Birmingham City 3 Manchester City
1 Tale of two poor Cities
Saturday 29th March 2008 : Davis
Geary for GYKO at St Andrews
all else in a relegation scrap you need grace under fire. Alex
McLeish's charges are starting to take a lead from their manager.
They could easily have gone on to lose this game when pegged back to
2-1 and reduced to 10 men before the hour. But, like their manager,
they refused to buckle.
McLeish has impressed over the past month with mature handling of
the Martin Taylor/Eduardo affair, where he has keenly defended his
player from the barbs of some of the biggest names in football. But
yesterday he delivered on the pitch. He promised that his team,
angry at their defeat to Reading last Saturday, would get a result
this week. They did just that.
There was always the niggling feeling that this match would be low
on skill quotient. It was, but then it was also high on busyness,
with Mikael Forssell and Sebastian Larsson buzzing around as if
their lives depended on it. There was also a fair degree of
first-half dizziness and Benjani set the tone in the 10th minute.
Elano slid a delightful, defence-splitting pass into the Birmingham
area, but the Zimbabwean placed his effort against the post with the
Elano was to prove himself just as useful at the other end five
minutes later, blocking Radhi Jaidi's header from Larsson's corner
on the line. Two more Larsson crosses caused bother. First, Sun
Jihai shinned a clearance just over his own crossbar and then
Richard Dunne lobbed the Swede's cross on to the roof of his net.
But anything City could put high over the bar, so could Gary
McSheffrey. Still struggling to look like a Premier League player,
McSheffrey trickled a shot past the post with embarrassing apathy
early on, but his worst was yet to come. Larsson's deep cross spun
off the head of Dunne, only for McSheffrey to hoof a volley so high
over the bar it would have shamed a Sunday League player.
It was left to Franck Queudrue to show the way to goal. Just past
the half-hour he tested Hart with an audacious overhead kick before,
minutes later, playing a raking ball through the City midfield to
release Mauro Zarate, who showed Dunne a clean pair of heels and
deftly lifted the ball over the advancing Joe Hart.
The Argentinean doubled Birmingham's lead nine minutes into the
second half. McSheffrey began his second-half redemption by
cushioning Forssell's header for Zarate to drill past Hart.
But then the game swung back to City two minutes later when Rob
Styles made two important decisions while 40 yards behind play. He
first, correctly, awarded a penalty when Queudrue brought down
Benjani. He then, wrongly, dismissed the Frenchman when he was not
last man. Elano coolly despatched the spot kick when the fuss died
City had the initiative for 15 minutes before Styles evened things
up ridiculously adjudging that Jihai bundled McSheffrey off
the ball when both players quite fairly met with a decent shoulder
charge. The midfielder slammed the penalty past Hart and delivering
a precious four-point gap for McLeish.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Jaidi,
Queudrue, Murphy, Larsson, Muamba, Johnson, McSheffrey, Forssell (Parnaby
70), Zarate (O'Connor 90).
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Jerome, Nafti.
Sent Off: Queudrue (57).
Goals: Zarate 40, 54, McSheffrey 77
Man City: Hart, Jihai, Onuoha, Dunne,
Garrido, Vassell (Caicedo 59), Gelson, Hamann (Geovanni 72),
Ireland, Elano, Mwaruwari (Mpenza 81).
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Corluka.
Booked: Caicedo, Geovanni.
Goals: Elano 59 pen.
Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).
Bolton Wanderers 0 Manchester
City 0 Snore Draw
Saturday 22nd March 2008 : Stuart
Shaw for GYKO at the Reebok
Struggling Bolton were forced to settle for a
point after Manchester City refused to bow to pressure at the Reebok
Stadium. The Trotters, battling to escape the relegation zone,
produced a typically aggressive and energetic display as they
searched for a crucial Barclays Premier League win.
The hosts produced a number of chances with
Gretar Steinsson hitting the post and Kevin Davies having a late
header cleared off the line but City held firm throughout. Gary
Megson's side made their intentions clear from the start with El-
Hadji Diouf firing a shot from the edge of the area straight at Joe
Hart in the first minute. Diouf started brightly and sent in crosses
that Nedum Onuhoa and Vedran Corluka, the second from just in front
of the lurking Davies, had to clear.
Senegal international Diouf hit his target
when he delivered a corner to the near post after seven minutes but
Gretar Steinsson's header rebounded off the post. Ivan Campo also
tried his luck from distance but shot well over as Bolton maintained
their positive early impression.
City's first chance came from a 17th-minute
corner when Ricardo Gardner headed away Stephen Ireland's powerful
Yet Bolton, recognising the seriousness of
their situation, continued to force the pace and captain Kevin Nolan
typified their urgency. Nolan, returning after missing the midweek
defeat at Manchester United with a back injury, held off Gelson
Fernandes to force his way into the box and shoot but Michael
Nolan was then booked after 33 minutes for
catching Corluka on the shin with a late challenge after the City
man had cleared. It was the kind of rash diving tackle that has
attracted much criticism at the top level this season and Corluka
required treatment before continuing.
Bolton continued to force the pace and Diouf
again shot at Hart from distance in a replica of an earlier attempt
at goal. The hosts suffered a blow in the last minute of the first
half when Gardner was carried off on a stretcher after landing
awkwardly under a challenge from Darius Vassell.
He was replaced at the start of the second
period, just as it began to snow, by Joey O' Brien.
Bolton seemed even tougher in their approach
as the game resumed with none of their players shying away from
challenges, particularly Nolan and Davies.
One mistimed tackle allowed City to break as
referee Andre Marriner played advantage after Danny Guthrie caught
Petrov raced clear down the left but a sliding
Ireland was unable to meet his low cross into the box.
Benjani also broke into the area and
substitute Elano shot after O'Brien inadvertently passed to him in
an effort to clear but Ali Al Habsi saved.
Campo looked far from happy when Megson
decided to replace him in the 63rd minute, the Spaniard leaving the
field slowly and then trudging off down the tunnel. Diouf showed his
strength to set up the next Bolton attack with Davies charging
forward into the City half. He looked up to play in Matt Taylor but
Elano got back to intercept.
Bolton then won a corner after Steinsson's
shot was deflected and City were grateful Javier Garrido was
standing in the way as Davies got a header in on target. Diouf then
went through on goal from a Davies flick-on but Hart flung himself
at the ball and saved with his legs as the former Liverpool striker
tried to lift it over him. Taylor also shot wide as Bolton again
failed to make the most of openings in the City defence.
City had a chance late on as Felipe Caceido
had a shot blocked on the line but Marriner blew for an infringement
in the box.
Benjani might also have snatched the game for
City with just two minutes remaining but headed over from Corluka's
Davies almost had the final say in injury time
as he met a Stelios Giannakopolus corner but Petrov, placed at the
far post, cleared his header off the line.
Bolton: Al Habsi, Steinsson, Cahill,
Andrew O'Brien, Gardner (Joey O'Brien 46), Diouf, Nolan, Campo
(McCann 63), Guthrie, Taylor (Giannakopoulos 83), Davies.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Rasiak.
Man City: Hart, Corluka, Onuoha, Dunne,
Garrido, Ireland (Elano 58), Gelson, Johnson, Petrov, Vassell (Caicedo
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Jihai, Castillo.
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
Manchester City 2 Tottenham 1
At last, City beat Spurs
Sunday 16th March 2008 : Rob White for GYKO at the COMSTAD
Sven-Goran Eriksson is due to meet Thaksin
Shinawatra today to give a progress report on Manchester City's
season and at one point yesterday it was easy to imagine their
tête-à-tête being construed in some quarters as crisis talks. The
team were losing, the crowd was restless and the atmosphere was
reminiscent of the bad old days when Stuart Pearce complained that
this stadium had the acoustics of a library.
But then something changed. Just before the hour, Stephen Ireland
turned in City's first goal in 374 minutes of play and suddenly
Eriksson's men were invigorated. The supporters rediscovered their
voice and Nedum Onuoha rose superbly to head Elano's corner past
Paul Robinson for the first goal of his City career.
The game had been turned upside-down and the fans behind Joe Hart's
goal turned to the directors' box, where the former prime minister
of Thailand was seated amid a posse of bodyguards wearing dark suits
and 007 earpieces. "Thaksin, Thaksin, give us a wave," they
requested and the Thai crook, with his unconvincing smile, rose to
take the acclaim.
Not the first time the thought occurred that it is a strange set of
circumstances that brings the supporters of this proud old club to
serenade a man who, among other alleged wrongdoings, is due to stand
trial in Bangkok on multimillion-pound corruption charges. This was
the first time he had attended a game since being arrested in
Thailand but it was a very public show of support from most of the
supporters and, on the back of a stirring comeback, his talks with
Eriksson promise to be far more relaxed than if, as had looked
likely at half-time, Tottenham Hotspur had completed a league double
over City for the fourth successive season.
Eriksson was certainly entitled to be happy because City had not won
at home in the league since December 15 and, as he noted afterwards,
the Premier League's statistics show there is only a 10% likelihood
of winning a match after going a goal down. "It shows that our
spirit and morale is still there," he said. "Plus it shows the
players have not given up in terms of qualifying for Europe. We had
taken only one point from our previous three games and if we had
lost we would have been very far away. Now we are only far away. But
today I am very pleased."
Much of that undoubtedly stemmed from relief because, with the
notable exception of a 2-1 win at Manchester United, it has been a
difficult 2008 for Eriksson. His team have abandoned all hope of
reaching the Champions League and are now eyeing the Intertoto Cup,
and few would have backed them to defeat Juande Ramos's team once
Vedran Corluka's mistake had allowed Tottenham to take the lead
through Robbie Keane's 21st goal of the season.
Eriksson took care not to criticise Corluka because, of all his
foreign recruits, the Croatia international has arguably been the
most impressive. That does not alter the fact, however, that Corluka
was horribly to blame, completely misjudging an attempted
interception to let Pascal Chimbonda amble forward, slide the ball
into Keane's path and wait for his team-mate to do the rest.
Keane duly obliged with a stylish left-foot finish, yet this was not
a day the Tottenham captain will remember with fondness. Ramos had
shown his ruthless side at half-time by replacing Aaron Lennon with
Tom Huddlestone and when he curtailed Keane's afternoon in the 67th
minute it provoked a fit of pique. Keane had been one of Tottenham's
brighter players and this was the seventh time in the last eight
games he had been substituted. His response was to gesture angrily
before stomping past Ramos and throwing a training top to the floor.
"I didn't see that," Ramos said. "But it's normal. Players want to
play and they're disappointed when they are brought off. But it's a
squad game. We have a big squad and from time to time we need to
rest players who have had a lot of minutes."
He said all this with barely a flicker of concern on his face but
his expression darkened when he was asked to analyse Tottenham's
second-half performance. A gruelling Uefa Cup tie against PSV
Eindhoven, with extra-time and penalties, undoubtedly contributed,
but he also detected signs of complacency. "We were so much in
command," he said of the first 45 minutes. "Maybe our players
thought the game was won before it was."
His complaints extended to the match officials, and understandably
so because Ireland was marginally offside when he turned in Elano's
knockdown for the equaliser. The mistake was exacerbated late on
when, from a free-kick, the flag was raised against Dimitar Berbatov,
who seemed inactive as Onuoha, under pressure from Darren Bent,
inadvertently turned the ball into his own net. "It should have been
2-1 to us," said Ramos. But by that stage Thaksin and his associates
were toasting a win that stops the rot at City.
Man City: Hart, Corluka, Onuoha, Dunne,
Garrido, Ireland, Gelson, Johnson, Castillo (Vassell 71), Elano (Caicedo
75), Mwaruwari (Jihai 88).
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Geovanni.
Goals: Ireland 59, Onuoha 72.
Tottenham: Robinson, Hutton, Woodgate,
Dawson, Chimbonda, Lennon (Huddlestone 46), Jenas, Zokora,
Malbranque (O'Hara 67), Berbatov, Keane (Bent 67).
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Tainio.
Goals: Keane 32.
Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Reading 2 Manchester City 0
Slip Slidin' Away
Saturday March 8th 2008 : Stuart
Collins for GYKO at the Madejski Stadium
battlers Reading boosted their hopes of beating the drop with a 2-0
Barclays Premier League win over Manchester City at Madejski
A second-half strike from Shane Long - with new assistant Republic
of Ireland manager Liam Brady watching in the stands - and a late
goal from substitute Dave Kitson proved enough for a second
successive win by the Royals to move out of the bottom three.
City lost captain Richard Dunne to a leg injury, which needed
stitches, and also had a strong penalty appeal turned down by
referee Uriah Rennie.
Reading boss Steve Coppell kept faith with a winning team as the
Royals looked to move out of the Barclays Premier League relegation
zone against Manchester City this afternoon.
Victory at Middlesbrough last week with a goal from James Harper in
stoppage time ended an eight-game losing run, and the Royals will
move out of bottom three with a point at their Madejski Stadium.
City, meanwhile, were looking for a win to re-ignite their push for
a top-six finish and European qualification. Manager Sven-Goran
Eriksson was able to bring back Brazil midfielder Elano, fit again
following a knee injury, but Martin Petrov was suspended. Stephen
Ireland was on the bench, and would be hoping for a chance to
impress watching Republic of Ireland assistant boss Liam Brady.
Reading made a bright start. John Oster broke into the right side of
the penalty area, but his pass across the face of goal was just too
far ahead of Kevin Doyle.
After 10 minutes, a free-kick from the left channel was floated into
the City box - but captain Richard Dunne was on hand to boot the
Benjani Mwaruwari found some space and skipped clear into the right
side of the Reading box. But his final touch was too heavy, taking
the ball into the hands of goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
Slowly the visitors began to settle into a rhythm. After 18 minutes,
City midfielder Dietmar Hamann was cautioned for a late trip on
A deep cross from John Oster then picked out the Reading man at the
far post, but his looping header was safely collected by City
goalkeeper Joe Hart.
City almost snatched the lead after 24 minutes.
A free-kick from the left touchline was sent over by Elano, and the
ball bounced through to Vedran Corluka - who looked surprised at the
chance and could only somehow guide it over the bar from five yards
with his knee.
Benjani should have done better when he met Darius Vassell's cross
at the far post, but headed tamely at the keeper.
City were forced into a change after 30 minutes when Dunne had to be
taken off on a stretcher, replaced by Sun Jihai, after badly
twisting and also cutting his knee following a challenge with Hunt.
Doyle - another Irishman hoping to impress - flicked on a corner
from Hunt at the near post, but the ball flew behind.
Shane Long then also went close, this time with a backward header
from Oster's left-wing free-kick.
Reading were enjoying a good spell as half-time approached.
Midfielder Marek Matejovsky drilled in a low, angled shot from the
right edge of the penalty area, which Hart kept out with a fine
Michael Johnson weaved into the Reading box, and looked to have been
tripped by Royals skipper Ivar Ingimarsson - but referee Uriah
Rennie was having none of it and booked the City man for what he saw
as a dive.
At half-time, City revealed Dunne had received nine stitches in a
shin wound and is now set for a spell on the sidelines.
Matejovsky had another chance to shoot from the edge of the area
when the ball dropped to him following a corner but this time the
Czech midfielder was way off target.
Slowly, City started to get a grip on the game. After 49 minutes,
Gelson Fernandes let fly from 25 yards but his shot was straight at
Elano was then given space on the left, and his low strike from
distance was only just the wrong side of Hahnemann's right-hand
Reading, though, were still dangerous on the break, and Long just
failed to connect with a deep ball from the right into the six-yard
As the hour mark passed, City sent on Ecuador forward Felipe Caicedo
The hosts continued to press and Doyle saw his angled drive from the
right side of the area deflected into the side netting.
From the corner, Andre Bikey managed to get into space at the near
post and slammed the ball goalwards, which Hart pushed onto the bar
from point-blank range.
Reading, however, were soon in front.
A goal-kick was flicked on by Ireland forward Long out to the left
after 62 minutes. Doyle chased the ball down and held off Michael
Ball before cutting inside to the goal-line.
His pull-back was straight into the path of the on-rushing Long, who
had continued his run and made no mistake with a cool finish from
City replaced Hamann with Nery Castillo as Eriksson looked to get
back into the match.
Hart blocked a shot from Hunt as the Royals went in search of a goal
to kill off the game.
The atmosphere inside the Madejski Stadium was tense as the match
entered the final 10 minutes.
Long was given a rest when Reading sent on Dave Kitson.
The Reading substitute made sure of victory with a fine solo effort
on 87 minutes, cutting in from the right before slotting into the
bottom corner from 10 yards.
Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Bikey,
Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster, Harper, Matejovsky (Cisse 79), Hunt,
Doyle, Long (Kitson 82).
Subs Not Used: Federici, Sonko, Kebe.
Goals: Long 62, Kitson 88.
Man City: Hart, Garrido, Corluka, Dunne
(Jihai 29), Ball, Hamann (Castillo 67), Gelson, Vassell (Caicedo
59), Elano, Johnson, Mwaruwari.
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Ireland.
Booked: Hamann, Johnson.
Ref: Uriah Rennie (S Yorkshire).
Manchester City 0 Wigan Athletic
0 Bore Draw
Saturday 1st March 2008 : Harry
Bishop for GYKO at the COMSTAD
Manchester City's dream of bringing European
football to Eastlands continues to fade after they were held at home
by Wigan Athletic. It is City's inconsistent home form which is
proving their undoing as they have now gone six league games at the
City Of Manchester Stadium without a win.
What a contrast to earlier when they won their first nine home
league games to occupy a Champions League spot for much of the early
part of the season. But this was a poor performance and City's
season is in danger of petering out into a damp squib as they slip
down the table.
Battling Wigan, meanwhile, picked up another valuable point in their
fight to stave off relegation.
They also maintained their excellent record against City, who have
failed to beat them in their last six Premier League meetings.
City had the better of the handful of scoring chances in a dismal
goalless opening half.
Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland made an excellent early save to keep out
a header from Darius Vassell following a left-wing cross from
Stephen Ireland then curled a shot narrowly over the crossbar before
turning provider to put Benjani Mwaruwari clean through on goal with
an inch-perfect pass.
Kirkland again came to Wigan's rescue by racing from his line to
bravely block at the feet of Benjani and in the process sustained a
chest injury which needed treatment.
Wigan only managed a couple of attempts at goal, but Marlon King and
Emile Heskey failed to trouble keeper Joe Hart .
City lost Brazilian Elano, who limped of with a knee injury minutes
after the restart and then, shortly after the hour-mark, manager
Sven-Goran Eriksson took off Ireland.
But the introduction of Ecuador international Felipe Caicedo and
Mexican Nery Castillo failed to inspire City, who continued to
labour as they rarely threatened to break down a well-disciplined
City had a great chance to make a breakthrough in the 71st minute
when Caicedo and Vassell combined to open up the Wigan defence, only
for Benjani to shoot wide from six yards when it looked as though he
could not miss.
Yet in the closing stages, Wigan had two great chances to snatch
Heskey's hard work set up Wilson Palacios and the Honduran was
denied by a super save from Hart, the first time the City keeper had
been troubled all afternoon.
Then Jason Koumas and Luis Antonio Valencia linked well to set up
substitute Antoine Sibierski, only fro the ex-City player to see his
goal-bound shot blocked by City captain Richard Dunne.
Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson said: "I thought we were
dangerous right until the end but we couldn't score.
"We were a little bit unlucky and Benjani could have scored once or
"I am concerned that we don't score goals at home and we find it
hard to break teams down. We need to win soon."
Manchester City: Joe Hart, Nedum Onuoha, Vedran Corluka,
Richard Dunne, Michael Ball, Stephen Ireland (Nery Castillo 63),
Blumer Elano (Felipe Caicedo 49), Michael Johnson, Gelson Fernandes,
Darius Vassell, Benjani Mwaruwari,
Subs not used: Andreas Isaksson, Javier Garrido, Dietmar Hamann
Wigan Athletic: Chris Kirkland, Mario Melchiot, Paul Scharner,
Emmerson Boyce, Erik Edman, Wilson Roberto Palacios, Luis Antonio
Valencia, Jason Koumas, Michael Brown, Emile Heskey, Marlon King
(Antoine Sibierski 66),
Subs not used: Salomon Olembe, Titus Bramble, Marcus Bent, Mike
Booked: Michael Brown 35
Referee: Steve Bennett