August 2007 - Reports
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Bristol City 1  Manchester City 2     City's 1st win at Ashton Gate
Thursday August 30th 2007: Mike Baker for Get Your Kits Out at Ashton Gate

Manchester City fans are rightly wary of greeting a false dawn in their team's apparent transformation under Sven-Goran Eriksson but at least now they have tangible evidence of progress.

The Swede has taken them to the third round of the League Cup for the first time in three seasons. This competition may offer Eriksson one of his more realistic avenues to a trophy but he still took the opportunity to explore the depths of his squad and, in doing so, accept the risk of an indifferent display.

In spite of his eight changes to the starting XI who lost to a late goal against Arsenal at the weekend, Eriksson insisted afterwards that he was not treating the Carling Cup lightly. "I do take it seriously because we haven't been winning anything for quite a long time.

"I made the changes because we have a big squad and I took the opportunity to look at different players. I am relieved to get through, of course. We should have finished the game much earlier than we did. But you know that when you don't take chances you will suffer and we suffered at the end. They could have scored twice in the second half."

The fact that his side's passage was anything but comfortable, however, was entirely their own fault after a first half in which Emile Mpenza gave them an early lead they should have extended beyond Bristol's hope.

The Belgian striker was impressive throughout. He linked well with his forward partner Rolando Bianchi and should have scored after 14 minutes but blasted over after a neat flick by the Italian. Three minutes later the same combination opened the scoring as Bianchi again sent a through-ball into the Bristol area and this time Mpenza fired a left-foot shot through Chris Weale's grasp for his first goal of the season.

Numerous opportunities to add the lead were created but City paid for their wastefulness when Bradley Orr took advantage of some defensive dithering to score from close range in the 68th minute. With renewed confidence the home side pushed forward and merely succeeded in allowing Bianchi enough time and room on the break to beat Weale from long range in the 80th minute.

The Italian's strike may have settled the tie but Michael McIndoe and all but one person inside Ashton Gate thought Bristol had forced extra-time when the winger's backheel deep into injury-time sent the home crowd into rapture. It turned to despair as one by one they noticed the linesman's raised flag.

Gary Johnson, the Bristol City manager, was among their number. "I thought we deserved to go into extra-time," he said. "It's a fine line between success and failure but Macca has seen it and he told me he was just offside. So I punched him."

Bristol City: Weale, Orr (Jevons 86), Carey, Fontaine, McAllister, McIndoe, Johnson, Elliott, Brian Wilson (Sproule 52), Murray, Trundle.
Subs Not Used: Basso, Skuse, Vasko.

Goals: Orr 69.

Man City: Hart, Jihai, Corluka, Onuoha, Ball, Logan, Ireland, Gelson, Geovanni (Dabo 82), Mpenza, Bianchi (Dickov 89).
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Mills, Laird.

Goals: Mpenza 17, Bianchi 81.

Att: 14,541

Ref: Richard Beeby (Northamptonshire).

Arsenal  1  Manchester City 0    

Table-toppers Manchester City suffered their first defeat of the season to end their three-match winning streak, losing 1-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

A warm and sunny day in North London saw and equally bright starts for both Arsenal and Manchester City began the encounter positively in an attack-minded mood. Robin Van Persie had Arsenal's first notable effort on four minutes when a shot from 25 yards fizzed just over Kasper Schmeichel's bar.

City were playing well on the counter-attack and a promising break on ten minutes ended up with Martin Petrov firing a shot from the edge of the box narrowly wide of the left upright.

Arsenal had to re-adjust on 19 minutes when the injured Bacary Sagna was replaced by Denilson, with Mathieu Flamini switching from midfield to right-back. With Gilberto already playing in an unaccustomed centre-back role, Arsenal's defence, had a makeshift look about it. Manchester City may have had that as the source of their expansive thinking. They came close to a break-though on 22 minutes when Elano was put through on goal by Emile Mpenza, but his well-struck effort from just inside the area was well claimed by Manuel Almunia.

Arsenal's best opportunity of the first half came on 38 minutes and was as a consequence of lighting fast passing and intelligent movement. Emmanuel Adebayor received possession on the right side of the area from Fabregas, who then took a return ball on the overlap to drill in a low cross that had all the Manchester City defence and keeper beaten. Unfortunately for the Gunners, the ball was just too quick for Van Persie who was millimetres away from connecting as he slid in on the far post.

Within five minutes it was Van Persie driving in a cross from the right. Again, City were all beaten and once again, an Arsenal striker, Adebayor this time, could not get toe to ball. Cracks were beginning to appear in the visitors defence and the half-time whistle came just in time.

The Gunners began where they finished after the re-start, with Adebayor firing just wide of the left post with Schmeichel desperately scrambling across goal.

Petrov went close again for the visitors on 57 minutes when he was left unmarked on the left flank. The Bulgarian fired a well struck drive across goal that flashed past Almunia and his left post. The Gunners keeper was on hand five minutes later to come out bravely to save an Mpenza shot from point-blank range.

At the other end the Gunners couldn't quite find a clinical finish. Adebayor's back-heeled effort bounced wide on 64 minutes. A minute later Micah Richards hauled down Alex Hleb on the right side of the area and after a brief exchange of glances with his assistant he pointed to the spot. Even then, Arsenal could not find the net. Van Persie's penalty kick was a poor one allowing Schmeichel to save with his legs. The City keeper, then made two fine saves within a minute, one from a Van Persie shot and then palming over a 25-yard Fabregas effort.

It was the young Spaniard who did eventually make the breakthrough on 81 minutes. He exchanged passes on the edge of the area with Flamini before firing high into the net from five yards out to be the first payer to score past the City keeper this season. The youngster did well to keep Arsenal's lead to a single goal with a great save from Tomas Rosicky with Hleb firing the rebound wide.

The young keeper even had a header on target as he went up to meet a corner in a bid to secure his side a point. But, the Gunners held out to continue their own unbeaten run and climb up the table.

A relieved Arsene Wenger said afterwards: "I know we'll fight until the last second. I always felt we would score, but Manchester City are a good team. "They defended very well and they keep the ball well and we started a bit with the handbrake on.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia, Bacary Sagna (Pereira Neves Denilson 19), Gael Clichy, Philippe Senderos, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor (Eduardo Da Silva 75), Robin van Persie (Alexandre Song 87),

Subs not used: Nicklas Bendtner, Lukasz Fabianski

Manchester City: Kasper Schmeichel, Vedran Corluka, Micah Richards, Richard Dunne, Javier Garrido, Emile Lokonda Mpenza (Rolando Bianchi 75),

Subs not used: Joe Hart, Nedum Onuoha

Booked: Dietmar Hamann 16

Referee: Christopher Foy

Attendance: 60114

Manchester City 1 Manchester Uni£ed 0   Top of the League!!!
Sunday August 19th 2007 : Daniel Taylor for Get Your Kits Out at the COMSTAD

At this stage of the season it is never wise to set too much store by the Premier League table, but forgive Manchester City's supporters if they are unable to resist the temptation. Their team is squatting defiantly at the summit after yesterday's derby and, when there is the added joy of seeing United grubbing around for points among lesser lights, so what if the new campaign is barely one week old?

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"If you could have points for possession of the ball and for shots, on and off target, we would have lost," Sven-Goran Eriksson reflected at the end of a match in which not even the most impassioned City supporter could truthfully recall a five-minute period when the team in blue managed any form of superiority. "But we scored a goal and they didn't."

Even Eriksson wanted to express sympathy with City's opponents as he tried to make sense of a game that could be replayed a thousand and one times and would never cease to amaze.

"It will take a long time to explain," Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledged, and there was crushing disappointment in those rheumy eyes. "When you consider the number of chances we have had, plus our possession in the final third of the pitch, we really should have made it count. We've just been wasteful in front of goal, and that's the nuts and bolts of it. I don't think we can even say City were lucky."

Ferguson may change his mind when he considers Kasper Schmeichel's jitters in the home goal and, again, when he analyses the decisive deflection that Geovanni's 20-yard drive took off Nemanja Vidic's instep for the game's only goal, in precisely the area of the pitch that Owen Hargreaves, making his debut, was supposed to be protecting.

United attacked with pace and purpose, they stretched their opponents, forced corner after corner, rattled the woodwork and laid siege to Schmeichel's goal. In many ways, it was the most one-sided derby here for years - a comprehensive 0-1 thrashing, if you like - but Eriksson will not mind if the victory was fortuitous.

All of which means United have taken only two points from their first three games and are languishing in 16th position on the Premier League table. "We've got ourselves in an uphill fight now," said Ferguson. "Ten years ago we could have handled that because we have always been good in the second half of the season, and now we are going to have to be. The most important thing is to get that first win under our belts. Our next home match against Tottenham is a very important one."

Only the seriously deluded could believe that the damage is irreparable but this is still a deeply worrying time for Ferguson. His complaints about missed chances have been a recurring theme in their opening programme and, having spent so much money on bringing in English football's version of the galácticos, it is peculiar, to say the least, that it is such an issue.

His dismay was exacerbated because City, for the most part, were completely ineffectual when going forward while Schmeichel was, at best, vulnerable and, at worst, a danger to his own team. The young Dane may have a famous surname but he was frequently stranded in his six-yard area, particularly when dealing with Ryan Giggs's corners. His promotion from fourth to first choice has clearly come too soon.

How did he get away with it? Largely because United were missing Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer through injury and Carlos Tevez was too eager to impress, snatching at two very presentable chances. Patrice Evra and the otherwise impressive Nani missed even easier opportunities but it is difficult to begrudge City. What they lacked in quality, Eriksson's side made up for in endeavour, from Dietmar Hamann and Michael Johnson in midfield to Richard Dunne and Micah Richards in defence.

Richards, in particular, produced a colossal performance, making at least half a dozen telling interceptions or saving tackles, and he surely deserves a starting place in England's friendly against Germany on Wednesday.

The only downside for City was the news that Valeri Bojinov might face a lengthy lay-off after his early departure on a stretcher. That apart, however, this was Eriksson's "perfect day" and City's supporters will not care whether the win was lucky as they flick through the record books to find out the last time they were seven points better off than their most despised rivals.

While one team from Manchester can boast an immaculate record of achievement, the other is still looking for its first victory of the season, with only one goal in three games and still to face a side with realistic aspirations of finishing in the top six. Eriksson is enjoying his honeymoon period, but who could have foreseen it would coincide with United enduring their worst start to a season for 15 years?

Get Your Kits Out View : This was a nerve racking 90 minutes but the truth of the matter is City won and that's all they need to do especially against the rags. Next week I'm sure we will see a different type of game at the Emirates Stadium but so far so good. Richards is magnificent.

Man City: Schmeichel, Garrido, Richards, Dunne, Corluka, Geovanni (Ball 74), Hamann, Johnson, Petrov, Bojinov (Mpenza 8), Elano (Bianchi 63). Subs Not Used: Hart, Onuoha.

Booked: Hamann, Corluka.

Goals: Geovanni 31.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown (O'Shea 73), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Hargreaves, Scholes, Carrick (Campbell 73), Giggs, Nani (Eagles 60), Tevez. Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Silvestre.

Booked: Brown, Ferdinand.

Att: 44,955

Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Co Durham).


Manchester City  1  Derby County  0          A Goal at Home
Thursday August 16, 2007:Daniel Taylor for GYKO at the COMSTAD

The last time it happened Britney Spears had a full head of hair, Tony Blair was still to give his handover date and Tracey Barlow was waiting for her day in court. It was January 1, to be precise, but finally the wait is over: Manchester City have scored a league goal at home.

When Michael Johnson struck the game's decisive moment it ended a barren run stretching 227 days. Or to put it another way, 13 hours and one minute of hitherto sterile football. Forgive City's long-suffering supporters therefore for milking the moment en route to celebrating a second win in five days. Eriksson may have his critics - and the club's new owner Thaksin Shinawatra certainly has - but their unlikely alliance has brought an immediate turnaround in fortunes.

Thaksin could easily be located as the only man with bodyguards in the VIP enclosure. Eriksson started in the top tier too but quickly transferred to the dugout, seated sedately where Stuart Pearce once prowled. The former England manager must have been encouraged by the vigour with which his name was serenaded. Less pleasing was the team's lack of cohesion throughout the opening exchanges but, even without reaching the exhilarating heights that were attained against West Ham United on Saturday, City frequently looked dangerous in attack.

The long-awaited moment arrived three minutes before half-time. Derby had defended robustly until that point but the speed of movement as Elano set Michael Johnson running clear was too much for the promoted side. Johnson has attracted interest from Liverpool recently and it is easy to see why. He is tall, strong, a prodigious runner and accomplished on the ball, and there was something exceptional about the manner in which he curled his shot beyond Stephen Bywater in the visiting goal.

Eriksson may have constructed one of the more cosmopolitan squads in English football but it was Johnson, a Mancunian, and Stephen Ireland, from Cork, who stood out. There were some nice touches from Elano and the Bulgarian Martin Petrov attacked with pace and purpose. Yet City were indebted at times to Kasper Schmeichel, their 20-year-old goalkeeper, particularly for one sprawling save at the feet of Stephen Pearson.

For Eriksson there must be a concern about the occasionally dishevelled defending. City were anything but impenetrable and their manager will require an improvement if he is to put one over his old adversary Sir Alex Ferguson in Sunday's Manchester derby.

Get Your Kits Out View : The first two games and two wins, I can't remember that happening in the Premiership with City so something's right. The game was indeed a bit scrappy and lacked the swagger of Saturdays win at West Ham but the atmosphere was quite special. Things are starting to go well and Saturday will be a true guide as to how well but, to be honest the whole place seems to be filled with genuine expextation.

Man City: Schmeichel, Corluka, Dunne, Richards, Garrido, Ireland, Johnson, Hamann, Petrov (Geovanni 74), Bianchi (Bojinov 78), Elano (Mpenza 89).
Subs Not Used: Hart, Onuoha.

Booked: Petrov, Hamann, Johnson.

Goals: Johnson 43.

Derby: Bywater, Mears, Moore, Davis, Griffin, Jones (Teale 46), Oakley, Todd (McEveley 77), Fagan (Earnshaw 70), Howard, Pearson.
Subs Not Used: Price, Leacock.

Booked: Howard.

Att: 43,620.

Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

West Ham United 0 Manchester City 2     City open in Style
Saturday 11th August 2007 : Alan Bate for Get Your Kits Out at Upton Park

Sven-Goran Eriksson enjoyed a glorious start to life at Manchester City as new boys Rolando Bianchi and Geovanni condemned West Ham to that old familiar losing feeling. With a side virtually thrown together in the space of a month, Eriksson found the potent combination of an effective and winning performance, with the promise of much more to come when his eight new boys eventually find their feet. Bianchi's close-range effort before the break and Geovanni's angled drive near the end sealed a win which was enough to shut the mouths of Eriksson's many critics, for a while at least anyway.

But opposite number Alan Curbishley, a one-time candidate for the Swede's old job, must be anxious about his side's pitiful display at the beginning of a campaign which promised so much after the troubles of last term. In fact, the high point of an otherwise horrible day for the Hammers was Dean Ashton's return, and even he could not wipe the smile off Eriksson's face.

Given the largely negative manner in which his time in charge of the England side is remembered, Eriksson might have expected a rather more frosty reception than he actually received. The Swede took his place in the dug-out relatively unnoticed as the home fans blew their pre-match bubbles and did not emerge until City were ahead.

Other than an isolated cat-call, the only boos Eriksson heard were reserved for the West Ham players following a bitterly disappointing contest as far as the home fans were concerned.

Despite dominating possession for long periods in the opening period, Curbishley's side failed miserably to put any pressure on rookie keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Eriksson must have feared for the 20-year-old, son of great Dane Peter, when he named him in a starting line-up featuring six Premier League debutants.Yet Schmeichel was a virtual spectator as City's defence, protected superbly by Dietmar Hamann and Michael Johnson, kept them at arm's length.

All the threat came from the visitors, with Martin Petrov particularly prolific in the shooting department. The Bulgarian midfielder let fly from all angles without being able to beat Robert Green. It was Elano who provided the touch of class though. One of Eriksson's eight summer signings, although presumably someone the Swede did at least previously view on TV given his Champions League experience with Shakhtar Donetsk and international background with Brazil, most recently in their triumphant Copa America campaign, Elano enjoyed a superb introduction to the English game.

Deployed just behind lone striker Bianchi, Elano found space intelligently, never lost his composure and always threatened to cause problems. The 26-year-old had already fired one snap-shot over when he collected Stephen Ireland's short pass after Luis Boa Morte had lost possession inside the City half. Quickly sensing Matthew Upson might lack half a yard of pace, Elano ran straight at the England defender, then skipped round him with the minimum of fuss. The low cross invited a far post finish and Bianchi - fourth highest scorer in Serie A last term - was on hand to tap home.

Curbishley gave a clear indication of what he thought about West Ham's attempts to level by hauling off both Boa Morte and Lee Bowyer during the interval. For the moment Ashton, the man most Hammers fans and watching England coach Steve McClaren really wanted to see, remained on the bench. But the introduction of Matthew Etherington instantly brought the home side more threat.

Micah Richards needed all his impressive strength to prevent Craig Bellamy getting his head to Freddie Ljungberg's cross and with Schmeichel suddenly starting to wobble, the Hammers went for it. Ljungberg was an inch away from turning home Etherington's cross but, with just under half an hour remaining Curbishley called on Ashton, who had not played a game since breaking an ankle on England duty 12 months ago.

Yet, with Richards matching Ashton stride for stride and jump for jump, the move actually stopped West Ham's flow, allowing City to force themselves back into the contest. Robert Green was unconvincing as he fumbled Petrov's shot and only Ireland's slack pass prevented the midfielder being offered another sight of the Hammers goal.

But the golden moment Ashton had been waiting for arrived 11 minutes from time as Etherington picked him out with a deep cross. The striker took aim from 10 yards, only to see his first-time volley skim the crossbar. It was the nearest West Ham came to spoiling Eriksson's day before substitute Geovanni rammed home number two four minutes from time.

Get Your Kits Out View : A great start for Sven and a thoroughly deserved win against the Irons. This team can only improve and it will be interesting to see how they fare at home on Wednesday against newly promoted Derby.


West Ham: Green, Spector, Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney (Ashton 63), Ljungberg, Bowyer (Mullins 46), Noble, Boa Morte (Etherington 46), Zamora, Bellamy.

Subs Not Used: Wright, Gabbidon.

Man City: Schmeichel, Richards, Corluka (Onuoha 62), Dunne, Garrido, Elano (Geovanni 80), Hamann, Johnson, Petrov, Ireland, Bianchi (Bojinov 61).

Subs Not Used: Hart, Gelson.

Booked: Garrido, Ireland, Elano, Geovanni.

Goals: Bianchi 18, Geovanni 87.

Att: 34,921

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).


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