February 2007
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Preston North End 1 Manchester City 3       More Cup Success
Sunday February 18th 2007 : Stuart James for GYKO at Deepdale

No one should have expected Stuart Pearce, with his back to the wall, to do anything other than come out fighting. Manchester City's manager has been under the spotlight after three successive Premiership defeats and his contentious decision to take over the England Under-21 position but this was a result to ease any pressure. City fully deserved this derby victory to secure a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Preston, sixth in the Championship, had been expected to provide a severe test but it was City who posed most of the questions. Not even an early concession, when David Nugent enhanced his reputation with a predatory goal in the seventh minute, unsettled City. The visitors responded positively and, though two of their goals were scored late on, Preston could have few complaints about the outcome.

Paul Simpson's side did, however, rue their failure to score a second goal when Michael Ricketts burst through in the 24th minute. Preston were already leading at the time and had Ricketts, one on one with Nicky Weaver, steered his shot either side of the goalkeeper, the task might have been beyond City. Instead Weaver saved and City achieved parity 11 minutes later when Michael Ball marked his second game for the club with a wonderful goal.
The equaliser was reward for a period of sustained pressure, even if there had been little goal threat. That aspect of their play must remain a genuine concern for Pearce, despite the parts Bernardo Corradi and Georgios Samaras played in all three of their side's goals. Both have endured difficult seasons and few City fans will be getting carried away with their contribution against a Preston side who conceded too much time and space in the area.

That weakness was exploited by Samaras with five minutes remaining, when he turned Ball's long throw-in towards goal. Matty Hill, attempting to clear, succeeded only in diverting the ball into the net with his chest. Preston's resistance had been broken and, with the home side throwing numbers forward in desperate search for an equaliser, Pearce's side struck on the counter-attack to snatch a third goal with Stephen Ireland's brilliantly executed 20-yard volley.

The final score line might have been slightly flattering in terms of City's attempts on goal, although their territorial advantage and control of possession merited this much needed win. Preston probed in midfield, with Paul McKenna using the ball intelligently to switch play, but there was little penetration after the loss of Ricketts, taken to hospital with a suspected dislocated shoulder after he fell awkwardly shortly before the interval.

Preston were as good as nullified as an attacking force thereafter, with Nugent's off-target header on the stroke of half-time their last noteworthy opportunity. The first had arrived after City dominated the early moments, forcing several corners only to succumb to a set piece at their own end. Danny Pugh's corner was met by the head of Ricketts and, although Weaver saved superbly, Nugent forced in the rebound for his 14th goal of the season.

It was a sight Pearce would enjoy when he oversees England's challenge in the European Under-21 Championship in the summer but this was a moment to endure. The City manager admitted he would have taken a draw beforehand and Preston's early goal can only have reinforced his concerns. City were far from subdued, though, and 10 minutes before the interval Ball, signed from PSV last month, speared a 12-yard shot in off an upright after Corradi's shot had hit the same post.

The complexion of the tie had changed and City sensed victory. Twice Hatem Trabelsi came close to grabbing a second before Samaras caused consternation in the Preston area, leading to Hill's own goal. Ireland's effort provided a more lasting memory, the midfielder thundering a low volley from just outside the area past Andy Lonergan to end Preston's hopes of reaching the sixth-round for the first time since 1966.

Get Your Kits Out View : At last City put in a performance that they can be pleased with. Even Dabo managed to find his own players on a few occasions although for me I feel that there are far better players on the books to fill his role and contribute a whole lot more. Still a good result and no embarrassing headlines for once.

Preston: Lonergan, Alexander, Soley, Chilvers, Hill, Whaley (Mellor 86), Sedgwick, McKenna, Pugh, Nugent, Ricketts (Agyemang 42).
Subs Not Used: Nash, St. Ledger, Pergl.

Booked: Hill.

Goals: Nugent 8.

Man City: Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Ball, Trabelsi, Barton, Dabo, Ireland, Corradi, Samaras.
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Jihai, Hamann, Beasley, Sturridge.

Goals: Ball 35, Hill 85 og, Ireland 90.

Att: 18,890

Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).

Portsmouth 2 Manchester City 1         Another Blue Day
Saturday February 10th : Dale Petrie at Fratton Park for GYKO

Pedro Mendes and Kanu both scored as Portsmouth recorded their first win in seven Barclays Premiership matches against Manchester City at Fratton Park.

However, the victory was marred by the sight of Portuguese midfielder Mendes being carried off on a stretcher after City's Joey Barton appeared to tread on his opponent's Achilles tendon just before half-time.

Mendes had scored with a stunning 25-yard strike in only the fifth minute but after his departure Bernardo Corradi produced an equaliser just after the hour only to see that overtaken by substitute Kanu's 12th goal of the season late on. The Barton challenge doubly cost Portsmouth as manager Harry Redknapp was sent to the stands for the second half after confronting referee Mike Dean in the tunnel at the interval.

Redknapp made seven changes as he attempted to alter Pompey's fortunes and he was soon rewarded for his bold move with a first goal in four league matches. Mendes conjured up memories of his last-gasp winner against Stuart Pearce's team last season when he fired a 25-yard left-footed shot beyond Andreas Isaksson.

Gary O'Neil's corner was punched well away by the Swedish keeper - making his first Premiership start - but Mendes latched on to it ahead of the flat-footed Ousmane Dabo and thumped home his second goal of the season. The Portuguese midfielder, knocked unconscious by Ben Thatcher's forearm smash at the City of Manchester Stadium in August, scored twice in last season's meeting at Fratton Park which sparked a run of six matches unbeaten which effectively saved them from relegation.

Confidence seemed to flood back and Lomana LuaLua, in only his fifth Premiership start of the campaign, came raiding down the left only to finish with a shot into the side-netting. His next effort was much better, another 25-yarder which Isaksson turned around the post at full stretch.

The City keeper was in action again after 14 minutes when O'Neil played Taylor through to hit a savage drive that Isaksson tipped over.

Mendes was at the hub of another dangerous move when Isaksson again had to make a fine save after LuaLua connected O'Neil's deep cross.

But Pompey had a lucky escape when Djimi Traore seemed to handle a corner as Distan moved in for a header in the 35th minute.

Referee Dean missed it and also did not see Barton's charge into the back of Mendes six minutes later, although the official booked the newly-capped England midfielder after he charged into O'Neil - who was trying to put the ball out of play so his team-mate could receive attention.

City had been gradually working their way back into the game and Corradi struck a powerful drive into the side-netting before Barton's long-range free-kick curled just wide.

But Pompey's biggest escape came when David James kept alive his chance of a record-equalling 141st Premiership clean sheet with a superb save from Corradi's header in first-half stoppage time.

However, James' hopes were dashed when Corradi came up with a well-taken 62nd-minute equaliser.

Pompey's defence went missing as Traore gave the ball away near the halfway line and Barton, inevitably, worked it along the right flank for Darius Vassell whose low cross was expertly despatched by the Italian striker.

City looked the most likely winners at that point with Michael Ball, making his debut, just off target from 20 yards.

But Kanu, a 71st-minute replacement for former City striker Andy Cole, proved to be the match winner when he drilled in a low drive 10 minutes after coming on after Glen Johnson had crossed from O'Neil's throw.

Get Your Kits Out View : Not very impressed with yet another disappointing result. The three points were there for the taking but sadly there wasn't enough fire to finish off the job. A very poor start allowed Pompey to take the initiative and the first goal. I have to say I can't believe we haven't got a better player on the staff than the ineffective Dabo. He can't pass the ball, can't tackle and looks more like a Sunday pub footballer than a Premiership player. Too much dead wood will be the finish of this team, get it sorted Stuart.


Portsmouth James, Johnson, Pamarot, Campbell,Traore (Kranjcar 71), O'Neil, Davis, Pedro Mendes (Lauren 44),Taylor, Cole (Kanu 71), LuaLua.

Subs Not Used: Ashdown, Douala.

Booked: Cole, Pamarot, Kanu.

Goals: Pedro Mendes 5, Kanu 81.

Man City Isaksson, Richards, Dunne, Distin,Jihai (Samaras 87), Barton, Ireland (Beasley 61), Dabo, Ball,Corradi, Vassell (Miller 79).

Subs Not Used: Hart, Hamann.

Booked: Dabo, Barton, Corradi.

Goals: Corradi 62.

Att: 19,344

Ref: M Dean (Wirral).


Manchester City 0 Reading 2       All is not well at the COMSTAD
Saturday February 3rd 2007
: Get Your Kits Out suffering at the COMSTAD

Stuart Pearce will probably relish the opportunity to disappear from Manchester City on England coaching duty this week after Leroy Lita's two excellently taken goals added to the growing malaise at his club.
For all the flurry of England activity around Manchester City last week - Pearce appointed as Under-21 coach, midfielder Joey Barton called into Steve McClaren's full squad - an argument could have been made that the pair should have been paying closer attention to more mundane matters such as league results.

The transfer window came and went with City having succeeded in holding on to the coveted trio of Barton, Micah Richards and Sylvain Distin, but without adding to a squad who had scored 19 goals in 24 league games going into the meeting with Reading. Those attacking shortcomings were all too apparent in the first half.
With Pearce, as he had in the previous home Premiership outing against Blackburn, using a three-man defence, all too often the long ball forward was City's only attacking option for, as happened in that 3-0 defeat against Rovers , the three-man back line all too often became five as the full-backs were pressed back.

Given such limitations in the home side, Reading looked comfortable and gained in confidence as the half progressed. Shane Long headed Glen Little's near-post free-kick over after eight minutes while, 25 minutes in, a superbly weighted pass forward from Steven Hunt for Lita brought the City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver sprinting off his line. Richard Dunne intercepted but, briefly, disaster threatened. He touched the ball past Weaver and Lita seemed likely to convert until the defender made a desperate clearance.

The incident proved costly for Weaver, however. Having collided with Dunne, Weaver limped off 10 minutes later holding his ribs, Andreas Isaksson replacing him. There was still time, before the break for Lita to volley home Hunt's backward header, although it was ruled out, presumably for the ball having gone out of play before it was nodded across goal.

Yet the best opportunity of the half fell, in the closing minutes, to Barton after Marcus Hahnemann in the Reading goal had spilled Georgios Samaras' well-struck shot. The new England squad member had only the prone keeper to beat, but was far too casual and allowed the American to make a decent recovering save when it looked far easier to score.

City's injury troubles continued early in the second half when midfielder Ousmane Dabo came off, to be replaced by Dietmar Hamann , a bit-part player for City this season. Hamann's first major contribution came just before the hour when Steve Sidwell's shot deflected off his shoulder, deceived Isaksson, and struck a post of the City goal.

Darius Vassell was denied by another good block from Hahnemann and Barton missed another shot, but it could hardly have been said to be against the run of play when the visitors took a 79th-minute lead through Lita. Sidwell's well-judged pass allowed the striker to use his pace to get goal side of Dunne and finish with a terrific shot from eight yards.

A minute from time, after Hamann needlessly lost the ball in midfield, James Harper's pass again sprung Lita clear and saw the forward settle the game with a comfortable finish.

Get Your Kits Out View : A thoroughly shocking performance that left the ever suffering fans leaving in droves as the second goal flew into our net. It's not often I'm jealous of the oppositions players but oh how I wished Stuart had pushed a little harder to sign Steve Sidwell in the summer. The lad wanted to leave Reading presumably to head for the COMSTAD but I bet he is mightily relieved that he didn't. Sidwell and Barton would have been a great midfield pairing. Still that's if only's and we are stuck with what we have got and if we haven't got better than Beasley, Dabo, Trabelsi, Samaras and Hamann then we are in for a thin time.

Man City: Weaver (Isaksson 35), Richards, Dunne, Distin, Trabelsi, Beasley, Dabo (Hamann 48), Barton, Ireland, Samaras (Sturridge 74), Vassell.
Subs Not Used: Jihai, Corradi.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Harper, Sidwell, Little (Oster 80), Hunt, Lita, Long (Kitson 75). Subs Not Used: Federici, De la Cruz, Duberry.

Goals: Lita 79, 89.

Att: 38,676

Ref: H Webb (S Yorkshire).


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