Fearless Manchester City can let slide Manuel Pellegrini's goal blunder

 

As their fans began trooping onto planes long before dawn broke over Munich, few of them cared that Manchester City had miscalculated how many goals they needed to top their Champions League group. That City had beaten Bayern Munich in their own stadium was surely enough.

The fact that Manuel Neuer saved late on from Alvaro Negredo meant that City did not top Group D and that come Monday's draw one of the big beasts of European football will probably await. City cannot draw an English club and nor can they face Bayern again.

That leaves the two Madrid clubs – Real and Atletico, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain on the menu. However, given how City have performed, especially at the Etihad Stadium, no beast, however big, will be entirely sure of its survival.

Before Bayern's first match against them in October, the German club's coach, Pep Guardiola, predicted that, should they qualify from the group, City might run wild in the knockout stages.

The way Manuel Pellegrini's side turned what after a dozen minutes looked as if it would be an evening of abject humiliation into Bayern's first defeat in nine months suggests Guardiola could be right.

"We will take anyone in the next round," said James Milner, who won a penalty and scored the winner as people stopped looking up City's heaviest European defeat (only 3-1 to a variety of German clubs) and began wondering when Bayern had last lost (in March to Arsenal).

Joe Hart, for whom this might have been a humbling, career-defining evening, showed the character on an icy Bavarian night that might help him for England in a more humid one in Manaus.

"It has to be up there as our best European moment," said Milner, who gave the kind of driven, against-the-odds performance that England will need in the World Cup. "You have to look at the way the game went, with us being 2-0 down and starting pretty poorly. We had to show character to turn that around.

"This could not have been any tougher. Bayern are the reigning champions and have been to three European Cup finals in the last four years or something ridiculous like that. The real us came out; it was a different team in those first 15 minutes, when we were sloppy off the ball and on it. Now we will know we can progress."

Progress is a key word for City's senior management team of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain. Frankly, it does not matter overmuch whether City qualified in first or second place so long as they went through, something Roberto Mancini had not managed.

It was neatly ironic that Mancini should have seen his Galatasaray side eliminate Juventus in the snow, slush and mud of Istanbul to finally make it through the sort of group of death that had invariably confronted him in Manchester.

Pellegrini would not have been human if he did not feel a little taken aback by the headlines that in one case proclaimed him a "Blunderboss" for failing to realise that a fourth goal would have sent City through in first place. Bayern had conceded one goal in 11-and-a-half hours of football before Tuesday night and, unlike City, were at full strength. Even had Pellegrini thrown on Sergio Aguero, there was no guarantee he would have scored.

Nevertheless, in a sport where every player's step on a pitch is analysed, it seems astonishing that nobody on the bench at the Allianz Arena realised that 4-2 would be enough.

Compared to South Africa's cricketers, who were eliminated from their own World Cup in 2003 because they failed to understand what score they required under the Duckworth-Lewis system, the consequences were minor.

Alan Ball never lived down the moment in May 1996 when he ordered Steve Lomas to waste time at the end of the 2-2 draw with Liverpool not realising City needed to win to avoid relegation.

Ball had been misinformed by a spectator about other scores and, when he realised the mistake, he "dashed down the track at Maine Road trying to get another message through, no doubt looking like an absolute fool." It was, Ball said, brought up every time he returned to Manchester. The city will be rather more forgiving of Pellegrini.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss