Stage One: Loss

They say it’s the hope that kills you and tonight there’s been a murder. I’ve just been garrotted in Block 134 of the Etihad. Police are looking for suspects but hope has just done a runner to Mexico. It’s unlikely we’ll find it again.

I’m beginning to write this at 10:43pm, roughly an hour after Raheem Sterling hit home what should have been, and, for a brief minute, was, a moment of 93:20-esque magnitude. I hugged my brother. I hugged the little ginger kid who sat in front of me. I hugged the random guy behind me whose phone I knocked out of his hand with my celebrations. I leapt around the empty space next to me left by the fans who had ran towards the front of the stand to celebrate with Raheem. I did a lot of shouting and cheering.

Then, the moment. Like being told your winning lottery ticket is fake and your mates have actually just played a prank on you, the screen was lit up with “VAR check”. Not a single Spurs player had protested, something must have been spotted on the replays. Within seconds, the goal was ruled out as Aguero had strayed a fraction offside. The correct decision. From dreaming about my Lamborghini parked outside the multi-million pound mansion to being laughed at in my living room by my mates in my one-bedroom flat. From everything to nothing in approximately 60 seconds.

The rest of the game was irrelevant. The players were as rattled as the crowd, Spurs were given a new lease of life. Game over. Spurs, a club who currently sit three places and sixteen points below us in the league, have reached their first ever Champions League semi-final and will face, all recent results aside, the weakest team left in the competition. A route to the final that will probably never present itself again is now in the hands of Tottenham fucking Hotspur. We let this happen.

The fans were amazing. The atmosphere was much like January’s Liverpool game, only on the filthiest, most illegal of steroids. Pep called the fans to arms in Tuesday’s pre-match press conference and, not intending to sound too Anfield Wrap, every last one of us in the stadium answered the call. From the opening chants before the players stepped out, to the chorus of “We love you City, we do” as the referee blew the final whistle, we kicked every ball, won every header, felt every slide tackle. I suppose that made it far worse in the end.

The team made sure the fans had a reason to be noisy, too. Five goals in the opening 21 minutes is enough to get even the most miserable of fans off their feet, the game was scintillating if not necessarily always for the right reasons. They channelled the atmosphere as we did their performance. A symbiosis that has probably only been seen on a handful of occasions in this stadium. Okay, now I’m definitely getting far too Anfield Wrap.

We made mistakes, sure, but tonight isn’t the time. I’m too upset, too devastated and, frankly, too sick to my stomach to really mull over the finer details of the game itself. The only thing in my head right now is that last five minutes. It’s probably all I’ll think about as I drift off to sleep in about two hours after replaying it over and over in my mind.

This team is great, though. Football is great. I love them both, despite how I currently feel. Nights like this don’t happen often (thank God) but they’re the nights every fan lives for.

It’s just the purest form of our oldest friend. Dread it. Run from it. Typical City finds you all the same.


You can follow the author on Twitter here: @joebutters 

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