Manchester City 1 Fulham 1 Depressing
Sunday 27th February 2011 : GYKO at the
Manchester City, this was an afternoon of intense frustration, Mark
Hughes's return coinciding with arguably one of their least
accomplished performances at home all season. Roberto Mancini's side
looked flat and lethargic, and the Italian's frustrations could be
accurately gauged by the flashpoint at the final whistle when he and
Hughes barely struggled to conceal their disdain for one another.
It was a childish spat, but symptomatic of the bad feeling that
exists between the two since Mancini replaced Hughes 14 months ago.
Mancini was the agitator, deliberately looking in the other
direction as he half-heartedly offered his hand.
"It's probably my fault but I'm a little bit old-fashioned," Hughes
said, explaining why he had angrily thrown Mancini's hand away. "I
always think if you offer your hand, it should be with sincerity. I
didn't think Roberto acknowledged the efforts of my team, and how
well we'd done, by the manner in which he offered his hand. Call me
old-fashioned, but that was my take on it."
In truth, both men came out of the confrontation badly. When it was
put to Mancini that Hughes had gestured he wanted eye contact he
admitted it had been a deliberate snub, referring to their handshake
at the end of City's 4-1 win at Craven Cottage in November. "In
London, he did the same to me," he said. Tit-for-tat, in other
words. "Yes, but it's not important. The result is important, not
these stupid things. I think he should be happy he had a draw
against us." Told of this, Hughes replied: "I don't recall doing
that. I think he's incorrect."
Mancini's anger was not just confined to the man whose job he
inherited. The City manager was unusually critical of his players as
he reflected on their failure to build on Mario Balotelli's goal and
an inability to regain control after Damien Duff had equalised early
in the second half.
In particular, he was unhappy with Balotelli, who went from scoring
a splendid goal to angering the crowd with erratic attempts to score
from 40 yards. "It was a good goal but I am not happy. He should
play better. Strikers should play for the team, not just for
Balotelli, for [Carlos] Tevez, for [Edin] Dzeko. The strikers didn't
work well. They didn't move, they were too still. They should always
play with the team."
The criticism was justified, although in fairness to Balotelli it
would be wrong to make him the scapegoat. Tevez was unusually
subdued and Dzeko was substituted in a jaded performance. With David
Silva nursing a twisted ankle, this was a team missing their
inventive hub and the lack of spark was alarming considering this
was the first of possibly five games in 11 days. "We were really
tired," Mancini said. "I'm disappointed with the result but I knew
this was an option when you play every two or three days."
This was certainly a more satisfying afternoon for Hughes than the
fixture at Craven Cottage. Fulham played with spirit and
togetherness and did not lose their composure when Balotelli
invigorated an otherwise prosaic first half by taking Tevez's short
pass, shifting the ball past Danny Murphy and thumping a precise
right-foot drive into the bottom corner of Mark Schwarzer's goal.
"We restricted a very good side to very few opportunities," Hughes
said. "The key was keeping Carlos Tevez quiet because he is the
catalyst for everything they do. The only disappointment was that we
didn't go on to get the three points after dictating the game for
Of the two managers, Mancini was the more animated figure on the
touchline, visibly disturbed by his team's inability to impose
themselves even after taking the lead. Fulham had been marginally
the better side in the first half, and they levelled the match three
minutes after the restart with a splendidly worked goal, Brede
Hangeland setting Andrew Johnson scampering down the right, spinning
past Aleksandar Kolarov. Johnson fired in a low and hard centre and
Duff, on the run, turned it past Joe Hart with an emphatic
After that the best chance fell to Tevez, running clear on to
Balotelli's deft pass only for Schwarzer to scramble his shot wide.
Fulham, though, also had opportunities, Duff making it a difficult
afternoon for Kolarov, Johnson busy and elusive and Clint Dempsey
prominently involved. Kolarov was substituted to spare him Duff's
trickery and on the other flank, Jérôme Boateng scarcely ingratiated
himself to an increasingly agitated crowd by pulling out of a 50-50
challenge with Carlos Salcido, six inches smaller. By the final
whistle there was more bad feeling, both in the stands and on the
Man City Hart, Boateng, K Toure, Lescott, Kolarov (Milner 77), Y
Toure, Barry, Zabaleta, Tevez, Balotelli, Dzeko (Vieira 60).
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Wright-Phillips, Jo, Wabara, Guidetti.
Goals: Balotelli 26.
Fulham Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido, Duff, Etuhu,
Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson (Gudjohnsen 79), Dembele.
Subs Not Used: Stockdale, Kelly, Gera, Kakuta, Greening, Davies.
Booked: Johnson, Murphy.
Goals: Duff 48.
Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).
Manchester City 3 Aris Thessaloniki 0
Big Fat Greek Win
Thursday 24th February 2011 : GYKO at the
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feels like a trick of the imagination that Roberto Mancini has been
accused this season of undue conservatism. Edin Dzeko, Mario
Balotelli, David Silva and Carlos Tevez were all shoehorned into
Manchester City's attack for the first time and, after a successful
night of experimentation, Mancini's men moved into the last 16 with
something to spare.
They did not quite manage to silence the unrelenting Aris support –
the kitrini made a lasting impression as perhaps the most voluble
and choreographed away fans ever to visit this stadium – but they
were superior in every other department. They have scored 19 goals
in their last five home games and can look forward to a tie against
Dynamo Kyiv courtesy of an early double from Dzeko and a deflected
Yaya Touré strike with a quarter of an hour to play.
A seventh successive home win was not entirely without
complications, Vincent Kompany being forced off after damaging his
hip in the first half. Kompany joins an injury list already
featuring Adam Johnson, James Milner, Nigel de Jong and Micah
Richards, and will undergo tests in the morning to ascertain the
seriousness of the problem. "I hope it's not serious and that he can
play against Fulham on Sunday," Mancini said.
This was the only downside for City and, for Dzeko in particular, it
was a night of huge satisfaction. These were not his first goals for
his new employers but it was the first time he has bristled with
confidence. His finishing was clinical, the relationship with Tevez
blossoming, and the Bosnian is now displaying the kind of prolific
centre-forward play that persuaded City to pay £27m for his
It was a good night, in other words, for the City chairman, Khaldoon
al-Mubarak, to fly in from Abu Dhabi for his first match in two
months. City played with width and penetration and their attacking
quartet had an elusive quality, Dzeko remaining the focal point but
Tevez, Balotelli and Silva interchanging positions, driving forward
from all angles.
"The problem is when we don't have the ball but I think it can work
sometimes," Mancini said. "Maybe not often, but sometimes. We were
excellent in that first half."
Aris were moderate opponents, and there were times when the gap
between the sides felt more like a chasm. In terms of Greeks bearing
gifts, the tone was set in the seventh minute when the centre-half
Nikolaos Lazaridis made a hash at clearing Aleksandar Kolarov's long
ball and suddenly Dzeko was clear. His first touch was a little
loose but, steadying himself, the second was a low, right-foot shot,
across the goalkeeper and just inside the far post.
Within five minutes the night had become an exercise in damage
limitation for City's opponents. This time the move originated on
the left, Silva playing a ball infield to Tevez and the Argentinean
picking out Dzeko, running through the inside-right channel. Dzeko
worked the ball on to his left foot and, applying just the right
measure of curl, sent a firm and precise left-foot shot into the
same corner of the goal.
The early onslaught subsided a little thereafter, though City
retained an air of complete superiority and Dzeko will feel he
should have completed a hat-trick late in the first half, Silva's
pass splitting the Greek defence to leave him clear only for the
goalkeeper, Michail Sifakis, to claw the ball away from his feet.
The second half was not so frenetic – "so-so", to use Mancini's
description, with City no longer attacking with the same drive. Even
so, there was only one brief flurry when Aris came out of the
defensive shell that had frustrated Mancini's team nine days earlier
in Thessaloniki. City were comfortable and it was probably only to
be expected that they would ease off, with three more home games to
come in the next nine days.
Nonetheless Balotelli had struck a post before Touré tried his luck
with a long-range effort that took a decisive touch off Ricardo Faty
to find the bottom corner.
Man City Hart, Boateng, Kompany (Zabaleta 35), Lescott, Kolarov,
Silva (Wright-Phillips 80), Toure Yaya, Barry, Tevez (Vieira 79),
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Jo, Toure, Wabara.
Goals: Dzeko 7, 12, Toure Yaya 75.
Aris Salonika Sifakis, Vangeli, Guiaro, Lazaridis, Michel, Prittas,
Faty, Neto (Kaznaferis 79), Toja, Bobadilla (Koke 61), Sakata (Mendrinos
Subs Not Used: Juanma, Oriol, Cesarec.
Booked: Vangeli, Neto, Prittas.
Ref: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic).
Manchester City 5 Notts County 0
City go Goal Mad
Sunday 20th February 2011 : GYKO at the
City took their time to demonstrate the gulf between the two clubs
but, once they worked up a head of steam, it left the 18th-placed
side in League One grateful to be spared further punishment. Roberto
Mancini's men can look forward to a fifth-round tie at home to Aston
Villa and a possible quarter-final against Everton or Reading,
courtesy of two headers from Patrick Vieira and a late onslaught
that brought goals from Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Micah Richards
in the final six minutes.
Tevez has now scored 50 times in his 73 appearances for the club,
giving the Argentinian legitimate credentials to be recognised as
the outstanding striker in their history. On a wider scale, however,
the greater satisfaction for City may originate from the 89th-minute
header with which Dzeko made it 4-0. The Bosnian subsequently wasted
a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, Stuart Nelson, but his first home
goal for his new employers should soothe his confidence after
Mancini's criticism of his performance in the Europa League against
Aris Thessaloniki last Tuesday. "In Greece he missed three or four
chances, so it was important for him to score," Mancini said.
There were fleeting signs that Dzeko may have the beginnings of a
partnership flourishing with Tevez, the two strikers creating each
other's goals. On the flipside there was another show of petulance
from Mario Balotelli, annoyed to be substituted after a clash of
heads with the centre-half, Krystian Pearce, as Vieira scored his
second goal, in the 57th minute.
Balotelli – who was taken to hospital after the match when he
complained of feeling dizzy and nauseous but was later given the
all-clear – had looked rusty in his first start since late December
and could be seen reaching for the troublesome knee that has
disrupted his first season in Manchester. His reaction to his
withdrawal, gesturing angrily and throwing his snood to the ground
as he went down the tunnel, was strange given that Mancini said
afterwards he had pre-arranged with the player to take him off after
"He was unhappy, sure," Mancini said. "I'd expect him to be. But
that was our plan [to substitute him] and we had told him. We have
games coming up every three or four days and we want him 100%."
Mancini was smiling and his response when asked about Balotelli
holding his knee offered another glimpse into the complex mind of
this emotional young Italian. "He does this in training, too," the
manager said. "He shoots and scores, he doesn't touch his knee; he
shoots and doesn't score, he touches the knee."
That apart, it was a slow-burning day of satisfaction for City once
they had resisted a spirited opening half-hour from Paul Ince's
team. Fifty-nine places below their hosts in the order of English
football, Notts played with spirit and togetherness. They will look
back to that moment, with the game scoreless, when Karl Hawley
curled a wonderful shot against the post. "With a little bit of luck
we could have made it 1-0 but the width of the post denied us," Ince
said. "We felt we were the better side. It had felt like a home game
Yet their challenge faded once Vieira opened the scoring, heading in
David Silva's corner courtesy of a deflection off Pearce's hand.
Notts's inability to deal with crosses was recurring and, although
Mancini acknowledged afterwards it had been a lethargic first-half
display, City controlled the rhythm of the game after taking the
lead and there was never a sense they might give up the lead.
Even so, the late capitulation was not in keeping with the rest of
the game. "It was never a 5-0," Ince said. Notts even had a flurry
to get back in the game at 2-0, with Joe Hart keeping out Alain
Gow's 78th-minute volley. This was Hart's 17th clean sheet since
taking over from Shay Given in August and a miserable season for the
Republic of Ireland international has been compounded by another
shoulder injury; he sees a specialist this week to determine whether
he needs an operation.
On the pitch it was probably not a fluke that City's improvement
coincided with Tevez's introduction as a second-half substitute. The
club's leading scorer immediately gave the side a more penetrative
edge. He made it 3-0 when he ran on to Dzeko's pass, accelerated
away from his marker and rounded Nelson before sliding the ball in.
Dzeko's header came from a Tevez cross and, as Notts failed to deal
with another corner, Richards hooked in the fifth to make it a rout.
Man City Hart, Richards, Toure, Lescott, Kolarov,Balotelli (Tevez
60), Vieira, Toure Yaya (Barry 81),Silva (Jo 86), Zabaleta, Dzeko.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Kompany, Boateng, Nimely.
Goals: Vieira 37, 58, Tevez 84, Dzeko 89, Richards 90.
Notts County Nelson, Darby (Thompson 60), Edwards,Pearce (Chilvers
90), Harley, Hawley, Ravenhill, Bishop,Westcarr, Gow, Hughes (Gobern
Subs Not Used: Burch, Lee, Smith, Spicer.
Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire).
Aris Salonica 0 Manchester City 0
City avoid Greek Tragedy
15th February 2011 : Gavin Brooke for GYKO at
Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium
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It was an ordinary match played in an
extraordinary din and, for Manchester City, an opportunity missed,
perhaps. Roberto Mancini's team will be confident of progressing
when the sides meet at Eastlands next week but they could
conceivably be in a much stronger position had they shown greater
ambition and fluency in attack.
Instead there were only fleeting moments when they threatened to
turn down the volume of a raucous crowd, with Mancini unusually
forthright in his criticisms. The Italian spoke of the pitch being
partly to blame but he was also unhappy with Edin Dzeko, the £27m
signing from Wolfsburg, who was substituted six minutes from the
"I expect more from him. He's a new player and I think he has the
same problem as Fernando Torres at Chelsea because when you sign for
a new team in January you don't know your new team-mates, you don't
know the system and it's not easy. But he needs to improve and it's
important he improves quickly."
City's best two chances had both fallen to the Bosnian – one a poor
connection with his shot after 16 minutes, the other a twisting
header in the second half that brought a one-handed save from the
goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis.
"Dzeko had a chance and he should score," Mancini said. "It was a
difficult game because the pitch was not good and Aris played with
10 men behind the ball. Maybe it would have been different if we had
scored when we had that first chance."
Dzeko, in fairness, looked fitter and more energetic than in
previous matches, although his touch was erratic and his partnership
with Carlos Tevez, playing just behind the taller man, is still very
much a work in progress. It was rare for Tevez to be so peripheral,
although Mancini defended the Argentinian, arguing that the problem
was the supply line and questioning the contribution of Shaun
"Shaun should do better than that," he said of a player who
submitted a written transfer request in the final days of the
transfer window. "We had only one cross throughout the second half
and it was from Gareth Barry. With Dzeko playing, we should have
crossed it more. Maybe Carlos was quieter than usual but we cannot
always rely on Carlos to score once or twice in every game."
The pitch, as Mancini stated, was not conducive to flowing football,
although it was still disappointing that City's front players took
so long to adapt. David Silva showed some neat touches without being
able to find the killer pass and the fit-again Mario Balotelli was
unable to influence the match when he came on as a 77th-minute
substitute in his first appearance since 28 December.
The noise was guttural, choreographed and unrelenting and the
atmosphere is undoubtedly a factor why the Greeks boast such a
formidable record on this ground, with no defeats now in 26 European
games stretching back 43 years.
On that basis City are entitled to regard this as a satisfactory
result as they aim to book a meeting in the last 16 against Besiktas
or Dynamo Kiev.
"It will be different at our ground because the pitch is much
better. We will have a good pitch to play with the ball on the
floor," Mancini said.
"Nil-nil is dangerous, though. It's a good result but not a perfect
result. Everything is open."
Nonetheless it would still represent a major surprise were Mancini's
men not to progress. Aris were ordinary opponents, lacking width and
There were times when City were careless with the ball and lacked
cohesion but, on the balance of play, Mancini was entitled to talk
about his side being the more adventurous. Joe Hart's only
noteworthy save came in the 63rd minute when the right-winger Neto
fired in a diagonal shot from long distance.
Several City players complained after the match that they had been
targeted by a laser pen shone from the crowd, although the club are
not planning to make an official complaint.
Aris Salonika Sifakis, Vangeli, Guiaro, Lazaridis, Michel,Neto
(Castillo 88), Prittas, Faty, Sakata, Toja,Bobadilla (Cesarec 72).
Subs Not Used: Vellidis, Oriol, Kaznaferis, Mendrinos,
Man City Hart, Richards, Boateng, Toure, Kolarov, Barry,Toure Yaya,
Wright-Phillips (Balotelli 77), Tevez, Silva,Dzeko (Zabaleta 84).
Subs Not Used: Given, Kompany, Lescott, Vieira, Jo.
Ref: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain).
Stretford United 2 Manchester City 1
Bad Day at the Orifice
12th February 2011 : Nobody for GYKO at OT
A sensational winner from Wayne Rooney gave a
generally low-wattage Manchester derby a flamboyant highlight it did
not really deserve. Sir Alex Ferguson was correct in saying it would
be the only thing anyone wanted to talk about after the game,
though, in reality, there was not a great deal of competition.
Before Rooney brought the house down with a perfectly executed
overhead volley, this eagerly awaited meeting had been characterised
by caution from both teams.
With United leaving out their leading scorer and City their new £27m
striker, it appeared both sides were more concerned to get the game
out of the way than strengthen positions at the top of the table,
but results are all that ever matter in most derbies and an hour of
low-tempo football was quickly forgotten when Rooney's acrobatics
sent his side eight points ahead of their neighbours. Roberto
Mancini admitted the gap might be too much for City to make up,
though Ferguson was not so sure. "They are in the top four with a
big strong squad," the United manager said. "They will win more
games than you think."
Generosity was the least City deserved after going close to claiming
a point. "I thought we could go on to win from 1-1," Mancini said.
"Then one fantastic goal changed everything."
That might be slightly overstating the City case, though there was
no doubt the goal was fantastic. Meeting Nani's cross in mid-air,
with his back to goal, Rooney gave Joe Hart no chance with the sort
of finish most people can only attempt in their dreams, then
celebrated as if, this time, even he believed he was back.
"I think it might have been the best goal I've ever scored," he
said. "I'm pleased with the win, it was important after last week's
result to keep that gap between ourselves and City."
Last week's surprise 2-1 defeat away to Wolves was described as
"pathetic" by Ferguson in the match programme, but he got the
response he was looking for here.
Nani put in another impressive shift, scoring one goal and making
another, Ryan Giggs again looked as though he could go on forever,
and Chris Smalling, in for the injured Rio Ferdinand, played easily
his most assured and fault-free game for United alongside Nemanja
Vidic in defence.
City played their part too, with David Silva threatening throughout,
even if Carlos Tevez was disappointingly ineffective. Far from
parking the bus as had been feared, the visitors had the chance to
get the derby off to a sensational start after four minutes.
A neat reverse pass from Tevez played in Silva, eyeball to eyeball,
with Edwin van der Sar in the six-yard box, and though the
goalkeeper did what he could to narrow the angles, Silva should
still have done better than trickle a shot the wrong side of a post.
After that, the game settled into a contest of attrition, with
United rarely getting forward in numbers to support their lone
striker and City showing more enterprise in attack, but constantly
losing the ball on the edge of the penalty area when intricate
passing moves broke down.
While never approaching the previous Manchester derby for
mind-numbing tedium, the game was drifting uneventfully towards
half-time when United made a route-one breakthrough. Joleon Lescott
beat Rooney to Van der Sar's long clearance upfield, but only
knocked the ball into the path of Giggs, who conjured a goal threat
from almost nothing with an alert first-time pass to Nani. Bringing
the ball down expertly, certainly more expertly than Pablo Zabaleta
seemed to have been anticipating, Nani held off the defender to slip
a low shot beyond Hart's left hand.
City brought on Shaun Wright-Phillips, then Edin Dzeko, in the
second half and both substitutions improved them. Their equalising
goal was credited to Silva, but he did not know too much about it,
the ball hitting his backside to deflect Dzeko's shot from a
Wright-Phillips cross out of Van der Sar's reach.
City were briefly back in with a shout, but United responded by
sending on Dimitar Berbatov and immediately began to attack with
increased confidence as more options opened up ahead. A terrific run
by Nani took him slaloming past Zabaleta and then Vincent Kompany,
but ended with a wild shot, before the winger produced the cross
from the right from which Rooney hit one of the goals of the season.
Man Utd Van der Sar, O'Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher,
Scholes (Carrick 79), Anderson (Berbatov 67), Nani, Rooney, Giggs.
Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Brown, Owen, Hernandez, Rafael Da Silva.
Booked: Scholes, Giggs.
Goals: Nani 41, Rooney 78.
Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta, Milner (Dzeko
60), Barry, Toure Yaya, Kolarov (Wright-Phillips 53), Silva, Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Given, Boateng, Vieira, Jo, Toure.
Booked: Kompany, Milner.
Goals: Silva 65.
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
Manchester City 3 West Brom 0
Tevez Birthday Hat Trick
Saturday 5th February 2011 : GYKO at the
This was a welcome to
Manchester that West Bromwich Albion are already trying to forget.
Roberto Mancini's cadre lit up Eastlands as £350m-plus of
thoroughbred playing personnel ought to and the chief host-from-hell
was Carlos Tevez.
On the afternoon of his 27th birthday El Apache handed himself the
present of a first-half hat-trick that should have been a quintuple.
The two missed chances after five and 43 minutes bookended the three
the Argentinian did convert. Those allowed Tevez to pull out the
familiar spread-armed goal celebration that has now delighted City
fans 18 times in the league this campaign and so infuriated the red
half of Manchester when it loomed down from that billboard two
West Brom began and finished the afternoon all over the place yet
the news for City's fellow top-four competitors is that Joe Hart
appears shaky and his defence can be got at by pinging in the kind
of aerial balls under which Kolo Touré and Vincent Kompany twice
faltered during the opening half.
Before those came the first of the Tevez misses. When Aleksandar
Kolarov – who is beginning to appear worth his £19m price – flipped
up the ball Tevez's right boot struck Boaz Myhill's right post. That
was the first scare for the visitors.
Mancini had been in self-flagellation mode ahead of kick-off,
stating that as manager he was culpable for the defeat by Aston
Villa and the draw at Birmingham City that had been City's return in
their previous two league matches. Edin Dzeko was the Italian's
fall-guy for these results, relegated to the bench following an
anodyne display at St Andrew's. "He needs more time to understand
English football," Mancini said.
What the £27m striker could fully comprehend from his seat was how
tricky it may be to land a regular starting berth if his colleagues
perform like this and when he did enter proceedings in the second
half the 24-year-old laboured.
Not so Kolarov, who was among City's leading performers. Early on,
one left-foot shot caused Myhill to tip over for a corner and it was
the Serb who won the first of Tevez's two penalties by inducing
Steven Reid, the West Brom right‑back, to foul him.
Up stepped City's main man and that was 1-0. After 22 minutes Tevez
had the second. A one-two with David Silva that featured a sublime
return from the Spaniard took Tevez into the area. A swift pivot
mugged Jonas Olsson and left the defender on his backside before
Myhill was again collecting the ball from his net.
Six minutes before the break the keeper was forced into yet another
repeat. Jerome Thomas flapped at the ball with no City player
putting him under pressure and Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot.
Tevez this time dinked the finish above the diving Myhill.
Before this City's vulnerability under the high ball had come from
two corners – first Olsson had a free header that Hart tipped over
the bar and then Paul Scharner was again left unmolested to steer an
Mancini had spoken of the requirement to keep a clean sheet, which
his team had not managed since Arsenal were held at the Emirates a
month ago. While he will be heartened to finally break this run his
defence continues to be a concern. In the second half Marc-Antoine
Fortuné was allowed to slip through on goal but could only hit the
sidenetting before Nicky Shorey's 70th-minute free-kick caused Hart
to save sharply to his left.
David Platt was sent to speak for Mancini, who had apparently lost
his voice. City's coach said: "It was one of those games where you
didn't need half-time. You come off at full-time disappointed not to
have got more goals playing how we did in the first half. The
message was to focus again but human nature means you take your foot
off the pedal."
While Roberto Di Matteo is staring at a run of one victory from 10
games – "we just need a win to get ourselves going," he said – next
up for City are Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday. "A
very, very difficult game no doubt about it," Platt said. United may
feel the same.
Man City Hart, Boateng, Kompany, Toure, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Toure
Yaya (Dzeko 63), Barry, Milner,Tevez (Wright-Phillips 86), Silva (Razak
Subs Not Used: Given, Lescott, Vieira, Jo.
Goals: Tevez 17 pen, 22, 39 pen.
West Brom Myhill, Reid, Scharner, Olsson, Shorey, Morrison, Mulumbu,
Brunt (Jara 69), Fortune, Odemwingie (Tchoyi 87),Thomas (Vela 46).
Subs Not Used: Carson, Pablo, Tamas, Cox.
Booked: Morrison, Reid.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Birmingham City 2 Manchester City 2
City pay the penalty
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 : Harry Derbyshire
for GYKO at St Andrews
will view fun with even more suspicion following an enjoyable
match that saw them twice surrender a lead to bold Birmingham. It
was emblematic of the excitement that Aleksandar Kolarov might have
won the match with the last kick of the ball but his free-kick flew
fractionally wide, unlike the set piece he had converted in the
The only sombre moment of the night came with the bad head knock to
Micah Richards before the interval when he collided with his
team-mate Nigel de Jong. A neck brace was required before he was
carried off and taken to hospital but there were early reports that
he had regained consciousness and was recovering.
Where the match itself was concerned, the Manchester City manager
Roberto Mancini could not get over the award of a penalty that Craig
Gardner converted for the second Birmingham leveller in the 77h
minute. The referee Kevin Friend judged that one veteran substitute,
Patrick Vieira, had fouled another, Kevin Phillips "He dived,"
Mancini said flatly.
That was, at best, an exaggeration and Alex McLeish stood up for the
forward. "Kevin was too quick for him," he said, "Kevin's not a
diver. He's a true English gentleman." Mancini believed his side
ought to have had a spot-kick of their own earlier when, in the 62nd
minute, James Milner's cross came off the jutting arm of Stephen
Mancini has far more than that to upset him since City are now eight
points behind the leaders Manchester United. The general level of
his side is a worry. "I didn't like how we played," he said. "It's
better that we wake up quickly. At this moment [the gap with United]
is too much. We have to play better than we did this evening. It is
impossible to win if you concede two goals in every game. We slept.
Probably we are not working well in training."
The visitors have been unable to keep a clean sheet since 5 January.
It looks imperative that Mancini's side beat United at Old Trafford
on 12 February. "We will try," said the manager, "but if we play
like this I don't think we can. If we play better and don't concede
a goal it is possible."
The side was more flamboyant than usual. Edin Dzeko was, with Carlos
Tevez, in a pleasing if rather old-fashioned partnership of
strikers. The boldness worked initially. After two minutes David
Silva, from the right, worked his way into the area and Tevez, with
tenacity to complement his skill, resisted the challenge of Martin
Jiranek to squeeze a shot into the corner of the net.
There was an unlikely openness to the contest and Birmingham
levelled in the 23rd minute. Nikola Zigic may have got the faintest
of touches on the whipped free-kick from the left by David Bentley
that found the net. There are formalities to be completed before the
new loan signing Obafemi Martins can work in this country again but
there was still a threat to Birmingham's attack.
Even so, the visitors regained the lead with a brutal yet curling
free-kick from Kolarov in the 39th minute following a foul by
Gardner on Dzeko. Mancini's side ought to be cut out for eminence
but, for all the fabulous wealth, they are a club who have
relatively modest ambitions at present
Birmingham had a determination to take the play to their opponents.
Whether because of that endeavour or simply out of a conservatism
urged on them by Mancini, Manchester City paused to take stock early
in the second half. Such a policy was not wholly convincing when
McLeish's side had nothing to lose.
Kolo Touré had taken over Richards' role but he was not quite as
equipped for the aerial approach from Birmingham that was
increasingly marked. While the visitors would have understood that
place of real safety was in the other half of the pitch, they could
not settle there as soon as they would have liked. There was
defending to be done.
A lull of sort was reached but the visitors were neglecting to use
any panache by then. They did have breakaways in mind but Birmingham
were not so naive as to let these visitors play as they wished.
If this showing is repeated the stress on Mancini will mount. There
has been a calmness around the club, yet the task is to confirm that
progress is taking place. This night at St Andrew's never hinted
that Mancini's side are bound for glory.
Birmingham Foster, Carr, Johnson, Jiranek, Ridgewell, Bentley,
Ferguson, Bowyer (Beausejour 75), Gardner, Jerome (Phillips 70),
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Larsson, Fahey, Hleb, Davies.
Goals: Zigic 23, Gardner 77 pen.
Man City Hart, Boateng, Richards (Toure 35), Kompany, Kolarov,
Milner, De Jong (Vieira 46), Barry, Silva, Tevez, Dzeko.
Subs Not Used: Given, Zabaleta, Lescott, Jo, Guidetti.
Booked: De Jong, Kolarov.
Goals: Tevez 4, Kolarov 41.
Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).