Football

Flying Robins show EPL teams the way against Citizens

Bristol City's blend of organisation and adventure offers top-flight sides a glimpse into how to stop Citizens

Bristol City may not have stopped the Manchester City juggernaut yesterday morning (Singapore time) but they might have offered English Premier League teams an idea of how to approach games against currently one of Europe's most-feared teams.

Man City required an injury-time goal from Sergio Aguero to secure a 2-1 advantage, ahead of the second leg of their League Cup semi-final at Ashton Gate in two weeks.

The Robins took a shock lead a minute before the break via a Bobby Reid penalty before Kevin de Bruyne equalised on 55 minutes.

In the end, Bristol City left enough of an impression on Man City manager Pep Guardiola for him to tell his opposite number Lee Johnson that they had caused his side more problems than some EPL teams.

But did a team from outside the top flight show the way forward against Man City?

The Robins might have only had 32 per cent of the possession and eight shots to City's 26, but crucially they were organised without the ball and adventurous on it, just as Crystal Palace were when they ended the Citizens' record winning run last month.

Rangers legend and former Scotland striker Ally McCoist told the BBC: "They did anything but park the bus.

"Not many teams have gone to Etihad Stadium this season and tried to play on the front foot and, when they have, Man City have beaten them with a lot more ease than they did against Lee Johnson's side...

"When Man City had possession, Bristol City had to be disciplined, well-organised and determined - all of which they were...

"But equally important was what the Robins did when they did have the ball. They barely touched it for the first 10 minutes but, when they did, we saw a real show of intent...

"They pressed high up the pitch and stole the ball in an area where they could hurt Man City. That is what led to their penalty, and it was down to Johnson's game plan. He clearly wanted them to attack when they could."

Former Man City and Wales striker Craig Bellamy said the match was evidence that sitting back is not the way to trouble City.

He told Sky Sports: "There has sort of become an acceptance that you can't beat Man City, or if there is a way of beating them that they have to get everyone behind the ball and wait for a mistake or a set-piece.

"(Bristol City) were on the front foot and they are like this every week. To be able to take that to Man City and be on the front foot like they were in the first half… It was organised.

"They knew what they were doing. They were looking to single out certain players on the ball and I thought it was brilliant...

"There are one or two teams in the Premier League, and one or two managers, who can learn something from that."

Bristol City manager Johnson said that the key was to stop becoming overawed by the occasion, and to maintain tactical discipline.

He told Sky Sports: "In the lead-up to our goal, the pressing was absolutely amazing. It's something we work on an awful lot. There was a lot of good football played at times.

"Individuals stuck to their task, they didn't get beaten by one-twos. I thought they showed the confidence.

"They weren't frightened to be on the ball."

Some of City's top-tier opposition haven't been as brave on the ball, with EPL giants Manchester United and Chelsea both approaching their losses to City with more cautious set-ups.

City's 1-0 win at Newcastle United at the end of last month was roundly criticised by English football pundits after the Magpies spent most of the game in their own half, particularly in the first half.

Football