Manchester City 0 Everton 2
Toffees chew City up.
Monday February 25th 2008 : Daniel Taylor for GYKO
at the COMSTAD
Bill Shankly used to rely on an old saying at Anfield that "first is
first and second is nowhere." These days, finishing fourth is the
best Liverpool can hope for and there are signs they may have to
suffer the indignity of being barged out of the Champions League
places by the team from across Stanley Park - a side, lest it be
forgotten, that Rafael Benítez has infamously described as a "small
Everton resented that suggestion and they seem to be doing
everything in their power to make Benítez rue his words. This
victory, courtesy of first-half goals from Yakubu Ayegbeni and
Joleon Lescott, propels David Moyes's team back above Liverpool into
fourth, three points clear of their neighbours albeit having played
a game more.
One thing for certain is that Manchester City can be discounted with
immediate effect. Sven Goran Eriksson's team turned down a
cul-de-sac last night and, having been thoroughly outplayed, they
are languishing in eighth, their lowest position of the Swede's
Everton were significantly the better side although, for all their
superiority, there will always be doubts about whether this team is
equipped to do anything in Europe's premier club competition other
than fall flat on their face. Fabio Capello was here last night and
it was one of those occasions when he must have wondered whether the
Premier League was guilty of self-aggrandisement with all its
back-slapping claims of being the best in the world.
Capello was here primarily to watch Micah Richards, a centre-half
experiencing his first dip in form, as well as Joe Hart, a
20-year-old who began the season as Eriksson's third-choice
goalkeeper and, to the bemusement of many City supporters, is now
being spoken of as a serious contender for the England team. The
name of Lescott may also have featured prominently in Capello's
notebook - presumably with a tick rather than a cross - and, if the
news has not reached him already, England's manager will know by now
why Rob Styles is a familiar subject for students of refereeing
David Moyes's team were quicker to the ball, stronger in the tackle
and played with an urgency that was strangely missing from the home
side. All of which spares Styles another inquest into his
officiating because the visitors also had a clear penalty turned
down in the seventh minute when Richards, losing his balance as he
charged down Tim Cahill's shot, tried to retrieve the situation by
jabbing out his right arm to deflect the ball away.
The sense of injustice seemed to spur on the visitors. Their passing
was crisp, they played with width and penetration and they looked
particularly incisive when attacking down the left. City, in
contrast, looked unrecognisable from the side that had beaten
Manchester United in their last game - which was strange because
Eriksson had chosen exactly the same team.
Perhaps, in hindsight, Eriksson will regret not starting the game
with Elano and Vedran Corluka, both of whom were suspended at Old
Trafford. His team did not manage a noteworthy attempt on goal
inside the opening half and, once the first goal went in, Everton
were so utterly in command they could conceivably have made the game
safe by half-time.
As it was, their superiority was rewarded with only one more goal,
Lee Carsley's deep cross picking out Lescott in a congested penalty
area and the defender jumping highest to loop a well-directed header
beyond Hart. It summed up City's first-half performance that Richard
Dunne, their usually reliable captain, was outjumped in the process,
but it was totally in keeping with the way the game had gone since
the first few minutes when Hart had to save adroitly at Yakubu's
feet. After 29 minutes Pienaar's curling effort flicked off the
crossbar and, within 60 seconds, Everton took the lead when Yakubu
touched the ball to Cahill, set off for the six-yard area and
arrived just in time to connect with the return pass.
Equally disappointing for Eriksson must have been the lukewarm
response from his team after the interval. True, there was an
improvement from the home side but much of this owed to Everton
sitting back on their lead and they rarely looked troubled.
Eriksson introduced Elano and his new striker, Felipe Caicedo, but
their possession seldom amounted to anything and, at the other end,
they continued to look vulnerable. Everton might have scored a third
after 54 minutes when Yakubu surged down the left and cut the ball
back for Cahill, who was denied by Michael Ball's saving tackle and
They were also denied another penalty after Richards inexplicably
handled the ball again and Styles, together with his assistant,
decided it was outside the penalty area. In the end City were
punished by Styles when Martin Petrov was sent off for aiming the
softest of kicks at Leon Osman.
City: Hart, Onuoha, Dunne, Richards, Ball, Vassell (Castillo
75), Gelson, Hamann (Elano 46), Ireland (Caicedo 68), Petrov,
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Corluka.
Sent Off: Petrov (90).
Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo,
Jagielka, Lescott, Neville, Carsley, Osman, Pienaar (Fernandes 56),
Cahill, Yakubu, Fernandes (Johnson 67).
Subs Not Used: Wessels, Nuno Valente, Anichebe.
Goals: Yakubu 30, Lescott 38.
Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).
Manchester Uni£ed 1 Manchester
City 2 How Sweet it is....
Sunday 10th February 2008 : Rob
Ringland for GYKO at the theatre of broken dreams
Following a week of tributes to Munich 1958, Sir
Alex Ferguson had demanded Manchester United produce a performance
worthy of the Busby Babes. But on a day of poignant memorial, goals
Darius Vassell and Benjani Mwaruwari gave City a deserved 2-1 win
and their first double over United since 1969-70.
The players were led onto the pitch by a lone piper before Ferguson
and Sven-Goran Eriksson laid club wreaths in the centre circle. A
perfectly observed minute's silence followed before the game got
After a low-key start the first chance came after seven minutes when
Nani released Tevez down the right. His chipped cross found Ryan
Giggs at the far post, whose shot was tipped over well by Joe Hart.
United continue to press, without ever looking like finding a way
through, until City unexpectedly broke the deadlock after 24
minutes. Benjani broke from midfield before playing the ball out to
Petrov on the left. The Bulgarian took his time before playing a
perfectly weighted through-ball to Stephen Ireland, whose shot was
blocked by Edwin van der Sar. The ball then broke loose for Vassell,
who hit a shot that was heading wide until the recovering Van der
Sar parried it back into play. The ball sat up perfectly for
Vassell, who made no mistake the second time around.
The goal looked to have woken up United with Tevez hitting a
scorching shot on the spin from the edge of the box that Hart
managed to parry away.
Despite leading, City were still not looking wholly comfortable,
misplacing passes in their own-half, allowing United to regain the
initiative. Brown's hard and low cross found Ronaldo on the edge of
the box, but his left-footed shot was not hit with his usual
conviction and Richard Dunne deflected it wide. From the resulting
corner the ball found Rio Ferdinand on the edge of the six-yard box
but his strike again couldn't find a path through a sea of bodies.
Benjani was holding the ball up well as the lone man up-front on his
debut for City, and he earned his reward just before half-time,
touching a Martin Petrov cross beyond Van der Sar for a
quality strike by the new City man.
The expected second-half fightback from United never came. While
they continued to press, they rarely looked like breaking through
Eriksson's 4-5-1 formation. United thought they had got a goal back
on 55 minutes when Tevez took the ball past Joe Hart, but he was
rightly called offside, and from then on United were increasingly
restricted to tame shots from distance. The City captain Richard
Dunne put in a typically immense performance at the back for City,
always there to mop up and head clear.
Indeed it was City who had the best chances on the break. Stephen
reland and Benjani found themselves two-on-one only to dither, while
Petrov found space on the left before Nemanja Vidic raced back to
head the ball away from the unmarked Ireland.
Park Ji-sung and Carrick were introduced but it took until injury
time for United to finally show their class. Carrick found space on
the edge of the box and placed the ball into the bottom left corner
of Hart's goal. But it was too little too late for United who hugely
missed the suspended Wayne Rooney. It was their first home defeat of
the season and their fourth overall in the Premier League, all games
that Rooney has missed.
City now move into sixth on 44 points, three behind Everton in the
race for the fourth Champions League spot. For United the
disappointment that they failed to produce on such an important day
and suffered an embarrassing defeat to their city rivals will fade.
But in the long-term this result could prove even more damaging to
their title chances than their pride.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Vidic,
Ferdinand, O'Shea (Carrick 73), Nani (Park 64), Scholes, Anderson
(Hargreaves 73), Giggs, Ronaldo, Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Simpson.
Goals: Carrick 90.
Man City: Hart, Onuoha, Richards,
Dunne, Ball, Vassell, Ireland, Hamann (Jihai 84), Gelson, Petrov
(Garrido 87), Mwaruwari (Caicedo 75).
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Geovanni.
Goals: Vassell 25, Mwaruwari 45.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
Manchester City 1 Arsenal 3
Champions at the COMSTAD
I'm Frank Swift, I Died in the Munich air
Please Respect me at
Old Trafford - a minutes silence will be fine.
Sven-Goran Eriksson turns 60 tomorrow and if
his birthday is anything like Manchester City's current formthe cake
will be soggy, the candles will not light and his cards will be lost
in the post. The Swede has had
difficult start to 2008, to say the least, and Arsenal were so
superior on Saturday that the City manager did something here he has
not done all season - he came close to losing his temper.
Eriksson being Eriksson, nobody was pinned against the wall, no
crockery was smashed and his players are still wondering whether
this owlish little man has ever uttered an expletive.
All the same, it is difficult to remember him looking so cross.
Superlatives have attached themselves to Arsenal all season but on
this occasion words such as "routine" and "comfortable" could be
applied to their return to the top of the Premier League table, with
the exception, perhaps, of the prolific Emmanuel Adebayor, who now
has 21 goals for the season and, in this form, is close to being as
influential as, dare one say, Thierry Henry.
Arsène Wenger's men always had that extra little bit of class but
the truth was that they did not have to reach their most dazzling
heights because their opponents did not seem to realise that to
disrupt Arsenal it is imperative to get close, to hassle and harass,
to chase and scurry, and prevent Cesc Fábregas and Alexander Hleb
from dictating the tempo.
"They can move the ball all day if you give them time and space and
we did that," said Eriksson. "We looked afraid, nervous; we showed
them too much respect." Asked if he was angry, he replied: "You can
be sure of that."
Arsenal consequently became the first away team to win at City in
the league this season and Wenger, who described as "phenomenal"
their total of 60 points, was particularly effusive about Adebayor's
contribution, nodding when it was put to him that the Togo
international had made Henry's absence much less traumatic than
might have been anticipated. "That is a massive compliment because
Henry is a world-class player," he said.
"It just shows that you should never underestimate a human being's
capacity for improvement. If you saw Adebayor when he started with
us, he was not calm in front of the goal, but now he looks really
composed. He has stamina, strength, power and he loves to play."
The tall, rangy striker also has a fine appreciation of space and
opened the scoring with a deflection off Micah Richards. Eduardo da
Silva volleyed in a second; then Gaël Clichy's over-playing allowed
Vedran Corluka to set up Gelson Fernandes to make it 2-1 but Arsenal
were seldom threatened and Adebayor marked their superiority late on
to make it 11 goals in eight games for him.
"I feel like there was a question mark about him when he signed,"
said Wenger. "There were questions about his attitude, his spirit.
Did we manage to change him? Or did he realise himself that he'd
wasted enough time? It's down to him, I would say. He's found a club
where he can express himself."
Adebayor was whistling a happy tune when he left and Wenger was
smiling too, because his side have demonstrated nerve and poise
since losing 5-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in the Carling Cup semi-final.
"I think I must have been the only one," he said, "who didn't think
we were cracking up. I was never anxious once."
It helps, of course, when opponents are as generous as City and
Eriksson, resorting to mild sarcasm, wanted to know how many minutes
had passed before his side gave away their first free-kick, the
inference being that they had barely made a challenge.
After an impressive start to the season, Elano, Martin Petrov and
Stephen Ireland have stopped looking for the ball, whereas the
Arsenal players cannot get enough of it. That made it a game of
keep-ball at times and the imbalance of talent was so extreme that
it amounted to a reality check as regards Champions League
aspirations. City suddenly look like an Intertoto Cup team.
"It's time we woke up," said Eriksson. "We haven't done well since
the new year and if we want to qualify for Europe we have to wake up
and realise the season didn't finish at Christmas."
Wenger's players have flustered a succession of opposition managers
this season, and it was unusual to see Eriksson looking so unhappy.
He very nearly raised his voice.
The striker has now scored in eight successive games, and posed more
problems for Richard Dunne and Micah Richards than any other forward
Man City: Hart, Corluka, Dunne,
Richards, Ball, Ireland (Mpenza 83), Hamann (Geovanni 75), Gelson,
Petrov, Elano, Sturridge (Vassell 55).
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Jihai.
Booked: Petrov, Elano.
Goals: Gelson 28.
Arsenal: Lehmann, Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Hleb
(Justin Hoyte 89), Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby, Adebayor, Eduardo.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Bendtner, Traore, Walcott.
Goals: Adebayor 9, Eduardo 26, Adebayor 88.
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).