April & May 2005

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Man City 1-1 Middlesbrough - No surprises as City finish on a low note
Sunday 15th May 2005 :


Jimmy Floyd HasselbainkMark Schwarzer saved an injury-time penalty as Middlesbrough earned a place in next season's Uefa Cup.
Robbie Fowler missed the kick which would have seen City qualify at the expense of Boro.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's brilliant 30-yard free-kick put Boro ahead, but Kiki Musampa levelled after the break.

City boss Stuart Pearce brought on Nicky Weaver and pushed goalkeeper David James up front in a frantic finale, but Boro held out.

It was a dramatic end to a match in which City dominated possession without fashioning clear chances against a determined Boro back line.

The visitors seemed content to invite City to attack from the start.

Their first real chance came when Shaun Wright-Phillips burst through and lofted the ball over Mark Schwarzer, only to see it drift wide while Middlesbrough's sole chance in the early stages were limited to a long shot from Boudewijn Zenden.

Nevertheless, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion.

Hasselbaink's brilliant free-kick in the 23rd minute curled and swerved before cannoning in off the underside of the bar.

City responded well and continued to look threatening, particularly down the right-hand side and also through Wright-Phillips who saw another shot just clear the angle of post and bar.

But for all their huff and puff, there was precious little end product and City were pleased to see a long shot from Doriva flash wide.

City boss Stuart Pearce needed a stirring half-time team talk and his words had a remarkable effect.

The home side were level within 59 seconds of the restart, Musampa taking full advantage of some hesitant Boro defending to weave his way into the box and slot home.

The crowd played their part in firing up the City players as Boro found themselves on the back foot - although their defence was well-marshalled.

There were some fractious moments on the field in the passionate atmosphere and Ray Parlour was substituted after narrowly avoiding a second yellow card for a foul.

The atmosphere reached fever pitch late on as Pearce replaced Claudio Reyna with keeper Weaver and moved James into a centre-forward role.

And the game took a dramatic twist as referee Rob Styles penalised Franck Queudrue for handball - only for Fowler to miss the chance to fire City into Europe.


Man City: James, Mills (Croft 84), Onuoha, Distin, Thatcher, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Barton, Reyna (Weaver 88), Musampa, Fowler, Sibierski (Bradley Wright-Phillips 54).
Subs Not Used: Macken, Jordan.

Booked: Barton, Distin.

Goals: Musampa 46.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Parnaby, Ehiogu, Southgate, Queudrue, Parlour (Morrison 69), Boateng, Doriva, Zenden, Nemeth (Downing 54), Hasselbaink, Morrison (Reiziger 84).
Subs Not Used: Cooper, Knight.

Booked: Queudrue, Zenden, Boateng, Parlour.

Goals: Hasselbaink 23.

Att: 47,221

Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).


 

Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 2    Another thriller at the Villa
Saturday 8th May 2005 : Guy Phillips for Get Your Kits Out at Villa Park


In-form Manchester City set up a potential multi-million pound UEFA Cup showdown with Middlesbrough after ending Aston Villa's own European dream with a decisive early double blast.

Seventh place in the Barclays Premiership, and with it UEFA Cup football next season, is still up for grabs after Boro managed a 1-0 Riverside victory over Tottenham, combined with City stretching their unbeaten run to seven games.

The Teesiders are favourites after staying three points clear of City, but in a winner-take-all showdown at the City of Manchester Stadium, Stuart Pearce's side could still snatch that crucial spot with a last-day win over Boro.

Shaun Wright-Phillips and Kiki Musampa were both on target inside the opening 12 minutes as Villa appeared to still be in a state of shock following last Sunday's 5-1 mauling at Tottenham.

There was only one team who had bothered to turn up in the early exchanges, with the City players clearly doing their level best to ensure Pearce is given the post of manager on a more permanent basis in the summer as they ran David O'Leary's woeful side ragged.

There is a freedom about City these days that was evident - all too infrequently and so frustratingly under former boss Kevin Keegan - and it is paying handsome dividends.

Pearce's side were fast out of the blocks and should have taken a third-minute lead, only for Musampa to drag a left-foot shot through the six-yard box after playing an incisive one-two inside the penalty area with Claudio Reyna.

But the sizeable travelling City faithful did not have to wait long to see their side make the breakthrough, with Wright-Phillips again underlining just why he is likely to become a target for money-laden predators this summer with his 11th goal of the season.

Picking up a simple ball out of defence 10 yards inside the Villa half, Wright-Phillips embarked on a mazy run that took him past the challenges of Jlloyd Samuel, Gareth Barry and Mark Delaney before eventually despatching a crisp right-foot shot past Thomas Sorensen.

It was then a case of from one winger to another, with Musampa scoring only his second goal of a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid in the 12th minute, with Villa all at sea.

A Delaney mistake five yards outside his own area allowed Antoine Sibierski to deliver a cross that was flicked on to an all-alone Musampa to drive home a crisp half-volley into the top left-hand corner.

Even then Villa remained in a state of slumber as errors continued to undermine their performance, with the next setting up Jonathan Macken, in the starting line-up due to Robbie Fowler's absence with a calf injury.

Fortunately for Sorensen, who missed last week's defeat to Tottenham through illness, he was grateful to see the Republic of Ireland striker fail to cleanly connect with a long-range effort.

But worse almost followed when Martin Laursen was dispossessed soon after by Macken, who then played in a wide-open Sibierski.

The French midfielder, however, dallied too long on his shot and that allowed the Dane to atone for his indiscretion with a superb sliding tackle inside the area.

Eventually, Villa showed signs of life and they should have pulled at least one goal back just before the break, only for Steven Davis to twice end up the villain.

Initially, after being given a clear sight of goal by Lee Hendrie, he drove a low shot into the sidenetting when he should have at least hit the target.

He managed that moments later after intercepting Ben Thatcher's weak chested pass back to David James from a Barry left-wing cross, but the England international spared the blushes of his left back with a brave and brilliant point-blank block.

With the momentum now with Villa, it was they who came out for the second period fired up, and buoyed by a double substitution that saw Nolberto Solano and Eric Djemba-Djemba on for Samuel and Thomas Hitzlsperger.

The newly-introduced duo combined within 75 seconds, with the Peruvian's corner headed narrowly over the bar by the Cameroon midfielder, and from that moment Villa controlled the game.

After James had touched wide a stabbed shot from Darius Vassell, Villa's reward for their pressure came on the hour, with Solano's low pass in from the right dummied by Hendrie and picked up by Angel who turned and drilled home his ninth goal of the season.

But out of the blue, and from another mistake by Delaney, Wright-Phillips should have killed the game in the 70th minute as he took advantage of a weak back pass, only to lob the ball over the onrushing Sorensen and the bar.

Villa ended the game strongly with Barry inches wide with a flick header to a Solano free-kick, although in the dying moments Musampa hit the post with a low stabbed shot.

Teams

Aston Villa Sorensen, De la Cruz, Laursen, Delaney, Samuel (Djemba-Djemba 45), Hendrie (Moore 78), Davis, Hitzlsperger (Solano 45), Barry, Angel, Vassell.

Subs Not Used: Postma, Ridgewell.

Booked: Solano.

Goals: Angel 61.

Man City James, Mills, Distin, Onuoha, Thatcher, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Reyna, Barton, Musampa, Sibierski (Bradley Wright-Phillips 71), Macken (Croft 79).

Subs Not Used: Weaver, Sommeil, Jordan.

Booked: Barton.

Goals: Shaun Wright-Phillips 5, Musampa 12.

Att: 39,645

Ref: R Beeby (Northamptonshire).


 
 
Manchester City 2 Portsmouth 0         Pompey Chimes Silenced
Saturday 30th April 2005 : Get Your Kits Out at the COMSTAD


Manchester City turned their unlikely drive for a UEFA Cup spot into tantalising reality with a one-sided victory cruise over Portsmouth at Eastlands.

The Blues were never threatened once Sylvain Distin's first goal of the campaign and Robbie Fowler's 10th had provided them with a comfortable cushion within 16 minutes.

Portsmouth improved on their hapless effort after half-time, they never looked likely to wreck a six-match unbeaten run which represents City's best effort in the top flight since 1994.

And, as always at this stage of this season, once the final whistle went, attention immediately switched to results elsewhere.

For Pompey boss Alain Perrin, it brought the welcome knowledge of Premiership survival. But once he gets his calculator out, Stuart Pearce will realise that if Aston Villa beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane, a place in Europe will almost certainly be clinched should the Blues defeat Villa and Middlesbrough in their final two games.

And that fact alone, for a club drifting aimlessly two months ago under Kevin Keegan, should be enough to persuade the City board to hand Pearce the manager's job on a permanent basis this summer.

Even taking into account the relative strengths of the opposition, their first-half performance against a disjointed Pompey outfit was better than the Blues' efforts in victory over Liverpool a fortnight ago.

The struggles which characterised their first year and three quarters at Eastlands have also been consigned to the dustbin, leaving City looking a more confident and competent outfit than at any stage since they returned to the top flight under Kevin Keegan in 2002.

If City had held a five goal lead at half-time it would not have flattered them.

They were on top before Distin nodded home his first goal of the season and it was not until Alex Rodic strode on to Aiyegbeni Yakubu's through-ball in the final minute of the opening period and drilled a shot into Richard Dunne's legs that Portsmouth fashioned anything in the way of a clear-cut chance.

On Thursday, Dunne committed his future to City for another two years, bringing a ringing endorsement of his talent from Pearce, who identified the Irishman as a potential skipper of the future.

Without question, the burly Irishman is one of the most improved players in the Premiership and his central defensive partnership with Distin is one of the most effective in the Premiership.

However, it was as an attacking combination that the pair made the biggest impact on this game.

Portsmouth were always in trouble from the moment keeper Jamie Ashdown attempted to come through a crowd of bodies in an attempt to reach Fowler's third-minute corner.

The former Reading youngster did not get anywhere near it, allowing Dunne to make the first header which, although ill-directed, bounced up perfectly for Distin to nod into the top corner.

City surged forward looking for the kill, doubling their lead after 16 minutes, albeit in controversial circumstances.

TV replays indicated Richard Hughes got a sizeable chunk of the ball when he chopped down Shaun Wright-Phillips in full flight 20 yards out.

Referee Alan Marriner disagreed, awarded the free-kick, and Fowler, to the increased frustration of the Pompey camp, curled it into the bottom corner.

The procession towards Portsmouth's goal continued unabated for the rest of the opening period. Gary O'Neil came perilously close to planting a header into his own net, Dunne sent two headers wide and Wright-Phillips would have sent Fowler clean through had the former Liverpool forward's legs been able to produce the pace of old.

Fowler was eventually replaced by Lee Croft midway through the second half, not entirely to his pleasure, but even if he will never be the player he once was, his contribution is now more than enough to satisfy even the most critical City supporter.

The Blues' best chance of the opening period fell to Joey Barton, following another Ashdown blunder, but the tigerish midfielder smashed his eight-yard volley straight at overworked Portsmouth skipper Arjen de Zeeuw.

Perhaps it was no surprise the hosts could not match the excellence of their first-half work once play resumed after the interval but they were still immensely fortunate not to see their lead halved by O'Neil.

O'Neil will rarely have the kind of time and space afforded to him when Diomansy Kamara squeezed a low cross through a clutch of City defenders. But, from barely six yards, having picked his spot, the midfielder blasted against Ben Thatcher's knees.

Teams


Man City James, Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan (Thatcher 45), Shaun Wright-Phillips, Reyna, Barton, Musampa (Mills 87), Fowler (Croft 68), Sibierski.

Subs Not Used: Weaver, Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Goals: Distin 4, Fowler 16.

Portsmouth Ashdown, Primus, Stefanovic, De Zeeuw, Cisse (Mezague 85), Hughes, O'Neil, Taylor, Yakubu, Kamara, Rodic (Fuller 66).

Subs Not Used: Hislop, Stone, Skopelitis.

Booked: O'Neil.

Att: 46,454

Ref: A Marriner (W Midlands).

 
Blackburn 0 Man City 0     It's stale mate!
Saturday 23rd April 2005 : Steve Parker for Get Your Kits Out at Ewood Park


Blackburn's obsession with keeping clean sheets continued with a goalless draw at home to Manchester City but they had referee Chris Foy to thank for this shut-out.

The match official infuriated City players by turning down two penalty appeals, the first of which especially was clear-cut when Shaun Wright-Phillips was felled by Dominic Matteo.

Instead Blackburn held out for their seventh clean sheet in eight league games, a run that has taken them into a comfortable mid-table position in the Premiership.

But they will not have won any more friends with their safety-first approach to the game, a cautious 4-5-1 formation that has earned them success and criticism in almost equal measure since the turn of the year.

City, not surprisingly, tried to funnel most of their play through the influential Wright-Phillips and it took a well-timed Ryan Nelsen tackle early on to thwart the England winger.

This looked to be a game where one mistake could prove crucial and Sylvain Distin and Richard Dunne were almost caught out chatting to themselves by Brad Friedel's quickly-taken goal-kick, but the wind took the ball away from Jon Stead and into David James' grateful arms.

Lucas Neill then stretched to reach a half-volley that skimmed a couple of yards wide of the post.

Robbie Fowler tried an ambitious chip after robbing Aaron Mokoena but failed to find the height to beat Friedel, then Joey Barton screwed his drive wide from 25 yards when a pass to the unmarked Wright-Phillips seemed the obvious option.

In the main though, quality moves were at a premium as Blackburn, a much more impressive destructive than creative force, squeezed out City's attempts at establishing a passing game.

Finally flair broke through the cloud of negativity. Mokoena charged forward in possession and found Stead on the edge of the area who held off Distin brilliantly before striking a curving left-foot shot that missed the post by a whisker.

Then came that City penalty appeal when Wright-Phillips was caught by Matteo as he ran onto Nedum Onuoha's ball into the box, but referee Foy, who had a clear view, for some baffling reason waved play-on.

A good City free-kick move saw Kiki Musampa power a header across goal but Dunne could only flick it onto the top of the net.

City did get the ball in the net after a corner bounced off Morten Gamst Pedersen but Antoine Sibierski was penalised for a push.

The second half began in positively urgent fashion compared to the tame affair of the first 45 minutes.

Pedersen's quick long throw then saw Stead break clear of Dunne but the City defender managed to do enough to block his shot at the expense of a corner.

Another long throw by the Norwegian saw Blackburn come close to taking the lead when Matteo's volley took a deflection to wrongfoot James and the City keeper only just managed to scramble the ball off his goal-line as Stead slid in.

Having held off a series of Blackburn attacks City began to force the issue themselves and Fowler had a good chance from 20 yards when the way to goal opened up for him but he steered his shot over the crossbar.

Dunne sent a header into his own sidenetting as Blackburn tried to regain the initiative then Steven Reid bulleted a header over from Pedersen's corner.

Musampa created some panic in the home penalty area and the ball pinged around before dropping to Wright-Phillips, who dragged his shot horribly wide.

Joey Barton then had a shot from 18 yards that looked to be going in until Nelsen intervened, then City had a second good penalty appeal turned down when the New Zealander tangled with Sibierski in the Rovers box.

Stead, starved of possession for most of the game, seized onto a loose ball, swivelled and fired but James pulled off a terrific diving save.

With five minutes to go Sibierski flicked on a header from Barton's free-kick over the bar, and the match then fizzled out as both sides appeared to settle for a point.



Teams

Blackburn Friedel, Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo, Mokoena, Emerton, Savage (Thompson 69), Reid, Pedersen (Gallagher 76), Stead.

Subs Not Used: Flitcroft, Tugay, Enckelman.

Man City James, Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Reyna, Barton, Musampa (Croft 77), Fowler (Bradley Wright-Phillips 86), Sibierski.

Subs Not Used: Thatcher, Weaver, Mills.

Att: 24,646

Ref: C Foy (Merseyside).

 
Manchester City 3 Birmingham City 0   Brum Dunne
Wednesday 20th April 2005 Get your Kits Out at COMSTAD


Stuart Pearce's claims on the Manchester City manager's job could prove impossible to resist after the rejuvenated Blues recorded their biggest Premiership win since August on Wednesday night.

Chairman John Wardle has pledged not to rush into appointing Kevin Keegan's permanent successor until the campaign is over. But Pearce believes the vacancy will be his - and the City fans clearly think so too.

After the virtual torpor that set in during Keegan's last weeks in charge, Pearce has ignited the COMSTAD again. And though the former England skipper could not claim the opening 45 minutes to be the best ever seen, there was still enough spirit to launch a second-half assault Birmingham could not repel.

The hosts did enjoy a large degree of good fortune when they took the lead, Robbie Fowler's header bouncing back off a post before hitting Maik Taylor and rolling in.

After that though, City seized command. Late efforts from Richard Dunne and Antoine Sibierski were no more than they deserved and the chants of 'Psycho, Psycho' directed at the home dug-out left no room for wondering who the Blues fans want to lead their club next season.

In a flat opening period, few caused a quickening of the pulse.

Predictably, one who managed it was Shaun Wright-Phillips, so it was pretty unfortunate for the England international that he was also responsible for blowing by far the best chance of the half after just 45 seconds.

After Kiki Musampa had wriggled his way to the by-line, Fowler turned the Dutchman's cut-back through a crowd of Birmingham bodies and against the base of a post.

Taylor scrambled desperately back and Jamie Clapham assumed brace position on the goalline as the rebound rolled invitingly out to Wright-Phillips.

But, so soon into his first Premiership start since the knee operation that ruled him out for six weeks, the inspirational little winger opted to try and drill a shot into the roof of Taylor's net. Instead he succeeded only in blasting hopelessly over.

It was tough luck on Wright-Phillips, who proceeded to mesmerise the Birmingham defence with some typically mazy right-wing raids. At one stage he sent two visiting players completely the wrong way just by standing on the ball, recovering his ground far quicker than either of his opponents to almost set up a City chance.

At least in Wright-Phillips, Pearce's men could claim some creativity. On the evidence of the opening 45 minutes, the visitors didn't possess any.

Aside from a Darren Anderton free-kick which David James dropped after it flashed through the City wall, Birmingham's only incisive attack ended with Emile Heskey lashing over after Mario Melchiot had back-heeled a long ball into the striker's path.

Thankfully, the opening 15 minutes of the second half served up substantially more goalmouth action than the previous 45.

Even before the extreme slice of good fortune that saw the hosts go ahead, Birmingham were bemoaning their luck as Clinton Morrison's expert finish from Jermaine Pennant's cross was ruled out for offside.

Morrison and his manager were incensed by the decision but, while borderline, TV replays proved it to be right.

There was no doubt over the effort which broke the deadlock immediately afterwards, expect for who should be credited with it.

Fowler will probably claim his 10th goal of the campaign but, the fact that his header from Musampa's cross was heading back out of the goal as it struck Taylor and rolled in will be enough for the record books to confirm it should belong to the Birmingham keeper.

Pennant came close to levelling when his curling free-kick beat James but flicked off the bar. That was nothing to the chance Heskey spurned midway through the half though. At 5million, Steve Bruce expects more of the England international than the complete mishit he produced when substitute Stan Lazaridis rolled the most inviting of crosses into his path 10 yards out.

If that was bad, Heskey's attempt to challenge Dunne as the Irishman strode onto Fowler's far post free-kick was pitiful and with the most cursory of shrugs, the defender won himself a free header which he duly planted into the corner.

Still the agony was not over for Birmingham, who fell even further behind five minutes from time when Morrison handled Wright-Phillips' corner, providing Sibierski with the opportunity to stroke home the spot-kick and set the seal on back-to-back home wins for only the third time since City moved into the COMSTAD in 2003. All in all a pretty decent performance by the lads in front of a very poor Birmingham supporters turnout.

Teams:

Man City James, Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Shaun Wright-Phillips (Croft 90), Barton, Reyna, Musampa, Fowler (Bradley Wright-Phillips 81), Sibierski.

Subs Not Used: Weaver, Mills, McManaman.

Goals: Maik Taylor 55 og, Dunne 80, Sibierski 86 pen.

Birmingham Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham (Lazaridis 41), Pennant, Carter, Anderton (Pandiani 76), Clemence (Blake 66), Heskey, Morrison.

Subs Not Used: Bennett, Martin Taylor.

Booked: Morrison.

Att: 42,453

Ref: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

 
Fulham 1 Manchester City 1              A point dropped
Saturday 16th April 2005 :Steve Collins for Get Your Kits Out at Craven Cottage


Fulham strengthened their Barclays Premiership survival bid when Luis Boa Morte salvaged a point against Manchester City at Craven Cottage.

Chris Coleman's men looked to be heading for defeat after Claudio Reyna fired City ahead in the first half but Boa Morte pounced in the 76th minute to snatch a share of the spoils.

Reyna's goal was a bitter pill for Fulham fans to swallow given the USA international had pulled out of a move to Craven Cottage at the last minute in August 2003, despite already being photographed in the club's shirt.

Coleman was enraged by Reyna's late change of heart - he left Sunderland for City instead - but would have watched on enviously as the midfielder impressed during a fine first half from the visitors.

It was all Fulham after the break, however, and it only seemed a question of when the equaliser would arrive - not if - as they poured forward with Boa Morte bagging the goal his performance deserved.

City now have now picked up five points since Stuart Pearce took over as manager and there was much to encourage the former England defender - not least Shaun Wright-Phillips' successful return from a seven-week spell in the treatment room.

Fulham made a lively start with a perfectly-executed through ball from Steed Malbranque finding Boa Morte in space but the Portuguese winger's attempted pass to Brian McBride was intercepted by David James.

City's first meaningful attack arrived in the eighth minute when Reyna set up a chance for Antoine Sibierski only for keeper Edwin van der Sar to pluck the Frenchman's curling effort from the air.

Malbranque saw a powerful shot blocked before Boa Morte and Liam Rosenior probed down the left to little effect as City's defence held firm in the face of sustained pressure from Fulham.

Coleman's men were winning the possession stakes but struggled to find a way past the impressive Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin, while in contrast their rearguard was unlocked with ease in the 20th minute.

Reyna found Robbie Fowler down the right with the former Liverpool striker teeing up a header for Sibierski, who saw his effort saved by van der Sar. The Dutchman did not keep hold of the ball, however, and it fell into the path of Reyna who bundled home.

Fulham threatened to draw level shortly after when Paul Bosvelt nearly turned a Moritz Volz cross into his own net while McBride almost put Andy Cole one-on-one with James in the 29th minute.

Reyna - who was subjected to a chorus of boos by disgruntled Fulham fans every time he touched the ball - then set up a chance for Kiki Musampa but his mishit shot sailed out of danger.

Joey Barton appeared from a throng of players gathered on the left touchline and went on a rampaging run before cutting inside and shooting wide of the right post when his endeavour deserved more.

The lively Malbranque - Fulham's best player by some margin - fired wired again before Boa Morte ghosted around Dunne only for his cross to be scrambled to safety with skipper Lee Clark racing in in goal.

Rosenior dashed inside and found Cole but the former England forward overhit his pass to Boa Morte, who then struck the post with a strong shot in first-half injury time.

Malbranque was pulling all the strings for Fulham and in the 50th minute he threaded a pass through to Cole who rushed his effort with Distin bearing down on him, blazing well wide.

City should have extended their lead in the 56th minute after a sloppy back-pass from Malbranque caused havoc in Fulham's defence. Fowler came up with the ball but he fired off target with only van der Sar to beat.

Defender Zat Knight headed wide while Clark and Malbranque were guilty of dithering a moment later after appearing to have done all the hard work, squandering a great opportunity.

Fowler was replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 62nd minute while Malbranque made way for Tomasz Radzinski - an odd decision given the Frenchman had been Fulham's most effective playmaker.

Collins John - on for Cole - went close with a deflected volley and with City's defence now under the cosh for some time, Fulham's equaliser seemed inevitable and duly arrived in the 76th minute.

McBride challenged James for a cross which the keeper failed to claim and when the ball hit the ground it was swept by McBride to Boa Morte who picked his spot with no-one at home in the City goal.

Teams

Fulham Van der Sar, Volz, Knight, Goma, Rosenior, Boa Morte, Pembridge, Clark, Malbranque (Radzinski 66), Cole (John 69), McBride.

Subs Not Used: Bocanegra, Crossley, Rehman.

Goals: Boa Morte 76.

Man City James, Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Reyna, Barton, Bosvelt, Musampa (Bradley Wright-Phillips 86), Fowler (Shaun Wright-Phillips 62), Sibierski.

Subs Not Used: Thatcher, Weaver, Mills.

Booked: Dunne.

Goals: Reyna 20.

Att: 21,796

Ref: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).

 
 
Manchester City 1 Liverpool 0  - Psycho makes his mark
Saturday 9th April 2005: Alan Morrison at COMSTAD for Get Your Kits Out


Liverpool's Champions League heroics against Juventus were forgotten at Eastlands as Kiki Musampa's last-minute winner smashed a massive hole in the Reds' hopes of making next season's competition.

Despite being outplayed for much of the contest, and surviving a superb Musampa second-half volley which crashed back off a post, Rafael Benitez's men looked like hanging on for the point that would temporarily have taken them above Merseyside rivals Everton.

But, after seeing his side concede late goals in his first two games in charge, it was Stuart Pearce's turn to celebrate today as Lee Croft, thrown on for Paul Bosvelt 20 minutes from time, found space inside the visitors box and picked out Musampa with a superb cross.

There was still plenty of work to do for the on-loan Dutchman but he proved equal to the task, drilling a first-time effort past Scott Carson to give City the win they deserved.

It was the worst possible send-off for Liverpool's decisive trip to Turin, but Benitez will be more bothered by the knowledge Everton will move four points clear of his side if they beat struggling Crystal Palace at Goodison Park tomorrow.

The goal also significantly enhanced Pearce's chances of succeeding Kevin Keegan on a long-term basis and the former England skipper has reason to look back on the contest with an immense amount of pride.

Pearce called on the home fans to 'raise the roof' for his first game in charge, and the former England skipper made sure the players kept their side of the bargain as City hit Liverpool with an enthusiastic early barrage.

Their efforts might have brought some reward if there had been more composure behind the final ball, but too often it went astray.

Two men exempt from criticism both had special reason to shine. As born and bred Merseysiders, Robbie Fowler and Joey Barton both relish the opportunity to dazzle against Liverpool, so it was no surprise they were the pick of City's bunch.

Fowler maintained his excellent recent form with a series of well-timed runs, astute passes and delicate flicks, while Barton, adopted a more robust approach, coming out on top in a series of heavy tackles as well as creating City's best two chances of the opening period.

It was the midfielder's early free-kick which dropped on the head of skipper Sylvain Distin, but though the big defender made a firm contact, Carson, preferred to Jerzy Dudek despite his midweek error, got across to make the save.

The former Leeds keeper should have been made to work much harder when Barton floated a far post cross into Musampa's path midway through the half, only for the Atletico Madrid man to completely mishit a volley that bobbled harmlessly wide.

In those opening stages, Liverpool looked a lacklustre outfit. Given their draining midweek exertions it was perhaps not surprising, but slowly it seemed to dawn on them that offering Everton the initiative in the battle for fourth place should not have been part of their script.

Largely though, Distin and central defensive partner Richard Dunne stayed strong, repelling the threat of Fernando Morientes and Le Tallec with something to spare.

One superb clearance by Dunne from John Arne Riise's low cross caught the eye, although it was David James Liverpool were really cursing for costing them an interval lead.

Despite the wet conditions, it could be argued the England keeper was slightly sloppy in letting Igor Biscan's 25-yard shot slip from his grasp. But just as Le Tallec looked set to smash home the rebound, James redeemed himself, stretching a foot out to prod the ball away from the Frenchman.

After a largely anonymous first half, Steven Gerrard was quick to make an impact in the second, drilling Riise's far-post cross just over.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Gerrard could not sustain his superiority as his old schoolmate Barton slowly took command again.

The Huyton-born player may still have some recklessness in his game but he is also becoming more effective and had it not been for Steve Finnan's last-ditch clearance, his third pinpoint cross of the contest would have provided Antoine Sibierski with a tap-in 20 minutes from time.

Before that, Musampa had smashed his volley against the post, probably meeting Nedum Onouha's cross too well after the young full-back had galloped down the wing at Reyna's invitation.

But just as it looked like City were going to be forced to settle for a draw, up popped Musampa to deliver the killer blow.

Teams:

Man City James, Onuoha (Mills 67), Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Reyna, Barton, Bosvelt (Croft 73), Musampa, Fowler, Sibierski (Bradley Wright-Phillips 83).

Subs Not Used: Weaver, Negouai.

Booked: Barton.

Goals: Musampa 90.

Liverpool Carson, Finnan, Carragher, Pellegrino, Warnock, Luis Garcia (Smicer 68), Gerrard, Biscan, Riise (Traore 82), Le Tallec, Morientes (Welsh 78).

Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia.

Booked: Carragher.

Att: 47,203

Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).


Charlton 2 Manchester City 2   Point at the Valley
Saturday 2nd April 2005 : Angela Howson for Get Your kits Out at the Valley


If Stuart Pearce did not already understand the immense frustrations of life in the Manchester City hot-seat, he must surely do now.

Pearce was seemingly heading towards his first victory as acting boss as City led Charlton 2-1 at The Valley with just seconds of injury-time left.

The visitors had created almost all of the chances and had boasted the game's one attacking player of any real class in a rejuvenated Robbie Fowler.

Indeed, Fowler had put City 2-1 ahead just before half-time after Shaun Bartlett had levelled Hermann Hreidarsson's early own goal.

However, even though City had a plethora of chances to put the game beyond reach, that would have been too simple.

Rather than playing the percentage game of keeping hold of possession, they squandered the ball and allowed Charlton to counter-attack at pace.

Luke Young delivered a dangerous cross, which was flicked on by substitute Francis Jeffers, and defender Chris Perry was left unmarked to beat David James at his near post.

It was a game that summed up just why City are so intoxicating to watch and so utterly frustrating to coach.

Kiely had first been required to produce an instinctive save from Kiki Musampa after just three minutes only for City to strike from the ensuing corner.

Dunne rose highest in a packed penalty area and his header was unwittingly deflected goalwards by Hreidarsson, while Danny Murphy failed in an attempted clearance off the goal-line.

Charlton were helped by some hapless defending from City captain Sylvain Distin in drawing level just five minutes later.

Distin failed to either control or clear Jerome Thomas' cross, which also eluded James, and Bartlett was left with the simple task of converting the loose ball.

Back came City, with Charlton's defence in a complete mess without the suspended Talal El Karkouri.

Fowler twice played through Macken but the the City striker's attempted dummy around Kiely only managed to fool himself as he stumbled, before Kiely again denied him with a fine block.

Fowler's next instinctive cross fell to Claudio Reyna, whose first-time drive was deflected just inches wide, while Fowler's own effort suffered the same fate.

With Curbishley animatedly urging Charlton on from the sidelines, the home side finally started to compete in midfield. Not that they were any better at the back, however.

City merely bided their time before Fowler was left unmarked to race in at the far post and thump Joey Barton's corner into the roof of the net.

Charlton were booed off at the half-time break and it was a measure of just how awful they had been that Curbishley made two changes at the break.

On came centre-back Jonathan Fortune for Mark Fish, while Francis Jeffers replaced Jonatan Johansson up front.

Charlton were finally starting to exert some pressure of their own, but Murphy's drive was saved at the near post by James, who also foiled a shot on the turn from Jeffers.

The home side girded themselves for a late push but Jerome Thomas snatched at one chance while Matt Holland, in his 500th club appearance, looped a header against the bar.

City, meanwhile, still threatened as Hreidarsson just blocked Reyna's shot, while Fowler put Macken through a third time only for the striker to turn himself inside and out before missing his kick.

Kiely also had to produce another neat save to deny Musampa but City were made to pay for their largesse in front of goal as Perry completed Charlton's unlikely late recovery act.

Welcome to life as City boss, Stuart Pearce.


Teams


Charlton Kiely, Young, Perry, Fish (Fortune 45), Hreidarsson (Lisbie 76), Konchesky, Johansson (Jeffers 45), Holland, Murphy, Thomas, Bartlett.

Subs Not Used: Andersen, Hughes.

Booked: Young.

Goals: Bartlett 10, Perry 90.

Man City James, Jordan, Dunne, Distin, Onuoha, Reyna, Musampa, Barton, Sibierski, Macken, Fowler.

Subs Not Used: Sommeil, Weaver, Mills, Croft, Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Goals: Hreidarsson 4 og, Fowler 38.

Att: 26,436

Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).