DECEMBER 2004 Match Reports
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|Man City 1 West Brom 1
Hapless Blues at home again
Tuesday 28th December 2004 : Dave Hobson for Get Your Kits Out at COMS
Richard Dunne's calamitous late own goal gifted 10-man West Brom a totally unexpected point at Eastlands as Manchester City's capacity for shooting themselves in the foot reached new levels.
The long-suffering West Brom fans had finally lost patience with manager Bryan Robson, chanting for his head after watching their team fail to create a single chance after having Thomas Gaardsoe sent off for a professional foul after 16 minutes.
But unbelievably, the visiting fans' jeers turned to cheers six minutes from time as, under virtually no pressure, Dunne allowed Paul Robinson's speculative long ball to bounce up and strike him on the shin.
The Irishman could only watch in stunned disbelief as the ball then rocketed low past stranded keeper David James, who had advanced to the edge of the area to deal with the non-existent danger, and roll into the net.
Not surprisingly, the goal silenced the moans of the irate Baggies fans and instead led to boos at the final whistle for City boss Kevin Keegan and his team, who looked certain to collect maximum points thanks to Nicolas Anelka's first half opener.
Anelka broke a two-month goal drought with his 32nd minute free-kick, but his contribution only emphasised the observation Keegan made in his programme notes that any decision to sell the French striker next month would be 'suicidal' for a side that for all its limitations, still harbours genuine top-eight ambitions.
Time and again over the last 18 months, City have found it impossible to break down opponents whose only ambition is to defend.
West Brom were doing that long before Gaardsoe's afternoon was brought to a severely premature end and the Dane's dismissal was hardly likely to alter that philosophy.
Yet despite almost total dominance of territory and possession, the Blues managed just a single worthwhile effort before Anelka scored, and it was the Frenchman who was also responsible for that, testing Russell Hoult's reflexes with a powerful low drive the Baggies keeper turned away for a corner.
Shaun Wright-Phillips tried to weave his magic on the right flank but his major contribution was robbing Neil Clement and then threading the ball through for Fowler, the move which ended with last man Gaardsoe pulling the former England man back to bring about an automatic red card.
Anelka's poor attempt to stroke home that free-kick at least warmed him up for the more successful chance which was to follow after Andy Johnson had handled on the edge of the area.
The stamp of class on his seventh goal of the campaign was in sharp contrast to anything else on offer during the opening period.
For all his industry, Joey Barton, returning to Keegan's starting line-up for the first time since the revelations about the players' Christmas party, is not a playmaker and most of the midfielder's attempts at the killer ball met with dismal failure.
Paul Bosvelt was even more conservative in his approach, which meant most of the time West Brom were able to prevent City's attackers from getting beyond their re-adjusted back four.
Keegan's team weren't helped by the loss of Stephen Jordan at half-time after the young full-back failed to recover from Johnson's crunching early tackle, potentially leaving City without a single left-footed player in their squad unless Ben Thatcher can be rushed back in time to face Southampton on New Year's Day.
That problem is nothing compared to those of the Baggies, who despite their point are looking increasingly like relegation certainties.
With a team seemingly bereft of even the most basic attributes required of a side capable of surviving in the top flight, how under-fire Robson must wish for the opportunity to call on a player of his own immense talent.
The only West Brom man to enhance his reputation on yet another dismal day for Albion was goalkeeper Russell Hoult.
Had it not been for Hoult's acrobatics, the Black Country outfit would have been on the end of a mauling similar to the five-goal effort inflicted on them by Liverpool on Boxing Day.
Three times he saved from Anelka, but his efforts to deny Wright-Phillips' angled drive and Fowler's brutal near post volley were even better.
At the time, City probably thought Hoult's heroics would not matter. How wrong they were.
|Everton 2 Manchester City 1
City come unstuck against the toffees
26th December 2004 - Alan Sugden for get Your Kits Out at Goodison Park
Everton overtook their entire points total for last season with a victory that keeps them in the top three of the Barclays Premiership thanks to Marcus Bent's second half header.
Tim Cahill's effort had given Everton an early lead, cancelled out by a Robbie Fowler header before the break.
But Manchester City ended with substitute Christian Negouai sent off and Fowler the subject of constant abuse from the Goodison Park fans.
Fowler had enraged the home fans for running half the length of the pitch along the touchline and slapping his head after his first half goal.
He was booked for that celebration by referee Phil Dowd, and the former Liverpool man was subjected to chants from the Everton fans from then on.
Five years ago Fowler - after scoring for Liverpool in a Mersey derby - was fined by the Football Association after an infamous goal celebration in front of Everton fans, who have abused him ever since the incident.
This time he could have been taunting them with a celebration to underline how few he scores with his head, but Everton fans had their own ideas and abused the former Anfield star from then on.
That aside, the game was fierce and competitive with City never out of it until the final whistle.
But Everton are a tough nut to crack on their own pitch and clung on for three more priceless points.
Steve Watson came into the Everton side for only his seventh league start of the season to replace Leon Osman, out with a knee injury.
City boss Kevin Keegan banished Joey Barton to the bench in the wake of his internal disciplinary hearing in midweek that left him with a fine of six weeks' wages after the midfielder's outrageous behaviour at the club's Christmas party.
Keegan also brought Jon Macken into the starting line-up, City opting to play with three strikers in an attacking formation that also included Fowler and Nicolas Anelka against a side who have conceded only nine goals in as many home league games this season.
Watson and Marcus Bent (pictured left) both went close early on while Anelka was not quick enough to punish a David Weir mis-kick before Paul Bosvelt headed narrowly over, unmarked six yards out.
City played the better passing football early on, pinning Everton back. But that is when Everton are at their most dangerous, hitting on the break.
City were caught out and one down after Bent won a debatable free-kick off Richard Dunne, chasing a long ball out of defence on 22 minutes, and when Thomas Gravesen fired over the free-kick, Cahill arrived unmarked to head powerfully past David James.
James saved well to his left from Watson as Everton started to swing the ball around with far more positive play.
Watson, Gravesen and Lee Carsley moved the ball at speed and that had City's back line under pressure, forcing them into back passes that kept James involved.
But City soon hit back. Fowler fired a free-kick high over and Anelka had another blocked before City finally got something for their efforts.
Shaun Wright-Phillips had a drive blocked on 43 minutes, and when Macken lifted the cross into the box, Fowler arrived to head powerfully past Nigel Martyn.
Everton had trouble imposing their direct style while City caused them problems with a much neater, close passing game.
Anelka attacked Alessandro Pistone down the right and had plenty of joy against the Italian.
Mills and Cahill managed to get involved in a bout of pushing and shoving that needed referee Dowd's eventual involvement.
When Everton did get the chance to lift the ball into the box on 61 minutes they almost scored.
Gravesen's free-kick was flicked on by Stubbs for Bent to just fail to get a connection a yard out.
A minute later he had more luck. City failed to clear the ball in their box and Gravesen, instead of shooting from 12 yards, chipped a neat ball for Bent to head into the bottom corner to give Everton the lead again.
Mills was booked for a foul on Gravesen that infuriated the Dane, who continued the argument with Dowd far too long and was booked for dissent.
He was lucky not to get into further trouble with more words at the Staffordshire official before players from both sides pulled him away.
Duncan Ferguson came on for Watson on 74 minutes, Everton trying to settle the issue with their now expected aerial bombardment in the final quarter.
City brought on Nedum Onuoha and Negouai for Mills and Macken while Joseph Yobo replaced Gravesen, all with 10 minutes left.
Negouai's first involvement was a tackle on Bent in the Everton box that enraged the home players and resulted in a red card for the young substitute, who eventually walked off appearing to show clear disbelief at the decision.
Everton: Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Pistone, Carsley, Watson (Ferguson 73), Gravesen (Yobo 81), Cahill, Kilbane, Bent (McFadden 90).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Naysmith.
Goals: Cahill 22, Bent 63.
Man City: James, Mills (Onuoha 80), Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Bosvelt, Sibierski, Fowler, Macken (Negouai 80), Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Waterreus, Barton, Flood.
Sent Off: Negouai (83).
Booked: Fowler, Mills.
Goals: Fowler 42.
Ref: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
|Bolton Wanderers 0
Manchester City 1 -
It's another Reebok away day win
Joey Barton rediscovered his
goal scoring touch and Manchester City that winning habit at the Reebok
We won't sell SWeeP - Wardle
14th December 2004
Manchester City chairman John Wardle has slapped a £20million 'hands-off' notice on Shaun Wright-Phillips and claimed the little winger is almost as good as Wayne Rooney.
With their club £62million in debt, Blues fans fear the 22-year-old could be a prime target for potential suitors when the transfer window opens next month, even though he only signed a new four-year contract at the start of the season.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has already admitted his admiration for the England international, while City boss Kevin Keegan reckons Wright-Phillips is the most dangerous player in the world when running at defenders.
But no matter what creativity is involved in generating a transfer budget for Keegan over the coming weeks, it will not include even the remotest possibility of Wright-Phillips leaving Eastlands.
"I have no intention of selling Shaun Wright-Phillips," said Wardle.
"If someone comes in and starts being silly I would have to discuss it but we are not putting him on a shelf to sell because he is the heart and soul of this football club.
"In my eyes, I don't think he is that far off Wayne Rooney, although he is a different type of player.
"The fans identify with him. You have to think about things like that, it is important."
Nicolas Anelka has already delivered his withering assessment of City's chances of making it into the Champions League during his time at the club, so the fear must be that Wright-Phillips too will at some stage decide he needs a higher platform to display his talents.
A lifelong City fan, who has bankrolled the club back into the top flight, Wardle insists that time may never materialise and thinks Wright-Phillips' affinity with the Blues will ensure he sees out the remainder of his current contract at least.
"I hope the day never comes when Shaun doesn't feel he can fulfil his ambitions here," he said.
"The club is looking to go forwards not backwards and for that it is crucial we keep someone of his talent.
"If you go back over the years, there are players who feel part of a club, who have been with them since they were kids, while at the other extreme there are the mercenaries that bounce from club to club.
"Shaun is definitely one of the former. He was in the academy here and he came through here.
"He has only just signed a new four-year contract and I don't think he would do that if he was looking to play for anyone other than Manchester City."
Man City 0-1 Tottenham Same old tired story
Kanoute arrowed a left-foot strike into the top corner from the left corner of the area for his third Premiership goal of the season.
City were made to pay for not turning their early dominance into a goal and Robbie Keane almost doubled Spurs' lead but saw a shot blocked on the line.
Keane also blazed high from close range late on as Spurs secured victory.
City had stormed out of the blocks and felt they should have had a penalty after just two minutes.
Striker Jonathan Macken latched onto Robbie Fowler's through ball and went down trying to get in a shot as he tussled with Spurs defender Ledley King.
The referee waved away the home side's appeals for the spot-kick but that did not stop City from laying siege on the Spurs defence.
City midfielder Joey Barton stung the hands of keeper Paul Robinson with a 20-yard shot as Spurs struggled to find any release to the pressure being applied on them.
But, despite their dominance, Kevin Keegan's side had nothing to show for their early superiority and were almost caught out with a sucker-punch.
Rohan Ricketts finished a mazy run with a shot across goal which a lunging Kanoute failed to get a touch to before it went agonisingly wide of the far post.
The intensity of City's play decreased as the half wore on and a resolute Spurs should have taken the lead when Pedro Mendes' lofted long ball played Keane in on goal.
But Keane was put off by the on-rushing keeper David James and sent his effort wide.
Antoine Sibierski headed wide as City again looked to threaten before the half-time whistle.
Both teams had been lacking the cutting edge in the final third of the pitch until Kanoute emphatically put that right with his sweetly struck strike which put Spurs ahead.
Fowler saw a well struck shot saved by Robinson before Keane had an angled shot cleared off the line by Sylvain Distin at the other end.
He then wasted a glorious opening after Michael Brown slid a cross into his path at the far post only for the Republic of Ireland international to blaze high from point-blank range.
City could not unlock a determined visitors' defence and even Nicolas Anelka's introduction did little to improve their potency as they went down to a second successive defeat.
Man City: James, Mills, Distin, Dunne, Jordan, Shaun
Wright-Phillips, Bosvelt, Barton, Sibierski, Fowler (Anelka 71), Macken
(Bradley Wright-Phillips 70).
Tottenham: Robinson, Pamarot, Naybet (Gardner 46), King,
Atouba, Brown, Pedro Mendes (Kelly 46), Carrick, Ricketts (Redknapp 81),
Booked: Naybet, Kelly.
Goals: Kanoute 57.
Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).
NOVEMBER 2004 Match Reports
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