Show City are not shoo-ins

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

IT IS an ugly busi­ness; it is a beau­ti­ful game. Just as foot­ball slith­ered deeper into a cesspit of corruption and sleaze, along comes a Champions League night to lift the spir­its: most heart­warm­ingly at Celtic Park, a caul­dron of mag­nif­i­cent hos­til­ity, that wit­nessed a six-goal thriller and one of its great Euro­pean oc­ca­sions.

As Sam Al­lardyce flew “abroad” to re­flect on his own dis­grace and the Daily Tele­graph named other man­agers who liked to more than smell “the cof­fee”, Celtic vs City was a timely re­minder that the game can still pro­duce won­der­ful drama on the field.

And Celtic, the first Bri­tish club to win the Euro­pean Cup, not only made the sur­viv­ing Lis­bon Lions proud, by do­ing so they may have in­ad­ver­tently breathed new life into the Pre­mier League ti­tle race south of the bor­der.

That a team stitched to­gether for less than £20m could shake one as­sem­bled for £400m (with a lot more wasted) will have been noted by City’s rivals in Eng­land. On this ev­i­dence, the only sim­i­lar­ity the Barcelona wannabes have with the Cata­lan kings is their taste in hideous away strips.

Else­where Bay­ern were beaten, Barca had to come from be­hind and, not to be out­done, Newcastle and Nor­wich pro­duced an amaz­ing fin­ish in the Cham­pi­onship with the Toon scor­ing in the 95th and 96th min­utes to win 4-3.

But it was on a wet and windy night in Glas­gow, that City, for the first time this sea­son, looked vul­ner­a­ble, Pep some­what less than in­vin­ci­ble. Roared on by the best fans in Europe, Celtic took an early lead in each half to knock the bil­lion­aires from Manch­ester out of their el­e­gant stride. It was hard to be­lieve this same Bren­dan Rodgers team had lost to Lin­coln Red Imps of Gi­bral­tar.

City could have eas­ily lost this but had enough about them to share the spoils. Although they were on top at the end, they would have been re­lieved to have sur­vived where even Barcelona, with Lionel Messi in his pomp, have been beaten.

As Guardi­ola has re­peat­edly stated, City will take risks and he was cer­tainly true to his word here. Play­ing a high line, with a makeshift cen­tral de­fence and a keeper who wants to play in mid­field, the Premier­ship lead­ers looked more than dodgy at the back.

In mid­field, with Ilkay Gun­do­gan still Tele­graph The Tele­graph Daily strug­gling to get into games af­ter a long lay­off and Kevin de Bruyne miss­ing, they seemed lightweight and re­liant on Ra­heem Ster­ling who is look­ing like a man re­born.

In the last cou­ple of weeks, one or two fis­sures have been ap­pear­ing to sug­gest the league may not be quite the cake­walk for City that some peo­ple thought. Vin­cent Kom­pany is surely now in the last chance surgery which, even be­fore last night, had Pep con­sid­er­ing a move for Ju­ven­tus’s Leonardo stamp­ing out corruption from the game.

“Any sub­stan­tive al­le­ga­tions will be in­ves­ti­gated with the full force of the rules at our dis­posal, which are wide-rang­ing and well-de­vel­oped,” they said.

“In ad­di­tion, should we find any ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal­ity we would in­form and seek the sup­port of the ap­pro­pri­ate statu­tory au­thor­i­ties.”

Crouch’s re­marks and the foot­ball au­thor­i­ties’ state­ment came af­ter Alan Shearer, a for­mer Eng­land cap­tain, said English foot­ball had a prob­lem with “greed”. – AFP Bonucci in Jan­uary. He will have fierce com­pe­ti­tion from Chelsea whose need is per­haps even greater.

John Stones made a dif­fer­ence but Celtic’s Moussa Dem­bele was tir­ing by the time the £50m man came on. With Alek­san­dar Ko­larov show­ing his lim­i­ta­tions and Kom­pany pos­si­bly out of the equa­tion, some­one of Bonucci’s cal­i­bre looks es­sen­tial if Guardi­ola’s men are to de­liver as ex­pected.

They give teams a chance and Celtic came close to tak­ing theirs, even if there was a touch of for­tune about two of their goals. And you had to won­der how City’s de­fence will fare against Liver­pool, par­tic­u­larly, and even Arsenal who have the quick, in­ci­sive passers that are likely to slice through a high and un­cer­tain line.

It does make for a tan­ta­lis­ing prospect and one that is des­per­ately needed as the game reels from daily dis­clo­sures of dirt and dys­func­tional gov­ern­ing bod­ies. Big Sam had to go – as one who felt strongly that he was the ideal man, I hold my hand up on this one – he had many at­tributes but greed got the bet­ter of him.

Third-party own­er­ship is a no-no and a recipe for chaos and corruption. Given half a chance, it would be­come 33rd party with small “in­vestors” each own­ing a share in a player and be­ing able to in­flu­ence trans­fers and, dare it be said, even per­for­mances, if in ca­hoots with bent man­agers. Hav­ing the Eng­land man­ager aid­ing and abet­ting this would have been un­think­able, es­pe­cially for an or­gan­i­sa­tion like the FA.

An­other rather dif­fer­ent wrong that needs right­ing is that clubs like Celtic, Ajax and Ben­fica are for­ever cast into the qual­i­fiers for Europe’s great­est club com­pe­ti­tion – sim­ply be­cause of “mar­ket forces”. City were the big boys here but they are Johnny-come-latelys in Europe whereas the Bhoys them­selves have a dis­tin­guished his­tory and, as we saw, phenom­e­nal sup­port.

Ajax have won the tro­phy four times, Ben­fica twice and Celtic once yet be­cause their na­tional leagues’ broad­cast­ing rights are sold for peanuts, these great clubs are dumped in the min­nows bin. It is an­other ex­am­ple of greed win­ning and an­other scandal the game needs to ad­dress.

But as we move into au­tumn braced for more shock­ing rev­e­la­tions, at least we have a ti­tle race to look for­ward to that could be more open than many re­alised. THE FOOT­BALL AS­SO­CI­A­TION HOW­EVER, the Gun­ners are ready to fend off the FA by of­fer­ing Wenger a new two-year con­tract.

FOR­MER FOR­MER Eng­land mid­fielder Owen Har­g­reaves, 35, says the play­ers would ben­e­fit from the man­age­ment of 38-year-old Bournemouth boss Ed­die Howe.

ARSENAL ARSENAL’S Germany mid­fielder Me­sut Ozil, 27, is hop­ing for

a move back to Real Madrid. FOR­MER DERBY COUNTY want to talk to for­mer player Gary Rowett, 42, about tak­ing over as man­ager hav­ing sus­pended Nigel Pear­son.

NEIL WARNOCK, TOT­TEN­HAM HOTSPUR for­ward Son He­ung-min, 24, who has scored three goals in the last two games, con­sid­ered leav­ing the club in the summer af­ter strug­gling to es­tab­lish him­self.

LE­ICES­TER CITY (car­i­ca­ture),

is ex­pected to make an ap­proach for Arsenal man­ager Arsene Wenger, 66, with a view to him be­com­ing the new Eng­land boss.

Mid­dles­brough man­ager Gareth South­gate, 46, wants to be the next per­ma­nent Eng­land boss and is view­ing his four matches in tem­po­rary charge as a chance to stake a claim for the job.

AFPPIX

Manch­ester City’s mid­fielder Fer­nando (R) vies in the air with Celtic’s striker Moussa Dem­bele dur­ing their UEFA Champions League Group C match at Celtic Park sta­dium in Glas­gow, Scot­land yes­ter­day. –

and Chelsea would be ready to bid for Real Madrid striker Al­varo Mo­rata, 23, if he asks to leave the Bern­abeu. Steve Bruce, Harry Red­knapp and for­mer Rams boss Steve McClaren are all in the frame for the Cham­pi­onship club’s va­cancy. striker Jamie Vardy 29, says he drank port the night be­fore a game, then three cans of Red Bull and a dou­ble espresso on the day of the match last sea­son, as the Foxes won the Pre­mier League.

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