With Rangers currently exiled from playing in Europe I still like to get a fix of European football each season. Last week presented an opportunity to take in the Champions League game between Manchester City and Viktoria Plzen followed by Swansea City and Valencia in the Europa League the next evening. An added bonus was the UEFA Youth League tie between the youth side’s of Manchester City and Viktoria Plzen at Hyde’s Ewen Fields ground on Wednesday afternoon.
It provided an ideal opportunity to compare two contrasting clubs, with Patrick Vieira’s expensively assembled City side that has recruited from across Europe taking on Champions League debutants Plzen whose youth squad is made up exclusively of players from Czech Republic.
Manchester City 3 Viktoria Plsen 0
The first thing that struck me about the City team that included three Spaniards and one each from Belgium, Austria and France as well as Devante Cole, son of former player Andy Cole, was their size and athleticism when compared to Scottish youth sides. When the home side created and missed two chances in the opening two minutes it looked like I could be witnessing a total mismatch.
The Spanish duo Jose Tasende and Jose Angel Pozo combined on the left and from the latter’s low cross Devante Cole blazed over from inside the six yard box. Sixty seconds later a reverse pass from Devante Cole sent Kean Bryan clear on the right side of the penalty area but he dragged his shot across goal and wide of the far post.
After that initial burst the Czech side settled into the game and seventeen minutes had passed before City seriously threatened again, this time it was a solo run from Jose Angel Pozo cutting in from the left and forcing a save from Josef Jurasi low to his right. The opening goal came less than five minutes later, Jose Angel Pozo sent Kean Bryan clear on the left and this time Devante Cole made no mistake when the pass came across goal.
The Czech side almost levelled immediately, Ondrej Rumi won possession at the edge of the City box and passed to the unmarked Vitezslav Hrdlicka, he seemed to fluff his shot but it wrong footed Billy O’Brien who only just manged to block with his leg and the ball was cleared for a corner. Ondrej Rumi took the corner from the right and Denis Brozik rose to head narrowly over. The home side capitalised by increasing their lead a couple of minutes later. It started on the right with Sinan Bytyqi and the ball was moved across the eighteen yard line via Seko Fofana to Devante Cole who shot past the static Josef Jurasi from the edge of the area.
Just after the half hour Jose Angel Pozo showed good skill on the left and when his cross was missed by Josef Jurasi the Plzen defence scrambled clear before a City player could capitalise.
Half-Time:- Manchester City 2 Viktoria Plsen 0
It was the visitor’s who had the first real chance of the second half ten minutes in, Vitezslav Hrdlicka cutting in from the right before going for goal and forcing Billy O’Brien diving high to his left to turn the ball for a corner. The game the entered a period with little goalmouth action, with Plzen happy to sit in and the home side lacking the flair and creativity to break them down.
The game was entering the final fifteen minutes when George Glendon sent Sinan Bytyqi clear on the right, the Austrian winger continued into the box before shooting across goal and wide of the far post. A few minutes later Sinan Bytyqi sent Thierry Ambrose down the right and made a run to receive the return pass inside the box but his shot was wide of the near post.
The scoring was completed with ten minutes remaining, City moved the ball across the middle of the park from left to Sinan Bytyqi on the right and Jose Angel Pozo’s flick on the winger’s low cross diverted the ball past Josef Jurasi.
I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the City side, I was expecting more from a team assembled at no small cost from across Europe. As I said they were a big strong side and were far better than their opponents, but felt they lacked a bit of creativity and guile. There was no Tom Walsh, Paul McMullan or Ryan Gauld, their most technically gifted player on the day looked to be Jose Angel Pozo, who was signed from Real Madrid. He was willing to take players on, although his runs tended to end with him hitting the turf prematurely as he looked for a penalty.
City’s other top performer’s on the day were Devante Cole for his two goals, although he wasn’t too involved in general play, he does seem to be an out-and-out goal scorer. George Glendon who played just in front defence moved the ball quickly and kept the play moving, although it wasn’t the most difficult job when the opposition is a fair bit inferior.
For the Czech side midfielder Daniel Bocek caught the eye the most. With Ondrej Rumi doing his best to support the lone striker from his role on the left. That lone striker’s role was taken on by Vitezslav Hrdlicka and he may have notched a goal with one of his two chances.
City are joint top of the group on ten points along side CSKA Moscow with Bayern Munich a point behind, a draw in their final game in Germany would take them through to the knockout stages, which shouldn’t be beyond then as they won their home game against Bayern 6-0. I think the top Scottish youth teams could look to a game against city with confidence, although the squads have changed Celtic won both games against them in the Next Gen Series two years ago. I would put the Plzen side as a similar standard to bottom half of the Scottish youth league.
Manchester City:- Billy O’Brien; Pablo Maffeo, Shay Facey, Jason Denayer, Jose Tasende; Seko Fofana (Mathias Bossaerts 59mins), George Glendon, Kean Bryan; Sinan Bytyqi (Brandon Barker 82mins), Devante Cole (Thierry Ambrose 59mins), Jose Angel Pozo.
Not Used:- Charlie Albinson (Gk), James Horsfield, Ashley Smith-Brown, Jorge Intima.
Viktoria Plzen:- Josef Jurasi; Jurij Medvedev, Jirl Piroch, Denis Brozik, Dominik Lesek; Daniel Bocek (Martin Polom 88mins), Adam Kral (Milan Ungr 63mins) , Jakub Dolezal;Tomas Glazer (Daniel Sys 70mins), Vitezslav Hrdlicka, Ondrej Rumi.
Not Used:- Marek Spiroch (Gk), Patrik Denk, Lukas Provod, Vaclav Kule.