By William Wood | In Micah's Say
Manchester City retained top-spot in Group A but were soundly beaten 3-1 away to Racing Santander in the final Uefa Cup game of the round, and Micah gave his views on an otherwise disappointing outing in Europe exclusively to MicahRichards.com.
Having secured their qualification to the next stage of the competition after four straight away victories, the City manager made seven changes to the side ahead of Sunday’s Premier League encounter with West Brom, with captain Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland, Vincent Kompany and Shaun Wright-Phillips all missing out.
After a tentative opening spell for both teams, it was the hosts from Spain that went close to breaking the deadlock after just eight minutes, Kasper Schmeichel’s attempted clearance almost allowing Mohamed Tchite to find the net.
As the Eastlander’s struggled to find any sort of rhythm, Santander found a way through after 18 minutes as a quick-fire free-kick found Oscar Serrano, the latter’s shot parried by the City goalkeeper into the path of Jonathon Pereira who tapped home.
It was no less than the home side deserved, and while City, namely through Pablo Zabeleta and Elano, began to venture forward, Santander – who currently lie 13th in La Liga – were calm and collected at the back.
The lead was doubled soon after as Serrano made amends for his earlier miss, exchanging roles with Pereira and benefiting from his teammate’s through-ball before slotting past Schmeichel to make it 2-0.
City looked shell-shocked as they seemingly held out for the interval, though Tchite’s powerful volley flew straight at the young Danish stopper, but Santander’s desire to qualify from the group was clear for all to see as they pressed for a third in order to enhance their goal difference.
They got their just rewards as City failed to clear a corner, Juan Valera eventually benefiting as he nudged the ball into the back of his opponent’s net, and it could have been four soon after as Tchite rounded Schmeichel but missed the target with the goal at his mercy.
The missed chances would cost Santander as, with the game approaching the dying stages, Felipe Caicedo notched a consolation for the visitors.
To compound the hosts’ misery, Paris St-Germain netted twice late on which saw them qualify ahead of Santander on goal difference, while City remained top of Group A.
And while Micah was pleased that the side secured top-spot, the England international felt the side were thoroughly lacking throughout.
“To be honest everyone knows that performance just was not good enough,” Micah reflected. “We really played poor, and even though we made a lot of changes, the team we put out was still good enough to win today. To concede one goal is disappointing never mind three.
“However, they took their chances well and got the win, and it was a really unimpressive performance from the whole team.”
Despite the disappointment of defeat, Micah was relieved that City secured top-spot in Group A which means they avoid the sides dropping down from the Champions League in the next phase.
“It’s really important we finished top as it means we won’t meet any of the Champions League teams in the next round,” he continued.
“I’m happy we finished top, but that still doesn’t make the performance tonight acceptable, and I feel for the travelling fans watching that display – t was really not up to scratch.”