The fireworks lit up the night sky as the little Polish club, Groclin, advanced to the third round of the Uefa Cup here yesterday.
Manchester City manager, Kevin Keegan, must have felt like launching a few of the verbal variety after this shameful display. Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler, who cost a cool £20m between them, could have secured the victory needed. But they squandered good chances in quick succession and it proved so costly.
It would be wrong, though, to put the blame just on their expensive shoulders. The team as a whole never got going.
Keegan made two changes from the side that lost to Newcastle at the weekend. The German full-back Michael Tarnat was ruled out with a hamstring strain and Sylvain Distin switched to left-back with David Sommeil returning to the side and partnering Richard Dunne in the centre of defence. Shaun Wright-Phillips was reinstated at the expense of Paul Bosvelt.
About 1,000 City fans made the trip to this remote corner of Poland and were packed into the neat 5,000-seater stadium. Groclin went into the game lying fourth in the Polish League, eight points behind the leaders, Wisla Krakow.
There was an anxious moment for City in the third minute when David Seaman had to clear quickly when Andrzej Niedzielan rattled in a shot from an acute angle.
Play switched down the other end and Steve McManaman saw his 18-yard effort go narrowly wide of the post. Then Fowler tried to release Trevor Sinclair but goalkeeper Mariusz Liberda was alert to the danger.
In the 12th minute Sinclair got on the end of a cross from Wright-Phillips but steered a poor header into the hands of Liberda. City nearly went a goal behind in the 27th minute when Niedzielan raced forward only for Sun Jihai to clear. From Sebastian Mila's corner, Tomasz Wieszcycki also got away from his marker, but his header came back off the woodwork. A minute later Dunne cleared off the line from Niedzielan after the Groclin player had skipped around Seaman.
City knew they had been in a game going into the second half of this match against a team from a town that boasts only 12,000 people. Groclin, however, had shown in the previous round they were not to be underestimated after disposing of Hertha Berlin.
As City entered the last quarter of the game there was little sign of them making the breakthrough. With the score remaining 0-0, Groclin were in the ascendancy in front of an expectant crowd.
City looked short on ideas and there was little spark in the midfield. The travelling army were still in good voice, however, and desperate to see a goal. That nearly came when Fowler met a cross from Wright-Phillips but flicked his header wide.
Fowler and Anelka both squandered good chances in quick succession. Fowler sent a header over the top from Sun's cross then Anelka saw his shot turned away by Liberda and City were left to count the cost as they went out of the competition on the away goals rule.
Groclin : Liberda; Pawlak, Koziol, Krizanac, Mynar, Zajac (Gorszkow, 88), Wieszczycki, Sedlacek, Mila, Niedzielan (Piechniak, 81), Rasiak. Substitutes not used: Brzostowski, Prusek, Rocki, Kaczmarczyk, Moskala.
Manchester City: Seaman; Sun, Sommeil, Dunne, Distin, Wright-Phillips, McManaman, Barton, Sinclair (Reyna, 79), Fowler (Wanchope, 74), Anelka (Macken, 74). Substitutes not used: Stuhr-Ellegaard, Wiekens, Sibierski, Bosvelt.
Referee: Peter Frojdfeldt (Sweden)Reuse content