It has been suggested by many Australian sporting fans that football is boring. The ominous disaster of a nil-nil draw at ninety minutes threatens un-entertaining and un-competitive fixtures.
So far this International Champions Cup has demonstrated the best and the worst in football.
Enduring the widely anticipated, but truly dull meeting between Real Madrid and AS Roma on Saturday night, fans left the MCG with a sweet and sour taste in the mouth. The excitement of being able to enjoy the treat of the world’s biggest stars on Australian soil was quickly deflated by the boorish nature of a goalless game.
However, this Tuesday night was a completely different story.
Raheem Sterling, Manchester City’s newest multi-million dollar recruit quickly extinguished those lethargic remnants in just two minutes and seventeen seconds and ignited a cracking showcase of European football.
Shining through the pre-game drama, City’s attacking intent was quick to catch as Pelligrini’s new Sterling-led attacking press came to fruition. Speed headlining the City attack; young Nigerian forward Kelechi Ikeanacho played through an onside Sterling who was free to convert his first goal in the sky blue one-on-one with the Roman keeper. In 180 seconds, we had ourselves a game.
Whilst City impressed their new attacking fluidity, Roma began to gain control, moving the ball around on the half way line. Showing off their desire to play end-to-end attacking football, the Wolves looked slowly work forward in an attempt to break City’s defensive line.
Miralem Pjanic had other offensive plans.
Backing his long-range arsenal, Pjanic released a bolter from outside-50 meter arch with accuracy to make even the finest of the AFL’s forwards blush. His swirling and dipping strike floating with speed into the top-right corner. The crowd purred in agreement. This was the type of football they’d paid their hard earned to see.
Softly in the background, the voices of the loyal City and Roma legions began to come alive. The thought of paper planes was quickly put to bed, singing their approval and taking to their feet seemed more appropriate.
A short break for half time and the show rolled on. This time, Ikeanacho was to convert a horrible pass back to the keeper from former England international, Ashley Cole and taking City back the lead.
Manchester spread their control wide, dominating most of possession in their forward half. Though, against the run of play in the dying minutes of this encounter, Roma midfielder Adem Ljajic produced another brilliant long-range shot through a set piece across the City wall and past a poorly positioned Joe Hart.
The promise of a two-two conclusion would have sufficiently reflected the even attacking nature this game. It even appeared it would end that way, until the MC pipped up and announced a draw would lead to a penalty shootout, earning a content cheer from the 40,000 odd crowd.
Penalties played tit-for-tat until City’s Aleksandar Kolarov decided to blast his shot into the stands. The pressure upon the shoulders of Joe Hart to pull City back from the brink. Cool and calm as ever, Hart placed out a single hand and to stop Doumbia’s well-placed spot kick. Young James Horsfield converted another for the Citizens, before Hart got the job done with a comfortable diving save.
Thus concluding a great football showcase – without a single Mexican wave.
FINAL SCORE – CITY 2 (7) v (6) 2 ROMA
Words by Jacob Arnott. @jacobarnott