|City blow it again at COMS
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Get Your Kits Out at the City of Manchester Stadium
Wednesday January 7, 2004
Once again the team that according to Kevin Keegan has "forgotten how to win" fluffed its lines. Robbie Fowler's third goal in as many Premiership games looked as though it would be enough to end Manchester City's debilitating run of 12 games without a win but Paolo Di Canio pinched a point for the visitors by clipping home the rebound after David Seaman had saved his late penalty.
In fact it was not pinched exactly, however much the City manager sang his customary song that his team had given a performance which merited a victory. Though City enjoyed plenty of possession, it was Charlton who created the better chances.
Having tried a number of exotic tactical formations in his attempts to find a winning formula, at least Keegan decided to keep it simple last night. Paul Bosvelt was included in a straightforward 4-4-2 to give the City midfield added steel in the absence of the hamstrung Steve McManaman.
Though Bosvelt might have been known as "The Enforcer" in his days at Feyenoord, the Dutchman quickly showed his creative side. His through-ball in the 13th minute put Nicolas Anelka clear but the striker delayed his shot long enough for Radostin Kishishev to get in a crucial tackle.
If that was a bad miss, the one perpetrated by Di Canio two minutes later was worse. Kishishev's cross was headed down by Jason Euell to Jonatan Johansson, the Finn picked out the unmarked Di Canio but from no more than 10 yards the Italian side-footed wide.
Busy but relatively untroubled in defence, Charlton were sufficiently encouraged to think more positively. Euell slid a shot wide from the edge of the area and Richard Dunne was fortunate not to give away a penalty when he tugged Johansson's arm in the area.
Then City got a huge break. Anelka, surely the most selfish striker in the Premiership, dribbled his way into the penalty area. Fowler made a run which Anelka inevitably ignored but, as the Frenchman was tackled, the ball rebounded for Fowler to thump past Dean Kiely.
Soon after the break Scott Parker, played in by Di Canio, looked certain to equalise but, having tempted the England prospect by leaving a gap at his near post, Seaman pulled off a smart save from close range. Chances came at both ends, yet only five minutes remained when the referee Peter Walton bravely but correctly ruled that Joey Barton had handled Kishishev's cross in the area.
Seaman brilliantly saved Di Canio's spot-kick but the Italian reacted quickly to slide home the rebound from a narrow angle.
For Keegan the problems become ever more pressing. "It'll come round for them - too many good players," said the Charlton manager Alan Curbishley, comfortingly, and so it should, but this run must end quickly if City are to avoid being sucked into the relegation battle.