No doubt you’re still buzzing from the weekend’s superb win at Manchester City, Beesotted’s Nemone Sariman shares her thoughts on the monumental victory.
On the morning of a game, the anticipatory buzz usually concerns the starting line-up and what the result might be. However, in the few hours prior to Saturday’s 12:30 kick-off at the Etihad, the buzz (if one can call it that; it was more of a resigned murmur) was all about how severe the inevitable annihilation would be, and whether Fantasy Footballers should triple-captain Haaland.
As you know, I sometimes get a Feeling about Teams Below Us. However, Manchester City aren’t a Team Below Us. Not only are they Above Us, but they’re so far Above Us that the best we can hope for is to perhaps score once, right? So I steeled myself for a moderate-to-severe kicking. That’s what I told my Arsenal-supporting friend, who was relying on my running commentary by Facebook Messenger as she was having a vegan pizza lunch and couldn’t watch the game on television. (In fact, I cheered myself up with that thought; however hard we might be battered at the Etihad, at least I wasn’t eating vegan pizza.)
“Going well so far,” was my insightful message to my friend early on in the game. “If we can keep this up for another [checks watch] 89 minutes, we may only end up being lightly roughhoused as opposed to embarrassingly thrashed.”
Then came that goal. Oh. My. Word. To score at all in this amphitheatre of footballing giants was something, never mind to score first.
City’s equaliser, although disappointing, was somewhat expected; nobody thought they would just leave us unpunished. Our half-time chat was along the lines of, “They’ll come back at us in the second half. They’re bound to. If we can hold them to 1-1 we will have done very well indeed.”
When the 10 minutes of added time were announced, I realised that it was just as stressful to try to maintain a strong position in the dying minutes as it was to try to catch up an equalising goal. We haven’t had many such moments lately and, given my trepidation at the start of the game, being level at the Etihad was certainly what I considered to be a strong position. But the Bees were not content to simply defend; we wanted more. And our tenacity was rewarded by that second goal.
“It’s 1-2!” I messaged my Arsenal friend.
Her: “To you????” [She is usually quite the grammar and punctuation pedant but, on this occasion, yes, she really did type that many questions marks.]
Me: “Erm, yes. That’s what 1-2 is. Had City scored, I would have said 2-1.”
She knew this, really, as she knows far more about football than I do, but she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Neither could we. And neither could the City fans. As we emerged from the stadium, blinking into the sunlight like hibernating mice emerging from a long winter sleep, we were all somewhat dazed and didn’t quite know how to feel. I resisted the urge to approach the least approachable-looking City fan and ask, in my poshest southern voice, “I say, my good man: would you be so kind as to direct me to the nearest public house?” and, instead, just let the husband and Google Maps lead the way to a place where the vodka was plentiful.
Do the Bees devise a more rigid plan when faced with Teams (Significantly) Above Us?
When the odds are stacked that hard against us, does it – in a strange sort of way – actually take the pressure OFF? Perhaps Thomas Frank’s pre-match team talk bore more than a passing resemblance to the one I used to give the Year 6 netball team when I coached them: “It’s not about winners and losers. Let’s just go out there and have some fun!”
Or did City fail to receive the Teams Below Them memo and take too much for granted, making the assumption that we would be easy?
On the pitch, Haaland looked lost and unable to do much with the meagre offerings that came his way from his teammates. Most of City’s shots were wide or over the crossbar and, on the one occasion that Haaland had that one shot in front of an open goal, gifted on a silver platter, the poor chap slipped over. (No, we didn’t grease the pitch before kick-off. Mainly because we didn’t think of it.)
Well done to Thomas Frank and the Bees for fighting such a good fight … and thank you to Pep Guardiola for acknowledging that the better team won on the day, rather than sourly blaming Dark Arts, VAR, the officials and whoever else happened to come along. We WERE better. In fact, we were better than “better”: we were magnificent.
This was the perfect way of closing this half of the season before the World Cup. I won’t say too much about Ivan Toney and his place in the England squad, because Jim Levack has already said it far more eloquently than I ever could. However, despite my feeling about penalties and how cruel they are, a small part of me hopes for the karmic coup de foudre of an England v Whoever final going to penalties … and the manager realising, too late, just how much we need the best penalty-taker in the world.