Saturday, 2 May 2015

City EDS 3 - 2 Leicester (AET) - PLIC Semi-final.

Interesting to hear Pellegrini say this week that three or four players from this game have a chance soon. He was in the stands watching the game, but you wonder if he arrived late as he definitely wasn't basing those comments on the first half. We were terrible. Leicester should have been 3/4 nil up at half but we held them to just the one. Sloppy in possession, slow and weak. No one did anything of any note. Thankfully, the second half onwards was much better. We took off Horsfield at right back (sadly he struggled), switched Smith-Brown over to RB, who was poor at LB but then good at RB for the rest of the game, and brought on Angelino. We took off the ineffective Intima and brought on the Nigerian wonderkid, Iheanacho. That was enough for us to basically dominate then. Angelino's energy brought loads to our team immediately, and the balance was much better. A natural left back with loads of energy, and then a good right back in Smith-Brown meant the team felt a lot more balanced.

Bringing Kelechi on (though initially on the right before he switched) meant Pozo didn't have to be the more traditional no. 9. This really, really helped his game. Kelechi looks a lot more of a natural forward whereas Pozo loves facing the goal, that's pretty obvious. It was those two that played a lovely little one two to set Kelechi through on goal. His finish was brilliant. One on one and kinda toe-poke curled it into the far corner. Just sheer natural ability. We pushed forward, controlling the game before being caught by a sucker punch on the break, Leicester's no. 10 Panayiotou getting his second of the game. 

We didn't let up. Kelechi then turned provider for Pozo, playing a lovely ball through the middle before the little Spaniard slotted it past the keeper from around the edge of the area. The arrival of Garcia for Glendon helped us further seize the game. I was really impressed with Garcia. More so than normal as it was the first time I'd see him take control of a game like that at this level and really stamp his mark on it. He's always looked comfortable, but this was different. He was the think he only turned 17 in January, yet here he was running the game against a big Leicester team. He capped a great little cameo with the winning goal deep into extra time after some really dogged work by Pozo to create the chance and I was just really impressed with his all round game. It was the most 'Silva-like' i've seen him, and the similarities were already really obvious given his style. Strong despite his size, spinning this way and that and playing great through balls. What a talent he is.

Sadly that's about it really - it was only them that played well I thought. Evans isn't a centre-half and he didn't look totally comfortable there, uncharacteristically sloppy with his distribution. Plummer's just not cut out for what City want to be. The usually reliable Gunn flapped a bit every now and then and I was really disappointed with Ntcham, Glendon and Byrne throughout most of the game. Glendon is another that I think is a nice little footballer but he was just far too predictable. Dispossessed easily and his radar was off, but in general he didn't do much more than pass it pointlessly sideways, which contrasted to Garcia's take on the role made his overall game look quite poor. Ntcham was in Joey Barton mode sadly. Headless running and naff first touches and Byrne was more than little reckless too - he should have been sent off at one point for a very bad tackle but the ref was lenient. Not the first time he's done that this season.

The latter two improved when the others came on but I do get the impression that the likes of Garcia, Boadu and Bryan could overshadow Ntcham, Byrne and Glendon very quickly if they're not at their very best. I like them but there is some stiff competition around. The main disappointment was Barker. He looked knackered - he did absolutely nothing of note last night. He actually spent the best part of an hour on the right hand side (with Pozo on the left and drifting about well) and he was totally ineffective there. He barely touched the ball when he was on the left either. Perhaps he needs a rest - he certainly looked a little jaded, though he does wear a relatively sullen demeanour anyway. He's had a great season either way and there is plenty more to come from him. If Pellegrini was really basing those opinions on last night's games then I'd have to think he was referring to Kelechi, Garcia, Angelino. Perhaps Gunn or Barker based on merit throughout the season. None of the others played anything other than average, though Smith-Brown was very good second half.

Kelechi's a dead cert. Even now. He's excellent. There was one moment where he pulled the ball down, flicked it over one guy's head (think Gazza at euro 96), span two other guys and the drilled a great shot across the goal - nearly an absolute wonder goal. He over-dribbled a couple of times, but his footwork and ability to retain possession is fantastic. He's got an absolute hammer of a left foot too; no back-lift whatsoever….and HE ATTACKS THE NEAR POST! THANK GOD FOR THAT! His goal against Chelsea wasn't a one off. He really does attack the posts every time - properly busts a gut to get in there. Full on sprint. He was unlucky to not score a couple cos of this. Navas would love him. When you combine that with the fact he can score basically any kind of goal, he has excellent movement, seems to be a big-game player, has a great touch, good pace, is big and strong already, has that necessary 'arrogance'/self belief or whatever that you see in potential stars then you really do think we're onto something special. And to think he's currently searching for match fitness too.

On a side note I thought Leicester were poor. Long ball merchants all game and pathetic time-wasting from the first minute. This wasn't the exact same side that we played in the u18s semi and it was full of 20/21 year olds who just launched it up to their striker all game. I expected a little more from a team that's traditionally strong at this level.  One further thing that I thought was interesting was that despite the fact that we were 1-0 down at half time and poor, I knew we'd win in the end. The bench, for this level, was fantastic. Maffeo, Angelino, Kelechi, Celina, Nemane and Garcia. I felt really confident that any of them coming on would improve the team, despite them all being kids. And so it proved... things like this season's Uefa Youth League and the FA Youth Cup campaigns would have really instilled a natural self confidence and big game belief in these kids. They're already very experienced in pressured environments against many types of opponents and they have more of a stature than most kids do their age. You can't overlook that as its great. 

The final is against Porto this coming Friday at the City Football Academy.

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