West Bromwich Albion 1 - Manchester City 2
An enjoyable and entertaining game and in the end I thought we were unlucky not to nick it.
Having been moved from the Smethwick I took a position directly behind the home bench - close enough to look down onto James McClean's head as he glugged a couple of cans of Red Bull.
It was interesting to see just home much like a Sunday league manager Pulis behaves, how little notice players seem to take of him during games and how funny Gary Megson finds it when we win set plays in the final 3rd through creative theatrics or buying fouls. Time and again he turned to the bench with a big grin on his face, chuckling away or covering his eyes when this happened.
As will have been widely reported - we got absolutely battered in the first half and the movement and touch passing of City was fantastic. Foster, fortune and some last ditch challenges kept us in it. Dawson, McAuley and one or two others were simply not good enough on the ball to keep us out of trouble.
I thought both the system and players were wrong. We all know that 3-5-2 for us really means 5-5-0 and we simply couldn't escape out wide and had zero pace up front. I'd have gone 4-5-1 with Phillips and McClean wide and Rondon up front to stretch them. It is absolutely critical against teams like City and Arsenal, who push their fullbacks up so high, that if you win the ball back you can keep it and quickly play it into the defensive channels that they vacate and attack them with pace.
In fairness to Pulis, this might have been the plan all along and he might well have gone out with the intention of keeping us in the game up to 60 minutes and then adopting this tactic. But it's pretty much what he did with the introduction of Phillips, Rondon and McClean in stages.
It certainly worked for us - apart from the corner goal we also created some really good chances. HRK sliced wide when he was 10 yards out with time to take a touch and hammer it home. Mozza undid some great work by missing an absolute sitter from about 7 yards by toe-poking wide instead of passing the ball into the bottom corner and right at the death HRK hit the outside of the post after deflection put him clean through with time to spare.
Sane's goal was a stunning finish but he should probably have been sent wide - easy to say when you're not playing against him. What a player.
So overall despite the disappointment in losing we can hold our heads high and take pride and positives form the 2nd half. This was also a decent rehearsal for the Arsenal game as they play with a similar style but do not have as many good players as City and are more vulnerable to counters.
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated