Zabaleta and Hart fail to command a makeshift City defence

Joe Hart

Manchester City slumped to a surprise 3-2 defeat to newly promoted Cardiff on Sunday, with Manuel Pellegrini blaming the team’s rearguard.

Few would have predicted the result after Edin Dzeko had powered the visitors into the lead early in the second-half, but Cardiff were good value for their 3-2 win over Manchester City.

The Welsh side showed the discipline and work ethic required to take on one of the division’s top sides and were rewarded with three points for their endeavours.

The visitors were missing first-choice centre-half pairing Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic, and struggled to contain former Manchester United youth player Frazier Campbell, who netted twice in Cardiff’s win. Both of Campbell’s goals came from corner kicks.

Manuel Pellegrini has blamed the team’s collective defending for the defeat, and felt his men were unlucky not to get something out of the game.

"I think we played against a very difficult team - Cardiff had ten players near their own box it was very difficult for us to try and score but when we scored the first goal I thought we played a bit better after that," Pellegrini said in the game’s aftermath.

"Of course nobody can believe they can score two goals against us in set-pieces, but football is like that.

"You must be concentrating those kind of places and I think Cardiff won the match, but I think we played better."

City partnered defensive midfielder Javi Garcia with Joleon Lescott in the heart of their rearguard and did not look comfortable all match against a Cardiff side full of endeavour.

Asked whether City missed Kompany and Nastasic, Pellegrini stated his team needed to defend corners better.

"No I don't think that was the problem. I think the whole match Cardiff were a very difficult team playing on the counter attack and we didn't have any problem with that,” he said.

"It was just two balls in two corners that decided the game.

"I think we didn't play well, we play a little slowly in the first half. Cardiff had ten players near their box, we scored two goals and had other chances, but the game was decided by two corners."

Any team is going to struggle with their top-two central defenders unavailable and as such look for others to act as leaders in their absence. Unfortunately, the two players that City naturally looked to let the team down.

Pablo Zabaleta was marking Campbell at both corners and allowed him space to score, while Joe Hart did not cover himself in glory with his efforts to command his penalty box in both instances either.

I had previously stated that City could well be in trouble without Kompany to rely on, and although this will not be as much of an issue when they face Hull at home next weekend, Pellegrini will pray his skipper will return for subsequent games away to Stoke and at home to Manchester United.

Without their Belgian talisman City were made to look very ordinary by a team that is likely to be in the lower echelons of a league that the club are eager to win.

image: © illarterate

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