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Manchester City still has a lot to learn in Europe’s elite competition

Premier League champions Manchester City were defeated 3-2 by Spanish champions Real Madrid in their opening group game of the Champions League last night.

The game was never going to be an easy one for Roberto Mancini’s team, as they were playing the second favourites for the competition.

Difficult

The Santiago Bernabeu is one of the hardest grounds to visit in European football and Real Madrid one of the best teams in the Champions League.

I think most City fans would have taken a point before the game kicked-off and their team were so close to claiming a share of the spoils.

Los Blancos are always going to have sustained periods of pressure simply because of the players they have in their team. Every team that comes up against them know that will have to be at their best to get anything, especially at the Bernabeu.

City hasn’t been at their best this season. They haven’t produced their best football or results in this campaign, so far. However they were close to claiming a famous result at the Bernabeu.

Late

The first 69 minutes of the game followed a similar pattern, Real Madrid trying to break through the City defence and City counter-attacking when they had the chance. Although City opened the scoring in the 69th minutes through Edin Dzeko and then the game seemed to open up.

This allowed both teams more space and Real equalised through a superbly taken goal by Brazilian full-back Marcelo. City retook the lead when Alexander Kolorov’s free-kick evaded everybody to find the bottom corner of the net.

Real were never going to lie down and French striker Karim Benzema struck a powerful effort to equalise for the home side. In injury-time former-Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo won it for Los Blancos.

Real Madrid was the better side on the night and probably just about deserved the victory. However, Manchester City fans will still be disappointed with not claiming anything from their trip to the Spanish capital.

Challengers

If Manchester City is going to become real European heavyweights then the likes of Real Madrid are their benchmark. The likes of Real Madrid are the calibre of team that the Citizens have to beat if they are to win the Champions League trophy.

I don’t think Manchester City are quite at the same level of Real just yet, simply because as a club they do not have the same European experience as the Spanish champions. Los Blancos may not have won the Champions League in a decade, but they have European know-how.

City have to use these nights as European learning experiences, even if they do come home with nothing at the end of them.

Mixed

Manchester City and England keeper Joe Hart enjoyed a mixed night in the end. He produced some vital saves to keep the champions in the game in the first half, but he may have done better on Real’s winner.

The criticism of the England keeper shouldn’t be too harsh though, as his defence should have done better and without his saves in the first half the home side would have been out of sight.

Positives

There were positives for City like the performance of man mountain Yaya Toure in the centre of the park. The former-Barcelona midfielder is simply unstoppable when he is on form and adds that bit of Champions League experience to the City team.

Qualification

Real Madrid away from home was always going to be the most difficult game of the group for the English champions. That game is now out of the way and City can concentrate on qualifying for the knockout stages.

The games against Dortmund and Ajax won’t be easy, but I expect Manchester City to go one step further than last season and qualify for the knockout stages this season. This would constitute progress for Roberto Mancini’s team.

I don’t think Manchester City will win the Champions League this season, but I have no doubt that they are closer than they were last year and you can’t ask much more than that.

Did Real Madrid deserve to beat Manchester City last night?

Wed 19 September, 2012
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