Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 26th 2015 Contents A57
Thursday, February 26, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MANCHESTER---It was sup-
posed to be the night when Man-
chester City finally announced
itself as a major force in the
Champions League after three
years of underachievement.
Instead, a 2-1 home loss to
Barcelona in the last 16 on Tues-
day exposed many of City's usual
flaws in the big games in Europe's
top competition: tactical inflexi-
bility, lack of composure and yet
City manager Manuel Pellegri-
ni's decision to play a 4-4-2 for-
mation appeared a risky move,
especially against a team so
accomplished in midfield as
Barcelona, and ended up backfir-
ing. Luis Suarez converted two of
Barca's many chances in a one-
sided first half at Etihad Stadium
and City was lucky to still be in
the match at halftime.
Experienced internationals like
Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta
and even silky playmaker David
Silva looked nervous. Easy passes
were misplaced. Panic spread from
City's players to the home crowd
at Etihad Stadium.
Then, just when City had got
back into the match after Sergio
Aguero's goal, defender Gael
Clichy picked up a second yellow
card. The English champions had
players sent off in both legs of last
season's last-16 loss to Barcelona:
Martin Demichelis in the first
match and Zabaleta in the second
at Camp Nou.
If it wasn't for Joe Hart's penalty
save from Lionel Messi in the last
seconds of the match, City would
be 3-1 behind heading into the
second leg and virtually without
"We repeated the same mistake
as last year," Pellegrini said.
For that, the Chilean coach has
to take a share of the blame.
Few teams play only four in
midfield in Europe any more. Mid-
field supremacy is seen as one of
the crucial components of high-
level matches, yet City ceded the
advantage here. Aguero was part-
nered by Edin Dzeko in attack,
leaving Brazil midfielder Fernand-
inho on the bench.
Such was Barcelona's possession
dominance that the visiting fans
were chanting "Ole!" as early as
the 23rd minute. Toward the end
of the first half, Aguero --- a world-
class striker reduced to chasing
shadows --- was wrong-footed by
a pass from Andres Iniesta, lost
his footing and shook his head.
Pellegrini, however, said he had
no regrets about a lineup that was
missing a big player in suspended
midfielder Yaya Toure.
"It was the way we must play
against Barcelona," he said.
"Barcelona will always dominate
in some parts of the pitch. In the
second half, we demonstrated it
UEFA BANS ZENIT
NYON---UEFA has suspended coach
Andre Villas-Boas for Zenit St
Petersburg's Europa League return
match against PSV Eindhoven today.
UEFA says Villas-Boas was
sanctioned for "dissent against the
referee," Paolo Tagliavento of Italy,
during Zenit's 1-0 win in the
Netherlands last week.
Villas-Boas cannot contact his
players at the stadium or watch the
last-32, second-leg match from the
UEFA says it also fined the Russian
club 6,000 euros ($6,800) after fans
lit fireworks at the match.
EGYPT TO RESTART MATCHES
CAIRO---Egyptian authorities have
decided to allow matches to resume in
closed stadiums without fans
following a 40-day mourning period.
Play was suspended this month
because of a deadly stampede of
supporters in eastern Cairo.
State news agency MENA says the
Cabinet decided to task a joint
commission between the Ministries of
Interior, Youth, and Sports, as well as
the Egypt's soccer association, to
restart league play.
Authorities say at least 19 people
were killed this month when police
fired tear gas into a crowd of fans
waiting in a fenced, narrow corridor
trying to enter a match between Cairo
teams Zamalek and ENPPI. Many of
the dead suffocated or were crushed in
GREEK SOCCER SUSPENDED
ATHENS---Greece's top soccer
league has been suspended for a third
time this season because of continued
violence at matches.
Stavros Kontonis, the deputy
minister for sport in Greece's new left-
wing government, said yesterday that
the decision would be reviewed next
week, but that games would again be
called off if clubs failed to respond to
government demands for improved
The action followed weekend
violence at a league match between
rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos,
and a brawl between officials of the
two clubs on Tuesday.
UEFA PUNISHES STEAUA
BUCHAREST FOR RACIST FANS
NYON---UEFA has punished
Romanian champion Steaua Bucharest
for racist behaviour by its fans for the
third time this season.
UEFA says Steaua must play its
next two home matches in the
Champions League or Europa League
in an empty stadium.
UEFA says Steaua fans showed a
racist banner at a Europa League
match against Dynamo Kiev at the
National Stadium in Bucharest in
The club was fined 20,000 euros
($22,700), with other offenses
Steaua was previously fined 64,500
euros for racism and other offenses in
a Champions League playoff against
was the way we must play from the
It can be argued that City's improved
second-half display was down to
Barca's complacency more than any-
thing else. It was that easy for the
Spanish team in the first half.
For City, a second straight last-16
exit is likely, after group-stage elim-
inations in the prior two years. It isn't
good enough for one of the biggest-
spending teams in Europe.
One of the main reasons that City's
Abu Dhabi owners replaced Roberto
Mancini with Pellegrini at the end of
the 2012-13 season was to improve
City's record in the Champions League.
They expected more than the last 16.
"It is important for this team to con-
tinue in the Champions League as far
as possible," Pellegrini said. "It is pos-
sible to demonstrate we can compete
at this level. This tie isn't over until
the game ends in Barcelona. We can
analyze it then."
For City to turn the tie around, it
must have 11 players on the field for
the whole game, and get rid of the 4-
4-2 formation that has left the team
looking naive in the big European
City undone by familiar flaws
Manchester City manager Manuel
Pellegrini gestures from the sidelines
during their Champions League
round 16 encounter against
Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium, in
Manchester, England, Tuesday. City
lost 2-1. AP PHOTO
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