August 2006
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Chelsea 3 Manchester City 0       A Bridge too far for City
Sunday 20th August 2006 :Matt Barlow at Stamford Bridge for Get Your Kits Out


John Terry, who led from the front to score in his first game as England skipper against Greece on Wednesday, launched Chelsea's bid for a hat-trick of Premiership titles in similar style on Sunday.

PictureTerry led from the front to score in his first game as England skipper against Greece on Wednesday.

And he was on target again as Jose Mourinho's champions sank 10-man City to get the defence of their Barclays Premiership crown off to the right start.

Frank Lampard added a second before the break and Didier Drogba grabbed the third after Bernardo Corradi was sent off on his City debut.

It was business as usual at Stamford Bridge, where Mourinho has still not lost a league game since his arrival.

The Blues boss claimed his team were not ready for the new campaign with a string of injuries and an unusually short pre-season programme behind them.

But, as the players emerged from the tunnel for their warm-up, the big screens at Stamford Bridge showed Manchester Uni£ed hammering Fulham 5-1 at Old Trafford.

United had started with a bang and, ready or not, Chelsea would not want to concede early ground to the Stretford Reds.

Liverpool and Arsenal had both dropped two points on the opening day from games they were expected to win.

Chelsea had to get the job done - and they did with the sort of ruthlessness which has become their trademark under Mourinho.

They did not look particularly fluent in their new attacking formation with two strikers and two wingers.

But they went ahead through their on-field leader Terry in the 11th minute and, from that point, never looked like taking anything less than three points from the game.

Terry once again proved what a big influence he can have on matches.

The defender trotted forward after Ben Thatcher fouled Paulo Ferreira on the Chelsea right.

Arjen Robben delivered an inswinger and Terry slipped marker Richard Dunne to glance a header past City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver, standing in for new signing Andreas Isaksson.

Weaver had no chance with that goal or the second, from Lampard in the 26th minute, which took a cruel deflection off Dunne.

Michael Essien found his midfield partner unmarked on the edge of the City penalty area with his back to goal.

Lampard, also on target for England against Greece, spun and released a low shot which clipped Dunne on the shin and left Weaver stranded.

It put Chelsea in total control despite the string of injuries which left Mourinho without Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele, Joe Cole, Robert Huth, Geremi and Petr Cech.

William Gallas was not considered for selection after upsetting Mourinho with his late return for pre-season and his demands for a transfer.

City boss Pearce came to Stamford Bridge with problems of his own.

Isaksson, Didi Hamann, Hatem Trabelsi and Andy Cole were missing but there were Premiership debuts for Ousmane Dabo and Corradi.

City rarely troubled Carlo Cudicini. Claudio Reyna fired wide from long-range in the first-half and Corradi miscued a difficult chance on the volley.

Chelsea wanted a penalty when an Andriy Shevchenko shot hit Dunne on the arm, five minutes into the second half, but referee Steve Bennett quite rightly waved away their appeals.

It was another of the controversial ball-to-hand incidents which have dominated the first weekend of the Premiership.

Replays clearly showed the ball hit Dunne's arm but it was certainly not intentional and City rightly escaped.

Any hope of a dramatic City comeback vanished when Corradi collected his second yellow card in the 63rd minute.

The striker was booked when he and Dabo performed a superb pincer attack on Ferreira - and the Italian received his second booking for a reckless late challenge on Essien.

It was a clear-cut decision for referee Bennett, who also booked Essien for his reaction to the foul, when the Chelsea midfielder tugged Corradi's hair.

Drogba made it 3-0 with a diving header, 12 minutes from time, after Wayne Bridge had raced down the left-wing on the overlap and collected a pass from Robben.

It looked like a good day for the champions would be capped when Shevchenko had the net in stoppage time - - but the Ukrainian's hopes of opening his Premiership goal account on his debut were ended by an offside flag.

Saddest sight of the day was to see what Chelsea have done to Sean Wright Phillips. How can you change such an exciting bubbly little character into the shadow that was on view here at Stamford Bridge. Clearly out of his depth he needs another club where his undoubted skills could be unleashed yet again on the Premier League.

Teams:
Chelsea Cudicini, Paulo Ferreira, Terry, Ricardo Carvalho,Bridge, Wright-Phillips (Kalou 72), Lampard, Essien,Robben (Diarra 79), Shevchenko, Drogba (Mikel 83).


Subs Not Used: Hilario, Mancienne.
Booked: Essien.
Goals: Terry 11, Lampard 26, Drogba 78.


Man City Weaver, Richards, Distin, Dunne, Thatcher, Sinclair,Barton, Dabo (Vassell 57), Reyna (Ireland 72), Corradi,Samaras (Dickov 57).


Subs Not Used: Hart, Danny Mills.

Sent Off: Corradi (63).
Booked: Dabo, Corradi, Dickov.

Att: 41,953

Ref: S Bennett (Kent).

Manchester City 0 Portsmouth 0                Pure Dross
Wednesday 23rd August 2006 : GYKO at the COMSTAD


This was a seriously forgettable match at the City of Manchester Stadium last night, except for one appalling episode three minutes into the second half: Ben Thatcher’s forearm smash into the jaw of Pedro Mendes that resulted in the Portsmouth midfield player being kept in hospital overnight for observation.

It was an ugly scene, and whether the Manchester City left back was trying to make up for a lack of
Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes lies injured on the sidelines incident in the Barclays Premiership game, who knows, but the force of his blow sent the Portuguese crashing into the advertising hoardings.


As he lay unconscious on the ground, Mendes suffered a fit before being carried off on a stretcher five minutes later and straight to hospital as paramedics administered oxygen and connected him to a drip.

Had Dermot Gallagher, the referee, got a clear view of the incident, he would probably have sent off Thatcher, but having only booked him, which suggested that he saw an infringement, the Welshman may escape censure from the FA.

“We say we’ve had a clampdown, but what’s a red card if that’s not a red card?” Harry Redknapp, an irate Portsmouth manager, said in the aftermath. “What have you got to do to get a red card, kill someone? You pull someone’s shirt or kick the ball away and get booked and then you go and do that and only get a yellow card. They (the FA) have got to look at it, it’s there for all to see.”

Some might have forgiven Thatcher had he not had any previous. He was sent off for two bookings against Shanghai Shenhua during City’s summer tour to China, but it was an elbow that resulted in one of the Shanghai players suffering a collapsed lung during the same match that lingers in the memory.

And the full back received a two-match ban for elbowing Nicky Summerbee while playing for Wimbledon against Sunderland in January 2000. Worse still, the attack on Mendes was not his first of the game. He also raised arms at Sean Davis, Kanu and Benjani Mwaruwari, which escaped the attention of Gallagher.

“I knew it was coming five seconds before it came,” Redknapp said. “As soon as I saw Ben Thatcher, I knew what was going to happen. I would have bet my life on it being a banger. Off the field, you couldn’t meet a nicer boy. Unfortunately, when he is on the pitch he does things like that.”

Redknapp’s comments were echoed by Matt Taylor. “It was a disgrace,” the Portsmouth midfield player said. “Thatcher needs to have a look at himself.”

Stuart Pearce claimed not to have seen the incident properly. “I hope it (the video evidence) shows it was accidental, but if it does not, I think the disciplinary action will come from elsewhere,” the City manager said.

David James, who was cheered on his return after signing for Portsmouth a fortnight ago, would probably have been hard pressed to remember the previous time an opposition goalkeeper was given such an easy ride at the City of Manchester Stadium. But he still had more to do than Nicky Weaver in the City goal, who, with the exception of a splendid save from Taylor in the 68th minute, was redundant.

Joey Barton and Ishmael Miller had City’s best chances, but the mind had drifted to thoughts for Mendes’s health long before the final whistle.

Get Your Kits Out View : On Thatcher - Sack the thug. This was the lowest crowd to watch a Premier League game at the COMSTAD and the alarm bells must be ringing in the boardroom. If they think even the most die hard fans will shell out the best part of £50 each to watch this miserable excuse for entertainment then I can assure them, the bad times are on the way back. Buck up or prepare to down size. I'm taking my two young grandsons to watch the Arsenal game at the COMSTAD on Saturday and that will cost me the best part of £100.00 when you add travel, programmes, drinks, food etc. Fifty years plus of City blood running through my veins is being severely tested at the moment.

Teams

Man City Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher, Sinclair,Barton, Reyna (Ireland 66), Samaras (Miller 71), Vassell,Dickov.

Subs Not Used: Hart, Dabo, Danny Mills.

Booked: Sinclair, Thatcher.

Portsmouth James, Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Stefanovic,Taylor, O'Neil, Davis, Pedro Mendes(Hughes 52), Kanu,Mwaruwari (Todorov 65).

Subs Not Used: Jordan, Thompson, Pamarot.

Booked: Davis.

Att: 37,214

Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).          Left - City Corner & Jamo returns

Manchester City 1 Arsenal 0       The Real City Turn up!
Saturday 26th August 2006 : GYKO at the COMSTAD


Joey Barton blasted Manchester City out of their own misery and pitched Arsenal into despair at Eastlands.

No goals, bottom of the table, submerged in bad publicity following Ben Thatcher's disgraceful conduct and their neighbours from Old Trafford blazing a trail at the top.

As opening weeks go, things could hardly have been any worse for City and their supporters.
Picture

Yet the Blues emerged from the gloom to produce their most purposeful and effective performance since they tumbled out of last season's FA Cup to West Ham in March, with Barton - himself a man with plenty of previous - providing the finish, rattling home a 41st-minute penalty.

Barton could not quite be described as the hero. There were plenty of others who deserved the accolade as well, notably central defensive duo Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin, plus goalkeeper Nicky Weaver, who twice brilliantly denied Thierry Henry with his legs.

City's collective defiance came at the expense of an Arsenal side who, if the Barclays Premiership must have a crisis club, are now it.

One point from two games, and already eight adrift of Manchester United, Arsene Wenger's men appear to be a pale shadow of the side which reached last season's Champions League Final.

And, if Blackburn manage to avoid defeat against Chelsea, the Gunners will spend the two-week international break sitting embarrassingly in the Premiership relegation zone.

Given the publicity surrounding Thatcher and the fact City were entertaining a side they had not beaten in 17 years, as backdrops go, it was about as bleak as the darkest, dullest, wet and miserable Manchester day.

Yet, summoning up all the tenacity and battling spirit for which manager Stuart Pearce is famed, they took the fight to their illustrious opponents without ever crossing the line of acceptability Thatcher so clearly transgressed on Wednesday.

True, Weaver did make two excellent feet-first saves to deny Henry, but could only watch  as Van Percie blasted a shot against the post and Kolo Toure's injury-time header did bounce off the top of City's crossbar, but it would be hard to deny the hosts their interval lead.

Barton was his usual all-action self in midfield, while Dunne and Distin stood firm as Henry threatened mayhem.

Crucially, it appeared Pearce had also identified a glaring weakness in Arsenal's defence.

In setting his side up for a rugby union-style kick-off and then berating Weaver for launching a long ball to the Arsenal right in the opening minutes, Pearce clearly felt the inexperience of Gunners left-back Justin Hoyte offered an avenue of opportunity.

By the time Hoyte conceded the fateful penalty, his lack of positional nous had already been exposed once by a high, cross field pass.

On that occasion, Sinclair slipped past him and fed Barton, whose precise strike rolled inches wide.

Fearing the worst when Sinclair seized possession in similar circumstances but inside the area four minutes before the break, Hoyte simply crashed into the former England international.

Barton, once again a City hero after resolving his much-publicised contract dispute, kept his nerve from the spot, even if his shot did cannon in off the underside of the bar.

The Blues would have been in front before that anyway had Bernardo Corradi's downward header had the power to prevent Jens Lehmann getting across to make a low save.

Given the ever-decreasing margin for error in completing successful title quests, Arsenal could hardly afford to lose any more ground, even at this ridiculously early stage of the season.

It was fairly obvious the Gunners' attacking momentum should increase throughout the second period, yet Henry's best efforts produced no reward as Dunne and Distin continued their heroics.

Behind them, Weaver remained calm and kept his concentration, although even he was forced to breathe a sigh of relief when Robin van Persie's angled effort flew past both him and his left-hand post.

In the end, with new signing Tomas Rosicky showing none of the verve which made him one of the most eye-catching players at the World Cup, Wenger called on Theo Walcott.

But the teenager could not conjure up any magic and Wenger badly needs to find some inspiration before the transfer window shuts next week.

Get Your Kits Out View : After the midweek dross that we had to endure at the COMSTAD it was refreshing to see City make a decent fist of this one. Yes Arsenal could have had a bagful but, they didn't. Yes Arsenal could have had a penalty but, City did and for me a deserved first win of the season. I hope the City lads watch the video of this game if only to see Arsenals excellent pass and move football, that is the way to play the game but, City still won without it.

Teams

Man City Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Sinclair,Barton, Dabo, Vassell (Danny Mills 80), Dickov (Samaras 86),Corradi (Miller 90).

Subs Not Used: Hart, Ireland.

Booked: Jordan.

Goals: Barton 41 pen.

Arsenal Lehmann, Eboue (Flamini 83), Toure, Djourou, Hoyte,Hleb (Adebayor 76), Fabregas, Silva, Rosicky (Walcott 66),Van Persie, Henry.

Subs Not Used: Almunia, Cygan.

Booked: Van Persie.

Att: 40,699

Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).

 

 

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