herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Guardiola kicking every ball while his men grab three valuable points

PEP Guardiola needs to calm down. No human being can live and breathe a football match with his intensity and live a long life.

His mission to spread the message of the passing game is something he devotes himself to heart and soul.

So much so that It was almost hard to look at him in the Allianz Arena last night while his players tried everything they could to find a way to score against Manchester City and finally did at the death.

No wonder he took time out in New York to recharge. There can't have been much left in the tank when he reached the end of his remarkable time at the Nou Camp.

Last night, he did everything physically possible a manager could do to influence his players from the technical area and more often than not, encroached onto the pitch while roaring instructions.

He was just a step short of whipping off his clothes, stripping a random sub of his kit and joining in himself, even slapping himself on the forehead when he fluffed a trap and chip when the ball bounced his way.

Clearly, he felt the need to reinforce his instructions in real time but he can't have been unhappy with the way Bayern played. Entirely the opposite.

Bayern last season were a hodge podge of old and new and Guardiola didn't ever achieve the dreamy fluidity he conjured among some of the best passers of the ball we've ever seen at Barca.

But he's getting there. His project is developing with time and Bayern Munich are looking more and more like a Guardiola team now.

They shuttle the ball around with accuracy, efficiency and great speed, prompted by the richly talented David Alaba, an even better player now than he was when he broke Irish hearts 18 months ago.

To be fair to Manual Pellegrini, his team is on the same path and for 90 minutes we were treated to a mesmerising game of three dimensional chess.

Even if some of the passing was overdone by both sides, there was end product too and world class saves from Joe Hart.

He has been through it all since he unceremoniously unseated Shay Given from the No 1 goalkeeping spot at Manchester City, hailed as the best in the world for a season and then, suddenly, fallible.

In the first half, we saw Hart play like he did when really did look like the best young goalkeeper in the world four years ago, saving City with full-stretch finger-tip saves.

Later on though, he was back to flapping Hart, the man who gives Manchester City supporters and Pellegrini heart attacks.

Two or three times he lost the flight of the ball and the poor Argentinian could only frown and bear it, stuck in the stand serving the second bit of his two-game touchline ban for criticising referee Jonas Eriksson following City's Champions League exit to Barcelona last season.

It all added to the drama though. Perfect passing football would be nothing without the odd mistake and Hart and his under pressure defence made a few before Jerome Boateng finally broke through and cracked one in from 25 yards to settle it.

Hell of a game.

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