MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 27: Mario Gomez (L) of Muenchen scores the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League group A match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Manchester City FC at Allianz Arena on September 27, 2011 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Billed as the game that highlighted City's arrival in the Champions League: squaring off against one of Europe's old-guard in Bayern Munich, new money versus old in the very stadium City harbour hopes of returning to next May. Instead, City return to Manchester with a number of questions - not least Carlos Tevez - hanging over them. In specific relation to their Champions League hopes this season, City have to quickly overcome the naivety that has punctuated their play in this years competition, which, despite impressive passages of play, has seen them commit fundamental errors and drop points to put them in a position where a gap has opened up already between themselves and the top two. The squad itself is not short of Champions League experience, but this experience has come as individuals, not as a collective unit and at times this has been telling.
It is not often that the narrative of the game is not what did occur on the pitch but rather an event that didn't happen, but with Carlos Tevez's decision to refuse to take the field as a substitute has defined what was an unhappy evening all told. The recriminations will now begin in earnest and Tevez has fired his response this morning in denying that he refused to come on as a substitute. Roberto Mancini laid his cards out on table following the game in stating Tevez would 'never' play for the club again. Undoubtedly emotions were raw but even in the cold light of day it is inconceivable to see a situation where Tevez pulls on a City shirt again. To say the club have been accomodating to Tevez's histrionics the past year or so is understating the situation enormously but (even with the support of some within the ownership group) the Argentinian has burned his bridges to such a degree that a return would cause irreperable harm within the squad and management.
What the Tevez incident has done is take some of the focus away from Mancini's team selection and substitutions. It was a bold team selection by Mancini tactically, opting against a Nigel de Jong or James Milner to add a defensive presence in midfield and picking the 'attacking' full-back pair in Micah Richards and Gael Clichy. Over the first half an hour of the game the selection looked to have paid dividends as City started brightly and looked to be about to test Bayern's defence. An inability to maintain and control possession high up the field though meant that City could not sustain pressure on Bayern. With Bayern marauding forward, City finally buckled under continued pressure and once Richards and Clichy were pushed back and City's lack of width was evident as they looked for a way back into the game. The de Jong introduction attracted most criticism (led by Edin Dzeko) yet there was logic in this. The lack of control in terms of possession was clear and by pushing Yaya Toure forward to support Sergio Aguero (in addition to Dzeko's ineffectiveness) meant little was sacrificed in terms of attacking threat. The fact that the substitute had little bearing was more as a result of the stranglehold that Bayern had achieved by that stage.
With City (specifically the mistakes they committed) playing a large part in their downfall, it has glossed over what should be acknowledged as a very strong Bayern performance. Everything that was advertised about them was in evidence: the trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and in particular, Frank Ribery were excellent and as their dominance grew their confidence in their ability to attack did likewise. City's lethargic showing in the second-half may not have contributed in this regard but what was apparent throughout the game was how much a match Bayern were with City from a physical standpoint; rarely were they muscled off the ball and this ensured they had the lions share in terms of possession advantage.
The hangover that the club woke up with today will match anything generated as a result of the Oktoberfest festivities and as I wrote in the lead up to the game, it was a 'can't lose' rather than 'must win' game. The magical 10 point figure is still very much attainable but with Napoli winning at home to Villarreal yesterday evening, the forthcoming back to back games against the Spaniards assumes a greater significance. With Bayern squaring off against Napoli in their own double header Group A could have a very different feel by the time City host Bayern in the penultimate fixture in the Group.
City may be down, not out, but will need to re-group quickly to avoid their Champions League foray from coming to an abrupt end.