Ground #: 21
Ground: City of Manchester Stadium
Competition: UEFA Cup Quarter Final – 2nd Leg
Kick Off: 7:45pm
Manchester City 2
Elano (pen) 17’, Caicedo 50’, Dunne s/off 75’
Hamburg SV 1
HAMBURG WIN 4-3 ON AGG.
With an Easter double over I was determined to get in at least another game after Tiverton to wrap up my season. With exams in May, its extremely unlikely I would get a chance to get to a Cup Final of any sort to wrap up my season, so I am looking at Carlisle Utd vs Millwall on the 2nd May which could well determine Carlisle’s and Millwall’s future and that game could see them going in different directions. Yet, during the Easter break whilst reading the greatest website in the World, BBC Sport, I stumbled across the news that Man City had reduced prices for their UEFA Cup match against Hamburg to £5 so I jumped right aboard this £5 bandwagon and me, the missus (!?) and Jonny (a uni friend) made our way to Eastlands.
Man City are now officially the richest club in the World after being bought in the summer by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is now the majority shareholder at the club and can outspend anybody, although their spending ‘might’ has not been flexed yet, although a ridiculous £100m bid for AC Milan’s Kaka was made in January which very nearly saw the Brazilian move to Manchester. Yet despite this money they are still seen as Manchester’s “2nd club” by most, as Manchester United *spits* are the more successful, although are not actually based in Manchester and neither are most of their fans. Since City’s return to top flight football in 2002, they have rarely flirted with relegation and in those 7 years have seen an amazing transformation. Even at the start of last season with Thaksin Shinawatra as owner and Sven in charge, compared to today with Mark Hughes (who is under pressure himself) currently as manager. City also have played at the City of Manchester Stadium (or Eastlands) since 2003 when they took over after the stadium was used in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and was tinkered with by City such as building a North Stand and removing the running track around it.
City’s UEFA Cup run was all they had going for them now this season as a mid-table finish beckons and no domestic cup competition involvement means that City’s only chance to get into Europe it seems was to be winning the UEFA Cup. Their campaign had started back in July with victory over EB/Streymur of the Faeroes and although they had some hairy moments against Aalborg in the previous round, they had made it here. Their UEFA Cup opponents were Hamburg SV who under boss Martin Jol were having a great season and were going for trophies on 3 fronts, the Bundesliga (currently 2nd going into this game), DFB Pokel Semi-Finalists (German FA Cup vs Bremen) and of course the UEFA Cup. Hamburg is a city in the North of Germany which I may be going to visit in the summer (I can barely remember my previous visit when we lived in Germany) and the club have not won anything since their 1987 German Cup win. So this was a big game for them in a very good looking season. Hamburg the previous week had won the 1st Leg 3-1 at the Nordbank Arena, despite going 0-1 down after 30 seconds when Stephen Ireland scored, but goals from Mathijsen, Trochowski (pen) and Guerrero gave Hamburg a merited victory.
I was slightly concerned that Eastlands would be another new, soul-less stadium that lacked any sort of atmosphere but I could not be more wrong. The ground is very modern and shiny looking still, and we made our way to the North Stand behind a goal with already a cracking atmosphere and this was only 7pm. As the ground filled up, it was clear that this would be City’s biggest European attendance of the season (currently 26,018 vs Copenhagen) and with inflatable bananas, lots of flags, City fans were right up for this one. A mention must also be made to the Hamburg fans who it seemed took many City fans by surprise, my 13 years in Germany meant their support was not surprising, with a mass bounce, flares, giant artwork and constant singing it wet my appetite for a possible summer trip to Germany even more.
The game started off quite franticly with both teams trying to settle down and City needing an early goal. The game got a goal after only 12 minutes, however it was Hamburg who stormed into the lead when Jonathan Pitroipa crossed during a counter attack, Dunne could only divert the ball to Guerrero who finished well past Given and stunned the home fans. Silence apart from the 3000 Germans going mental behind the other goal. It means City still needed 3, although this would only take the match into extra time. City needed a quick response and got it, 5 minutes later when Trochowski was judged to have handled Elano’s shot and he scored the resulting penalty. Given that it was at the other end of the pitch I had no chance to see a clear view on whether it was a penalty or not. This rocked Hamburg and City looked to up the pressure and try to find the two more goals they needed, although Hamburg looked comfortable on the ball, defensively they did look shaky and Elano was so unlucky to see his freekick crash off the bar with Frank Rost beaten at half time. So at 1-1 at half time, City had reacted well to going 0-1 down and a big 45 minutes lay ahead of them.
City came out all guns blazing and got the 2nd goal only 5 minutes into the 2nd half when a shocking clearance only found Ireland at the edge of the area he played it into Caicedo’s path as Hamburg defenders missed the ball or slipped, he skipped past his marker and slotted low past Rost, could they do it?! They should have had the 3rd when another Elano freekick again beat Rost but cannoned off the post and was cleared for a corner. From this corner, poor defending again allowed Caicedo an open goal from close out but the ball bounced in front of him and he skied it over. Had that gone in, I believe Hamburg could have collapsed and City would have got the 4th goal they needed to go through outright. City kept pressing though and Robinho had two shots brilliantly saved by Rost, Caicedo had a goal ruled out for offside after he rounded Rost and Hamburg were being pushed further back. The pressure dropped on 75 minutes when City Captain Richard Dunne who was booked in the first half (after this booking me and Jonny both agreed he would be lucky to survive the 90 minutes) stupidly brought down Petric and was sent off for a 2nd yellow. Hamburg had two good chances of their own as Given saved well as City looked to readjust. In injury time both Sturridge and Richards had good chances but Hamburg held on to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate.
I think City will know they missed a great opportunity here, they deserved extra time at the very least and had Hamburg rocked for the majority of the 2nd half, but Hamburg held on and the players were celebrating with the fans well after the final whistle had gone as they set up a Semi-Final meeting with fellow German side Werder Bremen who drew 3-3 with Udinese in their 2nd leg to go through 6-4. I was extremely impressed with Eastlands and the City fans and someday will make a return visit. The 92 Football League teams are a target a lot of people like to hit, this ground meant I was on 7/92, so a long way to go yet! I would try to get one more game in this season at least with a tasty date at Brunton Park hopefully on the horizon. Hopefully.
- Match: 7.5/10 (great entertainment featuring some top quality players)
- Value for money: 9.5/10 (£5 for a European Competition Q-F!?)
- Ground: 7/10 (great ground that will only improve in time)
- Atmosphere: 9/10 (both sets of fans were fantastic)
- Food: n/a (didnt eat at the ground but they seemed to have a wide choice)
- Programme: 10/10 (less of a programme and more of a book, this 98 page prog featured very few adverts and some great articles)
- Referee: Nicola Rizzoli – 7/10 (no idea about the penalty decision, seemed to get everything else right)