April / May 2008 - Reports
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Middlesbrough 8 Manchester City 1       You just couldn't make it up   
Sunday 11th May 2008 : Edward Foulkes for GYKO at the Riverside       

Sven-Goran Eriksson's anticipated final match in charge of Manchester City ended in humiliating fashion as his 10-man side lost 8-1 at Middlesbrough. The former England boss has guided the club to ninth in the Barclays Premier League and a likely place in the UEFA Cup via the Fair Play League but that does not appear enough to save his job. Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra has expressed his disappointment with the final outcome of Eriksson's 10 months in charge and the former Thai Prime Minister is fully expected to dispense with the Swede's services sooner rather than later.

That is much to the disgust of City's supporters, who chanted their support for the Swede throughout the match.

Stewart Downing fired home a 16th-minute penalty after Richard Dunne was harshly sent off for bringing down Tuncay Sanli (see picture right) and eight minutes before the break Afonso Alves slotted home the second from 14 yards. A superb volley with the outside of his left foot from Downing, another strike from Alves, a deflected long-range effort from Adam Johnson, Fabio Rochemback's 30-yard free-kick and a goal from Jeremie Aliadiere were followed by a consolation for Elano before Alves completed his hat-trick.

The match began badly for City when striker Benjani Mwaruwari received lengthy treatment after being caught in the chest by Rochemback's swinging right leg and was eventually replaced by Nery Castillo in the 13th minute.

Boro's first chance fell to George Boateng from Rochemback's free-kick but a diving Dunne blocked the shot at the expense of a corner. From Rochemback's delivery, Afonso Alves completely missed his kick but Julio Arca was behind him to curl a 20-yard shot narrowly wide.

The hosts took the lead in the 16th minute when Tuncay raced on to a long ball and, as he entered the penalty area, he accidentally caught Dunne's leg as the defender tried to get back. The City captain was harshly dismissed by referee Phil Dowd and Stewart Downing clinically dispatched the penalty.

Andreas Isaksson then did well to smother Alves' close-range effort from Downing's 29th-minute corner, although his save was more down to luck than judgment.

Rochemback wasted the chance to shoot from 16 yards, instead passing to Tuncay and allowing City's defence to get back to block.

But the next time the Brazilian went forward, the decision to pass paid off as he picked out compatriot Afonso Alves who slotted home left-footed in the 37th minute.

Late on in the half, Isaksson pulled off a superb save to deny Boateng just five yards out from Downing's left-wing cross.

Isaksson was soon into the action in the second half, parrying Rochemback's free-kick which was fortuitously awarded for Sun Jihai's foul on Downing and wrongly deemed to be outside the penalty area by Dowd.

Exactly the same scenario cost Sun a booking in the 54th minute, although Downing appeared to once again go looking for the obstruction.

But the England winger did something positive in the 57th minute when, after Boateng's right-wing cross was knocked on, he smashed a superb volley with the outside of his left foot inside the far post to end the match as a contest.

Two minutes later, Afonso Alves made it 4-0 when he raced on to Arca's through-ball to stab past Isaksson.

Chris Riggott then had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside as Boro threatened to run riot.

City's luck was obviously not in as, in the 70th minute, Boro grabbed a fifth when Johnson's long-range shot was deflected past Isaksson.

Elano replaced Martin Petrov but, in truth, the visitors were just going through the motions.

Rochemback made it 6-0 with a 30-yard free-kick 10 minutes from time and substitute Aliadiere fired home the seventh in the 85th minute.

Elano scored a consolation before Afonso Alves completed his hat-trick.

Small pockets of fighting broke out between City supporters and stewards at the end of the match, with some seats being ripped out and thrown on to the pitch.

However, a strong police presence, which included dog handlers, soon quelled the violence.


Middlesbrough Schwarzer, Young (McMahon 75), Riggott, Wheater,Pogatetz, Boateng, Rochemback, Arca (Johnson 62), Downing,Sanli (Aliadiere 62), Alves.

Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Taylor.

Booked: Pogatetz, Young.

Goals: Downing 16 pen, Alves 37, Downing 58, Alves 60,

Johnson 70, Rochemback 80, Aliadiere 85, Alves 90.

Manchester City Isaksson, Jihai, Corluka, Dunne, Ball, Ireland,Gelson, Petrov (Elano 71), Garrido, Vassell (Hamann 62),Mwaruwari (Castillo 13).

Subs Not Used: Hart, Caicedo.

Sent Off: Dunne (15).

Booked: Jihai.

Goals: Elano 87.

Att: 27,613

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).


Liverpool 1 Manchester City 0     Another Anfield defeat
Sunday 4th May 2008 : Matin Bailey for GYKO at Anfield

Fernando Torres scored his eighth consecutive goal at Anfield as Liverpool completed a comfortable win over Manchester City. The solitary strike was scant reward for a dominant display that should have reaped more goals, particularly during a second half in which Joe Hart's goal came under constant siege.

With Liverpool's title prospects having long since evaporated there was a subdued air at Anfield, not least as a result of the Reds' Champions League exit in midweek, and it was perhaps understandable that it took the home side a while to warm to their task. They eventually worked an opening after 20 minutes when Ryan Babel stole in at the near post to glance Dirk Kuyt's right-wing cross inches over the bar.

Steven Gerrard, who gave a typically commanding performance at the apex of the hosts' midfield, twice went close before the break with two fine attempts on goal. The first, a low 30-yarder, flew a yard wide of the target on 26 minutes, but his second, five minutes later, was destined for the far corner of Hart's net until the City goalkeeper, at full stretch, tipped it expertly wide.

The visitors, whose supporters gave manager Sven-Goran Eriksson a rousing reception on what was almost certainly his penultimate match as City manager, passed the ball around nicely in patches and were unfortunate to see one sweeping move brought to a premature close by an erroneous offside flag, but the only real threat came from the home side, for whom the pace of Babel and Torres frightened the life out of City's labouring rearguard.

Torres's acceleration was put to good use two minutes after the re-start when Gerrard played him through with an exquisite pass with the outside of his right foot. The Spanish striker showed the City defence a clean pair of heels but passed up the chance to score by steering his shot wide of the far post. Kuyt had only just squandered a free header at the far post when Gerrard picked him out with a corner and Liverpool were almost made to suffer for their wastefulness when Martin Petrov beat Pepe Reina with a 20-yard free-kick. Unfortunately for Eriksson's side, though, the Brazilian's curling effort came back off the post.

As if chastened by the warning, Torres made no mistake with his next chance. Latching on to a pass from midfield, the Spaniard powered past Richard Dunne before dispatching a deft, angled finish under Hart. City were then swamped and Hart had to be at his best to beat out first a fierce volley from Kuyt and then Lucas's acrobatic follow-up. On 64 minutes Kuyt headed Sami Hyypia's perfectly-flighted cross against the crossbar and two minutes later Babel missed a sitter as Torres somehow stayed on his feet despite Dunne's attempts to hack him down, worked his way to the by-line and cut the ball back for the Dutchman, who spooned over from all of six yards.

City spluttered into life in the latter stages, Benjani Mwaruwari's piledriver of a free-kick warming the palms of Reina with 10 minutes to go. And the lively former Portsmouth striker caused momentary panic in the Liverpool area with a cut-back from the right that Steve Finnan almost turned into his own net. As the game became stretched Torres brought another save out of Hart with a fierce strike from range but there would be no addition to the striker's 32 goals in his first season in English football, who had to settle for sharing Roger Hunt's 46-year-old record of scoring in eight consecutive games at Anfield.

Manchester City 2 Fulham 3       Why are 44,000 so Blue??
Saturday 26th April 2008 : David Petters at the Comstad for GYKO

Diomansy Kamara capped a most unlikely fightback for Fulham, a victory that is destined either to live forever in the club's folklore or reside in the 'too little, too late' category depending on events over the next two weeks.

For City manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, defeat presents him with a wide variety of other concerns beyond which division his club will be playing in next season. His employer, Thaksin Shinawatra, made a rare appearance at the game and was seen looking none too pleased in the tunnel as the teams came off the field at the end. The Thai billionaire has let it be known for some time that he has not been content with City's second half of the season and would review Eriksson's position - along with other members of staff - this summer. This was not a time for City to implode quite so spectacularly.

The bare and brutal statistics did not make good reading for Fulham pre-game and their hold on Premier League status looked even more tenuous with 10 minutes gone when Stephen Ireland curled an impressive finish past goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

A further 11 minutes in, and the lead was doubled, this time Benjani taking advantage of the risible Fulham defending to score unopposed. Yet it had started brightly for Fulham and the visitors looked capable of taking advantage against an injury-depleted City back line that included just one player, Vedran Coluka, who could be deemed first choice.

Elano, the Brazil winger playing at right-back, and Michael Ball, the second choice full-back deputising at centre-half, were the two major culprits in City's shaky opening. After three minutes, Jimmy Bullard was given the space to shoot wide from 25 yards, then Simon Davies's cross from the right touchline picked out Clint Dempsey for a 15-yard shot that England Under-21 keeper Joe Hart did well to turn around his post.

Brian McBride, too, found the space and time to roll a dangerous ball across the City goal that Elano turned behind for a corner, a period of unrelenting Fulham pressure that was only eased by the opening goal. Martin Petrov's darting run into the area exposed the usual frailties in the Fulham defence and his neat back-heel found the unmarked Ireland on the edge of the area, the Irish midfielder curling a superb finish past Keller's dive into the far corner of the net. Fulham's previous verve and enthusiasm visibly wilted and City threatened to engulf them.

Petrov's drag-back from the by-line was aimed at Darius Vassell until Brede Hangeland made a timely interception and the Bulgaria winger concluded another exciting run with a cross that flew inches over Vassell's head. There was no such error shortly after, however, as Elano's pass freed Vassell down the right and the powerful forward surged into the area, pushing his cross beyond the reach of two defenders for Benjani to slam the ball in from eight yards.

The City defence still gave Fulham hope of salvaging something on the day. In the 34th minute, another deep cross from Davies found the head of the unmarked David Healy whose strong header forced another fine save from the excellent Hart, tipping the effort over. Soon after, Sun Jihai was forced to make a timely tackle to deny McBride a scoring opportunity.

Vassell almost added to the rout early in the second half with a darting run to collect Ireland's pass before Keller did well to save his shot. The American was equally alert moments later to smother Benjani's strike at the foot of his post and the City striker threatened again, just before the hour, as he headed Petrov's corner over the bar.

It appeared to be a question of by how many goals Fulham would lose, Petrov almost making it three when he chased on to Benjani's through ball and placed the ball just wide. There was no sign of the drama to come, not even when Bullard's 64th-minute free kick narrowly missed the City goal. But six minutes later, substitute Diomansy Kamara took a long pass out of defence and turned the inept Corluka, who had mistakenly let the ball bounce twice, before scoring through the legs of Hart.

In the 79th minute, a most unexpected fightback continued when Sun wrestled another replacement, Erik Nevland, to the ground and Danny Murphy scored on the rebound after Hart had saved his penalty struck to the goalkeeper's right.

There followed some hectic passages of football at both ends but, even then, it was hard to predict the eventual - joyous for Fulham - outcome. Two minutes into injury-time, Murphy's through ball found Kamara who sped 20 yards before beating Hart from a wide angle with a magnificent shot.

Man City: Hart, Elano, Corluka, Ball, Jihai, Vassell (Caicedo 80), Gelson, Johnson, Petrov, Ireland (Geovanni 56), Mwaruwari.
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Castillo, Logan.

Goals: Ireland 10, Mwaruwari 21.

Fulham: Keller, Stalteri, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard, Murphy, Dempsey, Healy (Kamara 64), McBride (Nevland 71).
Subs Not Used: Warner, Bocanegra, Andreasen.

Booked: Dempsey.

Goals: Kamara 70, Murphy 79, Kamara 90.

Att: 44,504

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Manchester City 3 Portsmouth 1    Hi Ho at last we go!!
Sunday April 20th 2008 : Brian Hatton for GYKO at the COMSTAD

Manchester City produced their best performance of 2008 just when Sven-Goran Eriksson needed it. After club owner and Fraud Thaksin Shinawatra made a thinly-veiled criticism of the manager for his team's slump in form since Christmas, goals from Darius Vassell, Martin Petrov and Benjani Mwaruwari gave City maximum points from an open and entertaining game. John Utaka's goal for Portsmouth did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Eastlands majority.

City began with a curious back-four, Vedran Corluka slotting in alongside Richard Dunne in central defence and, most intriguingly of all, Elano playing as the right full-back. But the visitors failed to test the cogency of that formation, mustering nothing more than a misguided Sylvain Distin header in the opening minutes. The home side, it's true, didn't offer much early on either - in fact, nothing at all happened in the first ten minutes. But then David James brought proceedings to life by marking the week in which he's been short-listed for the PFA Player's Player of the Year award by reminding us that he remains sadly prone to errors. After rushing from his box to intercept a long ball that Sol Campbell could easily have dealt with, James decided against booting it clear and took a touch instead. That dawdling allowed Benjani to dispossess him, and the striker slipped the ball inside to Stephen Ireland, who unleashed a shot-cum-cross that Vassell slid into the empty net.

If James was at fault for that, he was unlucky to concede again just two minutes later. Petrov collected the ball at the left hand side of the area and, short of options, poked a weak right-footed toe ender goalwards. James would probably have gathered it comfortably had it not deflected off Campbell and into net.

Now Pompey were reeling and City rediscovered the zip and verve that earned Eriksson such praise in the first half of the season. Benjani, in particular, was giving his former team-mates a tough time. But they were invited back into the contest in the 24th minute by some slack City defending. Lassana Diarra collected a half-cleared corner and curled it back into the centre, where Jermain Defoe was totally unmarked. The striker connected with his shoulder rather than his head but that was enough to help the ball on to John Utaka, who reacted quicker than any defender to prod it past Joe Hart and into the net.

That goal did not alter the pattern of the game, however, and City continued to impress going forward. In the 30th minute Elano romped down the right and picked out Benjani, who, after cleverly creeping between the centre-backs, could only loop his header into James's arms. Three minutes later the Zimbabwean again threatened, this time receiving the ball at his feet before spinning past the ever-more exasperated Campbell. Again, however, his finish was imperfect, James easily clasping his low shot.

Pompey's circumstance deteriorated in the 42nd minute when Vassell set off in chase of an Ireland through-ball. It was doubtful he would reach it before James, but Herman Hreidarsson decided not to take the risk - and crudely barged Vassell to the ground. A red card was inevitable, though at least the Icelander was smart enough to commit the foul just outside the box. Elano smacked the free-kick into the wall.

Hreidarsson's expulsion meant Sulley Muntari was shunted into the left-back position but City had to re-arrange too when Richard Dunne limped off in the 53rd minute. Novice Sam Williamson was introduced for his debut at left-back, meaning Michael Ball shifted into the centre as the City's defence took on an even more unfamiliar look.

Benjani should have extended City's lead moments later but smashed the ball over the bar from ten yards after a piece of sublime skill. He was almost made to regret that when Pompey hurtled down the other end and came within inches of levelling the scores. Hart pushed a Muntari shot onto the inside of the post, and Utaka beat Williamson to the rebound only to see his shot crash off the post too.

The game was now quite exhilarating, Pompey belying their numerical inferiority to regularly stretch City's defence. On the hour mark Vassell wasted a wonderful opportunity to secure maximum points for City when he slashed a shot badly wide from 16 yards. Two minutes later Muntari did well to block a ferocious long-range effort from Michael Johnson.

In the 74th minute, Benjani finally got the goal he deserved, scuttling on to a neat through-ball from Ireland before twisting deftly past Distin and slamming the ball past James at the near post.

Ten minutes from time substitute Milan Baros was presented with a chance to claim his first goal for Portsmouth since joining in January. Kranjcar found him with a splendid clipped pass and the Czech controlled the ball nicely on his chest before blasting straight at Hart.

A thoroughly deserved victory for Man City with a host of top performances from the likes of Petrov, Gelson and Vassell.

Man City: Hart, Elano (Caicedo 90), Corluka, Dunne (Williamson 54), Ball, Vassell, Ireland (Geovanni 75), Gelson, Johnson, Petrov, Mwaruwari.
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Castillo. Booked: Williamson

Portsmouth: James, Lauren, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Utaka (Baros 75), Muntari, Diarra, Diop (Aubey 75), Kranjcar (Davis 83), Defoe.
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Nugent.

Sent Off: Hreidarsson (41)

Booked: Lauren.

Att: 40,205

Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).


Sunderland 1 Manchester City 2           City Snatch It
Saturday 13th April 2008 : Ryan Connor for GYKO at the Stadium of Lite  :=

Darius Vassell's scuffed winner gave Manchester City victory over Sunderland after a dramatic final 10 minutes. City were under the cosh until Nyron Nosworthy tangled with Daniel Sturridge in the area and Elano stepped up to fire home the penalty.

Sunderland levelled immediately when Andy Reid crossed for Dean Whitehead to volley home at the
Sven Goran Eriksson smiles as Elano's penalty puts City aheadnear post.

But City won it when Elano slid Vassell clear and his shot bobbled past Craig Gordon and into the corner of the net.

The late goal glut was both unexpected and welcome, especially for City who in customary style had not managed a shot on goal until Elano's spot-kick.It had been Sunderland who had looked more like scoring throughout the game, although Roy Keane's side were hardly in inspirational form themselves.The Black Cats came into the match on the back of three straight wins that had seen them climb out of immediate danger at the bottom of the Premier League table. But, Kenwyne Jones aside, they were unable to find a way through a makeshift City back-line that was missing Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha through injury.

Jones has played a big part in Sunderland's consolidation in the top flight this season and showed why here. The big Trinidad and Tobago striker was a constant thorn in the City defence and kept Richard Dunne busy all game. Initially, Jones' industry did not translate into chances and a shot by Kieran Richardson that fizzed over the bar was the only early effort on goal.

But the former Southampton striker almost made his mark when he ran on to Richardson's pass, out-muscled Dunne and fired in a shot that Joe Hart did brilliantly to block with an outstretched arm.

City were not creating much themselves but some decent crosses from the left boot of Martin Petrov kept Black Cats keeper Craig Gordon awake.

Most of the play, however, was compressed in midfield and fierce tackles and misplaced passes were the order of the day.

Things were similarly hectic after the interval and the home side's lack of quality when it mattered was shown by Daryl Murphy, who curled his shot high into the stands when he had time to pick his spot.

City seemed content to sit back and soak up Sunderland's pressure so it was something of a surprise when they scored on a rare venture into the home side's half. Nosworthy will feel he was harshly adjudged to have clipped Sturridge in the area but that did not stop Elano from despatching the resulting penalty.

Understandably Sunderland reacted with urgency and three minutes later they were level - Whitehead meeting Reid's cross with a conclusive finish.

But City were not done yet and Elano volleyed over from six yards before substitute Vassell somehow scored the winner. The former England striker ran on to Elano's pass and, although he failed to connect properly with his shot, he still got enough behind it to beat Gordon.

Only a superb double stop from Gordon prevented Petrov, and then Benjani, from extending City's lead but he could not save his side from an unlikely defeat.

Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Evans, Collins, Chopra (O'Donovan 79), Whitehead, Reid, Richardson (Leadbitter 46), Jones, Murphy (Edwards 62).
Subs Not Used: Fulop, McShane.

Booked: Whitehead, Bardsley, Nosworthy.

Goals: Whitehead 82.

Man City: Hart, Jihai, Corluka, Dunne, Ball, Gelson, Elano (Hamann 89), Ireland (Sturridge 58), Johnson, Petrov, Mwaruwari, Sturridge (Vassell 83).
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Geovanni.

Booked: Gelson, Corluka.

Goals: Elano 79 pen, Vassell 87.

Att: 46,797.

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire)

Manchester City 0  Chelsea 2        Euro fade out

Chelsea kept up the chase in the Premier League title race with victory at Eastlands to virtually condemn Manchester City to mid-table and perhaps the UEFA Fair Play lottery for European football next season.

It was Chelsea's sixth straight win over City without conceding a goal, since Kevin Keegan's City beat Jose Mourinho's Chelsea at Eastlands in October 2004 with a Nicolas Anelka penalty.
While his European dream hangs by a thread, Sven-Goran Eriksson will also be waiting nervously for the results of a scan on Nedum Onuoha's shoulder after he was substituted following a collision with Michael Essien.

City rang the changes following their defeat at St Andrew's last weekend, with Sun Jihai, Javier Garrido, Dietmar Hamann and Darius Vassell replaced by Michael Ball, Michael Johnson, Martin Petrov, and Vedran Corluka.

The visitors arrived having shuffled their pack following their midweek defeat in Istanbul with one eye on the return leg at Stamford Bridge. Amongst the changes were former City players Anelka and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

The backlash from their Istanbul test began in the sixth minute for Chelsea when former City striker Anelka advanced down the right wing and crossed for Essien, who was running at the City defence from midfield. Richard Dunne moved to intercept the pass but could only pass the ball into his own net beyond Joe Hart.

While the goal served to separate the two sides in the first half, in truth, City had more chances in an open and eventful first 45 minutes in which both sides competed well.

City were twice denied by deflections before half-time, once from Stephen Ireland's shot following Benjani's well-timed run and cross.

The other came when Michael Johnson and Ireland's one-two ended in Johnson's shot looping into the air off Juliano Belletti and Ashley Cole volleying off the line with Carlo Cudicini stranded.

The chances didn't end there for City though and the pick of Petrov's first-half efforts on goal was a rasping left-footed drive over Cudicini's bar.

Chelsea took control of the second half and made City rue their missed chances. Hart was alert to intercept Wright-Phillips' cross for Anelka in the 50th minute, but Salmon Kalou wrapped it up in the 53rd minute when Essien's pass fell to him and the forward ghosted through the City defence and rounded Hart to make it 2-0.

Frank Lampard's cross in the 55th minute found Anelka free of City's defence, but his measured header was tipped against the bar by Hart, who managed to grab the loose ball before it rolled over the line as Anelka closed in.

After the defeat, City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson said of defender Nedum Onuoha who suffered a dislocated shoulder and also a suspected broken wrist during the match: "I do not know how bad his shoulder is. He is in hospital, having X-rays.

"Nedum also has a problem with his wrist. We are just hoping it is not broken."

Of the defeat, the former England manager said: "We have taken a step forward today because we played some good football against Chelsea.

"While we made a slow start and conceded an early goal, we then created more chances than them in the first half. I am less depressed now than I was last week."

Manchester City: Joe Hart, Vedran Corluka, Nedum Onuoha (Sun Jihai 59), Michael Ball, Richard Dunne, Michael Johnson, Gelson Fernandes, Martin Petrov, Blumer Elano (Darius Vassell 65), Stephen Ireland (Felipe Caicedo 75), Benjani Mwaruwari,

Subs not used: Andreas Isaksson, Dietmar Hamann

Booked: Gelson Fernandes 45

Chelsea: Carlo Cudicini, Ashley Cole, Rodrigo da Costa Alex, Juliano Belletti (Paulo Ferreira 86), John Terry, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Shaun Wright-Phillips (Joe Cole 52), Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou, Nicolas Anelka,

Subs not used: Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Ballack, Henrique Hilario

Attendance: 42594


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