borussia Dortmund. Thanks to today’s draw, they’re probably going to need BVB to stumble (perhaps in that matchday six game in Dortmund) to avoid a second straight trip to Europa League.
For Dortmund, it could prove a huge result. They got a point, but perhaps more importantly, they kept Manchester City from full points. Even if they lose both upcoming matches with Real Madrid, they’ll be at most three points behind City when they face Ajax on matchday five.
Arsenal – They fooled us again, you know? Arsenal ran through the Premier League following an Opening Day loss to Liverpool, not seeing another ‘L’ until a Dec. 13 loss at Everton. That one could count as a moment, but we’ll choose the following match. Raheem Sterling finished a classy Kevin De Bruyne pass to give the Gunners’ two losses in a row, and Arsenal wouldn’t beat a PL contender until toppling injury-hit Manchester United on May 7.
Bournemouth – Eddie Howe‘s bunch were winless in seven and trending downward when it arrived at Old Trafford on March 5. Marcos Rojo put United ahead in the 22nd and ex-Red Devil forward Josh King leveled via penalty in the 40th. The Cherries seemed doomed when Andrew Surman was sent off in the 45th, but somehow held on to grab a point (A missed Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty didn’t help things). Bournemouth won its next two, then drew Liverpool and Southampton en route to a top half finish.
Burnley – The Clarets can thank Mike Dean for their signature moment, a 1-0 win via a handled Sam Vokes effort that moved Burnley into ninth place in the league. Ninth place for little old Burnley. Sean Dyche‘s club would stay up. Now where will it go?
Chelsea – The Blues led the Premier League after August, but had dropped to eighth by the end of September. By the start of November, Chelsea sat fourth in the table. Everton arrived at Stamford Bridge, and the Blues absolutely throttled the Merseyside club. Eden Hazard scored twice, the first moments before Marcos Alonso made it 3-0, and both Diego Costa and Pedro had also scored before the match was through. 5-0 spelled the fifth-straight win, and the Blues went on to win a historic 13-straight PL games.
Everton – It was a season, or at least half-season, of “so close” for Ronald Koeman‘s men. It didn’t get much clearer than the match that followed the Toffees’ second loss in the Merseyside Derby. Everton looked set for a rebound and a win at Old Trafford when Ashley Williams’ handled Luke Shaw’s stoppage time shot to allow Zlatan Ibrahimovic a penalty kick that stole a point for the Red Devils.
Hull City – Unsure if this counts as “the season”, but Steve Bruce quitting the club three weeks before the season because of a lack of transfer ambition (amongst other things) spelled doom for the club far before Marco Silva nearly saved their season.
Leicester City – Firing Claudio Ranieri was a massive risk. The Foxes had posted the most remarkable season in world soccer less than a year before cutting ties with the Italian. While some — like me — would argue that transfer pick-up Wilfred Ndidi was the real reason for the turnaround, it also coincided with the managerial change.
Liverpool – The Reds had a knack for playing like results were expected against lesser lights, and late conceded goals are easy to find when reviewing their season (See Swansea below). It happened against powerful Manchester United, but it also happened against Sunderland. Jermain Defoe scored the second goal of his brace in the 84th minute to cost the Black Cats two points… again.
Manchester City – Pep Guardiola led City to six-straight PL wins at the start of the season, but could only watch as Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs bettered him 2-0 at White Hart Lane to drop City to 6-1. It was one of just six losses on the season, five of which came away from the Etihad Stadium. That away form didn’t impress Guardiola, and it didn’t help City chase the title.
Manchester United – While their moment may still be coming in the form of Wednesday’s Europa League Final against Ajax, we’ll go with Jose Mourinho’s first tournament win with United: the EFL Cup Final. NBC analyst Robbie Earle often talks about good teams needing to find a way to win when they aren’t at their best, and United did it at Wembley. It could be a harbinger of what’s to come.
Middlesbrough – Boro went to West Brom on Aug. 28, unbeaten in a pair of PL matches. It remained unbeaten following the 0-0 draw, but the zero on its side of the scoreboard was extra significant for one reason: It was the first of a whopping 19 times that the Smoggies were kept off the scoreboard, including seven scoreless draws.
Southampton – Most of these moments are related to Premier League play, but the perfect summation of Saints’ up-and-down season may be the EFL Cup Final. Many believe Saints were the better side that day, only to fall short. The same can be said for their Europa League campaign. But results matter, and Saints didn’t make it back to Europe via either route.
Sunderland – The Black Cats managed to take multiple steps back for every step forward, so it’s fitting that we mark the 4-0 loss at home to Southampton on Feb. 11. It followed a 4-0 win against old manager Sam Allardyce and Crystal Palace and a scoreless draw against Spurs. Sunderland was battered by a pair Manolo Gabbiadini goals, and the loss started a run that saw the Black Cats manage points in a whopping three of its 14 remaining matches.
Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs lost just four Premier League matches this season, and responded to each with a PL win. Three of those were blowouts, and the fourth was a 2-1 May win over Manchester United. One of those bounce backs happened to be two weeks after a road loss to Liverpool and three days after Spurs were bounced from the Champions League by Genk, as Harry Kane scored one of his four season hat trick and Dele Alli also scored in a 4-0 demolition of Stoke City.
West Bromwich Albion – There’s a moment in every season which sees Tony Pulis‘ Baggies tease us with what they could do if they just allowed a little bit of open play to hamper their “Just Survive” mentality. This year it was a 3-1 win over Arsenal which begged West Brom supporters to imagine life in the Top Seven, only to let them down with another post-safety collapse. Woof.
That’s a fictional account of a conversation occurring between Yeovil Town’s Annie Heatherson and Manchester City star Carli Lloyd a moment before the USWNT star threw a ruthless red-card winning elbow in the mug of her mark.
“I think I will decide [on my future] in the next two weeks,” he said.
Asked if United would be his new club he replied: “Possible, possible.” Asked to give the chances on a scale of one to 10, Griezmann added “six”.
There’s a reported $112 million release clause in Griezmann’s contract, and few clubs will be able to meet it. The player has said he’s loyal to Diego Simeone, and the manager said he’s staying at Atleti.
Still, is Griezmann to Old Trafford fait accompli?