November 2006
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Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 3           Thrilla at the Villa
Wednesday November 29th 2006 : Stuart James for GYKO at Villa Park

Manchester City must wish they could play Aston Villa every week. Stuart Pearce has seen his side's away record ridiculed over the past 12 months but the City manager could have been forgiven for picking out this fixture as the evening when everything would change. City's last win on their travels came here in April, a three-point haul that stretched their unbeaten record against Villa to nine matches. That sequence entered double figures last night as City provided Villa with a reality check.

Only 24 hours earlier Martin O'Neill had told a reporter he should see a doctor when he suggested Villa might finish in the top four, and the possibility of Champions League football next season seemed nothing more than pipedream for much of this contest. City outplayed Villa for long periods and ought to have secured victory, only their second away from home this year, long before half-time. As it was, a wonderful Sylvain Distin goal 15 minutes from time did the job.

It was a chastening experience for Randy Lerner, the Villa owner watching from the stands draped in a club scarf. He is due to hold talks with O'Neill today and tomorrow to discuss transfer targets in January, with the case for bringing in new faces strengthened considerably courtesy of Pearce's players. One of those, Darius Vassell, continued his extraordinary record against Villa, scoring City's first to make it five goals in as many games against his erstwhile employers.

O'Neill had sought to play down talk of City's hex on Villa, fearful that his players might start believing they were cursed. However, his hopes appeared forlorn long before Vassell gave City a deserved lead in the 18th minute. The visitors had been superb early on as they moved the ball around with confidence, carving Villa open with relative ease. Indeed, at times it was as much as Villa could do to get into the City half, their inability to retain possession clearly concerning O'Neill.

The Villa manager must have sensed that it was only a matter of time before City earned the reward that their bright opening merited and that moment arrived through a familiar face. Vassell's departure last year is still lamented by many Villa fans who believe he was discarded too quickly, and every time the forward faces his former team-mates he seems intent on proving that very point. He might even have had a hat-trick before the first half reached the midway point such was City's dominance.

Man City were rampant, their second goal, converted by Joey Barton in the 33rd minute, confirming their overwhelming superiority. Distin's slide-rule pass released Georgios Samaras and although the Greek international was forced to run wide he still had the time, and freedom, to take a touch before picking out Barton's sprint into the area. Without breaking his stride, the midfielder stroked the ball past Stuart Taylor and inside the near post.

The Villa goalkeeper had been exposed in similar fashion when Vassell put City ahead. Micah Richards linked with Hatem Trabelsi on the right before the Tunisian swung a curling cross into the Villa area. His delivery was flicked on astutely by Bernardo Corradi for Vassell, lurking at the far post, to hammer an eight-yard drive beyond Taylor. Three minutes earlier Vassell had seen his shot turned around the post by Taylor and four minutes later his diving header flew narrowly over.

Villa were abject. Samaras's snapshot from the edge of the area after six minutes, which was beaten away by Taylor, should have served as a warning but it was the stroke of half-time before the home side stirred. Then Stilian Petrov struck a free-kick from 30 yards that hit the crossbar and bounced down on the line. Villa appealed in vain for a goal but anything less than a two-goal lead for City at the interval would have been a gross injustice.

Villa improved after the restart, with Juan Pablo Angel driving over the angle of crossbar and post before Petrov saw his deflected shot from the edge of the area pawed clear by Nicky Weaver. City's threat remained and a third goal ought to have followed in the 58th minute. Samaras fed Corradi, but the Italian's shot was palmed away by Taylor before the Villa keeper clambered to his feet to deny Vassell.

Gavin McCann's speculative strike prompted the possibility of a Villa comeback but Distin, running from inside his own half before playing a one-two with Samaras and then beating Taylor, made sure City extended their hoodoo.

Get Your Kits Out View : Just what City needed. Now they must reflect on their past performances and face the fact that this is now the bench mark of what we expect of them. Clearly the best side for most of the game, with a little more care could have scored six. Can they continue on Saturday against Watford, my main concern is that we can gain three points and avoid injury for the oncoming derby game at OT.

Teams

Aston Villa Taylor, Mellberg, Cahill, Ridgewell,Bouma (Davis 63), Agbonlahor, Petrov, McCann, Barry, Angel,Baros.

Subs Not Used: Olejnik, Whittingham, Hughes, Gardner.

Booked: Barry.

Goals: McCann 66.

Man City Weaver, Richards (Onuoha 90), Distin, Dunne,Thatcher, Trabelsi (Dickov 85), Reyna, Barton, Vassell,Corradi, Samaras (Hamann 76).

Subs Not Used: Hart, Miller.

Goals: Vassell 18, Barton 32, Distin 75.

Att: 30,124

Ref: M Dean (Wirral).

 

Liverpool  1  Manchester City 0    City fail to close down Pool
ISaturday November 26th 2006 :Guy Hodgson at Anfield for Get Your Kits Out


No wonder Manchester City supporters sing about Blue Moons. Their team win on their travels about as often as an appearance by the astronomical phenomenon and yesterday they duly lived down to expectations. Expect the Sky Blue faithful to pen a ditty about hell freezing over in the near future.
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Ben Thatcher of Manchester City

They did not touch the depths at Anfield yesterday - Sylvain Distin and Richard Dunne were outstanding, just to pick out the best of several good defenders - and there was a cohesion about them that has not always been present this season. But the outcome was the same and they have accrued only four Premiership points away from home in the whole of 2006. The New Year cannot come soon enough.

Even the identity of the scorer had a touch of misfortune for the visitors, because Steven Gerrard has been trying shots from all angles since April and, in the League at least, they have been hitting the post, defenders or going wide. True to City's quixotic nature, he broke his duck in the Premiership, profiting from an error by the player who regards the Liverpool captain as a role model: Joey Barton.

Contrary to a performance that ought to have impressed the watching England coach, Steve McClaren, Barton sold Distin short with a pass in the 67th minute. Dirk Kuyt slid in from the blind side to pinch possession and Gerrard thundered in with an unstoppable purpose. From the edge of the area, there was only one place the ball was going to go.

"It was a costly mistake," Stuart Pearce, the City manager lamented. "You can't afford to give the ball to a quality player like Gerrard 25 yards out. Do that and all your planning goes down the pan."
Gerrard's goal came on top of another against PSV Eindhoven in midweek which will add further fuel to the debate about whether he ought to occupy a permanent place in central midfield. "It was important for him to get goals, because it gives him confidence," the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, said. "He knows I think he can become one of the best players in the world."

Pearce had called for a hard-nosed attitude from his players before the game and he employed a five-man midfield that included England's new full-back Micah Richards. For more than an hour it proved successful.

Peter Crouch looped over after six minutes, Gerrard shot wide and Luis Garcia found the side-netting when he should have made more of Nedum Onuoha's disorientation in the 33rd minute, but these were poor pickings given the amount of possession Liverpool enjoyed.

City's line-up ensured they needed to attack on the break and the tactic almost paid off twice. Barton curled a delightful pass down the right to Richards in the first half and he turned his pass inside, only for Bernardo Corradi to pull his shot tamely wide. The Italian almost profited, too, in the 60th minute when Ben Thatcher's long pass caused such confusion in the home defence that Darius Vassell and Richards won headers but Corradi was just awry with a shot from the edge of the area.

That proved to be the prelude to Gerrard's goal and, after that, the result was close to a foregone conclusion. City went into attack mode, pressed forward and gave the impression they could have played until Christmas and still not scored. It is becoming a familiar story.
 

Get Your Kits Out View : Not a great game on the eye but slowly City are putting in much better performances. I liked the way SP gave Richards a more advanced mid field role which I would like to see more often. Onuoha looked competent at right back and the general all round performance deserved a point in my opinion.
 

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Luis Garcia (Pennant 59), Gerrard, Zenden, Riise, Crouch (Fowler 65), Kuyt (Bellamy 89).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Paletta.

Booked: Luis Garcia, Carragher.

Goals: Gerrard 67.

Man City: Weaver, Onuoha (Samaras 74), Dunne, Distin, Thatcher, Reyna, Trabelsi (Ireland 85), Richards, Barton, Vassell, Corradi.
Subs Not Used: Hart, Dickov, Hamann.

Booked: Thatcher.

Att: 44,081.

Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).



Manchester City 3  Fulham 1  Corradi finally comes to life
Saturday November 18, 2006 : Duncan Mackay for GYKO at The COMSTAD


A chance of a equalling a 32-year-old club record of going seven matches at home without conceding a goal slipped away from Manchester City, but any disappointment felt by manager Stuart Pearce was more than compensated for by the fact that his strikers, nearly as wasteful as his defenders had been frugal, finally rediscovered the art of scoring.
With Christmas lights beginning to spring up all over the country, it was remarkable that City had reached this stage in the season without having seen their defence breached here, a statistic that had helped launch Micah Richards into the England side at the age of only 18. After his impressive start in Amsterdam earlier in the week, the teenager was given a warm welcome, although it would be fair to say that there remains concern in the blue half of Manchester that it will just be a springboard for him to move elsewhere, just as it was in the case of Shaun Wright-Phillips.

However, the great platform Richards and his team-mates had helped to create had been undermined by the fact they had scored a mere seven goals themselves in a dozen fixtures, including only four at home. So it was typically perverse of City that on the afternoon a defender was expected to be centre-stage, it should be the attackers who shone, failing narrowly to double their total of goals scored at home.
Just as unlikely was that the man who should inspire them to this victory would be Bernardo Corradi, who before yesterday had failed to score since joining the club from Valencia in the summer and whose only memorable moment previously had been to be sent off on his debut against Chelsea. That unwanted run finally came to an end after 12 minutes here when he cleverly volleyed a Georgios Samaras cross home. There then followed a celebration that will surely feature on a Christmas video next year when he took the corner flag out of the ground and bestowed a 'knighthood' on Joey Barton.

'He was desperate to score, but he hasn't had the rub of the green,' said Barton. 'He showed what a class finisher he is, you don't play for top clubs without being a good player. We've been knocking on the door in previous games and this has been coming.'

The Italian appeared a different proposition after his goal and had already gone close on a couple more occasions before he added his second in the 32nd minute, getting on the end of some good work from Barton to firmly fire the ball past Antti Niemi from 12 yards.

Corradi was being aided and abetted by Samaras (pictured right), showing the kind of form that saw the Greece striker linked with Arsenal before he joined City. But it was Barton, a player whose workrate is never less than high, who rounded off an amazing first half for City when they broke clear from a rare Fulham attack, the midfielder having the simple task of tapping home from Hatem Trabelsi's centre.

'The forwards have taken a bit of stick for not scoring, but they have replied the way I wanted them to and I'm pleased for Bernardo especially,' said Pearce. 'He has great qualities; he is very professional in his outlook and great to have around the training ground.'

So buoyant were the home crowd that even Collins John ending their proud record of not having conceded a goal with a chip over Nicky Weaver in the 62nd minute - a run of more than 10 hours - failed to dampen the atmosphere. All that could really have topped it off would have been a goal for Richards from one of his rampaging runs down the right and he so nearly obliged with a shot in the 78th minute that many thought had flashed in before they realised it had in fact hit the side-netting.

Get Your Kits Out View : At last some crumbs of comfort in another early mid day kick off. Corradi came to life and performed like a striker should and to a man the teams work rate was faultless. Barton seems to have settled back into his old stride and Trabelsi is looking to be a half decent signing. So hopefully things are on the up but as I said after the West Ham win, lets judge them from our next game or indeed our next two games at Anfield and Villa Park. On the down side, if we lose these two I would think today's lowest Premier League attendance at the COMSTAD could drop even lower for the visit of relegation candidates Watford - now that should concern our board.

Teams:

Man City Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher,Trabelsi (Onuoha 89), Reyna, Barton, Vassell, Corradi,Samaras (Dickov 67).

Subs Not Used: Hart, Ireland, Miller.

Booked: Thatcher.

Goals: Corradi 12, 32, Barton 45.

Fulham Niemi, Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Queudrue,Volz (Radzinski 74), Bocanegra (John 46), Diop, Boa Morte,Claus Jensen, McBride (Helguson 46).

Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Routledge.

Booked: Volz.

Goals: John 62.

Att: 35,776


Ref: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Manchester City 0 Newcastle 0       Two more points wasted  
Saturday 11th November 2006 :Simon Stone for GYKO at the COMSTAD


Graham Poll found himself back in the headlines again after disallowing a Georgios Samaras goal that would have given Manchester City a deserved win.

The World Cup official, already in the spotlight following the high-profile dismissals of John Terry and James McFadden in the past seven days, cut City's celebrations short when he spotted Bernardo Corradi pulling Stephen Carr inside the Magpies box midway through the second half.

It appeared a debatable call and proved to be crucial given Samaras turned the ball home after Richard Dunne had nodded Joey Barton's corner goal wards and left City cursing more bad luck.

The hosts, who are still unbeaten and yet to concede a goal at home, should have wrapped up the points anyway but Barton and Corradi wasted good chances.

However, they might also be thankful a late Newcastle rally did not see the Magpies fly off with the points as Kieron Dyer and Antoine Sibierski both went close before James Milner was left waiting in vain for a pass in the final second when completely unmarked in the middle of the City area.

The result does little to ease the pressure on Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder, whose side have now gone eight games without a win and look set for a long winter battle to pull themselves clear of trouble.

As neither side could claim to have set the world alight in any sense this season, a spectacular contest was not expected. Nevertheless, the sheer awfulness of the opening period still came as a shock.

It did not take much but undoubtedly, City were the better side.

In Barton they had virtually the only player on the pitch capable of lifting himself above mediocre.

Once again overlooked for an England call, Barton set about getting the better of Scott Parker, who has been handed a place in Steve McClaren's massive squad, and largely succeeded.

The only disappointment for the City man was he did not get his name on the scoresheet.

Barton did force one good save out of Harper when he nicked the ball past Parker then let fly with a volley that was heading in until the Magpies keeper turned it away.

However, it was the chance that came his way even earlier in the contest Barton probably had more cause to regret.

Hatem Trabelsi cushioned an excellent header into his path after City keeper Nicky Weaver had launched a huge punt forward, Barton controlled with his chest, drove into the box but then stroked a shot beyond the far post when far better could have been expected.

Roeder had opted to give Shola Ameobi one more opportunity before he heads for hip surgery but the forward barely broke out of a walk and on the one occasion he did find himself one-on-one with Sylvain Distin he meekly surrendered possession to the former Newcastle defender.

Newcastle's only opportunity of note fell to young defender Peter Ramage, who hooked a volley over after new England squad man Micah Richards' clearing header had bounced into his path.

The second period continued in the same manner as the first, with Harper again the hero when Barton split the Newcastle offside trap and found Paul Dickov inside the Magpies box, only for the Scotland international to see his side-footed effort turned away.

Dickov is yet to find the net in his second spell with the Blues but must have thought his drought was over as he sent a side-footed shot towards the far corner, only for Harper to make a fine low stop.

Like Dickov, Corradi is goalless this season and he even better chance to score with his first touch after replacing Reyna on the hour mark.

Inexplicably left completely unmarked deep inside the Newcastle box, Corradi met Barton's free-kick with a firm diving header which disappointingly failed to test Harper.

It was the start of a lively period for the Italian, who nodded just wide before Harper got in the way of his close-range flick when Vassell had crossed.

Corradi's next involvement dragged Poll into the spotlight again. Given the furore he has created in the past week, no-one could accuse Poll of a lack of bravery as he ruled out Samaras' header.

It proved to be a major decision for as much as City controlled the contest never really looked like scoring again, while not even the arrival of Dyer could get the Magpies airborne.

Get Your Kits Out View : At the end of the day this was definitely two points lost rather than one won. Newcastle played with an injured striker and didn't have a shot on target during the first half. In the second they could have won it 2-0 in the last five minutes. A better performance by the blues but hardly one to get excited about. Stuart you must kick some ass if we are going to be playing Premier football next season because for me this looks like a long struggle. On a bright note, an astonishing crowd in the circumstances, is it loyalty or are we suckers for punishment?

 Man City: Weaver, Richards, Distin, Dunne, Thatcher, Trabelsi, Barton, Reyna (Corradi 60), Sinclair, Dickov (Samaras 60), Vassell.
Subs Not Used: Hart, Ireland, Onuoha.

Booked: Sinclair.

Newcastle: Harper, Carr (Solano 76), Taylor, Moore, Ramage, Milner, Emre, Parker, Duff (N'Zogbia 56), Sibierski, Ameobi (Dyer 56).
Subs Not Used: Srnicek, Butt.

Booked: Parker, Taylor, Emre.

Att: 40,571

Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

 

Charlton 1 Manchester City 0          Down in the Valley
Saturday November 4th 2006 :Bill Pierce for GYKO down at The Valley



Darren Bent scored again as Charlton clung on for only their second Premiership win of the season after Manchester City failed to end their away-day misery.

Bent escaped his markers to head home a perfect cross by man-of-the-match Jerome Thomas just before the half-hour for his seventh goal of the campaign and could have added more goals.

But in the closing minutes City pressed furiously for an equaliser and keeper Scott Carson made a full-stretch save from substitute Bernardo Corradi's header and then pushed the ball out after another sub, Hatem Trabelsi, struck a post with his shot from outside the area.

Right at the death Trevor Sinclair hooked a shot inches wide of the far post, moving in on Trabelsi's cross.

Nobody would have predicted such an action-packed finale after a slow start.

After impressive Andy Reid's determined burst in the opening minute which ended with the Irishman shooting wide under fierce pressure from Richard Dunne, the game took a long time to warm up.

Charlton's fans have been named in a survey as the quietest in the Premiership but they did not have much to cheer for the first half-hour although skipper Luke Young had to clear a goalbound header from Sinclair and keeper Carson turned away a surprise shot from adventurous City full-back Micah Richards

But in the 26th minute Thomas set up a chance for Bent with a smart through-ball and the striker hit a crisp shot from a narrowing angle which Nicky Weaver did well to block.

Thomas, who broke a metatarsal at the end of last season and returned to the side after a hip injury, was soon in action again - at the the other end.

He hacked Micah Richards header from a corner off the line but Charlton could only half clear the danger and Sinclair forced Carson to beat away his fierce shot from 20 yards.

And as the match suddenly burst into life, the prolific Bent put Charlton in front with a glorious header, escaping his markers in the area to meet Thomas's left-wing cross eight yards out on the half-hour for his seventh goal of the season.

The effect on Charlton's confidence was dramatic and it took two defenders to stop Dennis Rommedahl racing clean through the middle after deftly controlling a pass from Reid.

City kept working hard, though, and a fortunate deflection almost left Paul Dickov with a golden chance 10 yards out, until Talal El Karkouri stepped in with a vital tackle.

Charlton complained when referee Chris Foy awarded a 42nd-minute corner after Richards and Georgios Samaras both rose for a header and the ball appeared to land in the side-netting without Carson effecting a touch.

But they stoutly defended the flag kick with skipper Young again hooking the ball clear after it pinged around the six-yard box.

Home fans who had sporadically jeered City's Ben Thatcher in his first away game after an eight-game ban for elbowing Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes, fans booed Joey Barton after what looked like an arm-led challenge on Thomas, who needed a treatment, but referee Chris Foy took no action.

Carson athletically kept out a Samaras volley at the expense of a corner in first-half stoppage time.

But despite taking off the ineffective DaMarcus Beasley and sending on Darius Vassell before a double change at the front saw Dickov and Samaras replaced by Trabelsi and Corradi, City struggled to revive their fortunes in the second half.

They would have been two down just after the hour but for Richards' vital deflection that took a Souleymane Diawara shot over the crossbar.

And Diawara's solid central defensive Karkouri was only just wide with a blast at a short free-kick from Bent who had been bodychecked on the edge of the area by Claudio Reyna.

Bent lashed another chance wide from Thomas' cross on 75 minutes and City were heading for their 19th defeat in 23 matches

Manager Stuart Pearce had kept an unchanged side for the first time in 29 games following last Monday's 1-0 home win over Middlesbrough.

But his belated changes just failed to pay off as Charlton clung to a hard-earned victory.

Get Your Kits Out View : Last week after a win against Boro' I said let's judge the team on Saturdays match at the Valley to see if they really have upped the ante or .....   Well this just confirms we are no better than all the other teams at the bottom of the Premier League. I choose to look at this side not through my blue tinted eyes but as a long standing fan who can see another visit to the Championship on the horizon. That would be followed by a mass unloading of our so called stars i.e. 6 million pound striker, French centre back with unsigned contract, American pretenders, Scouse wannabe, useless ex Liverpool cast off any more besides.  Is this really what we have to look forward to???

Teams

Charlton Carson, Young, El Karkouri, Diawara, Hreidarsson,Rommedahl (Hughes 46), Faye, Holland, Reid (Hasselbaink 87),Thomas, Darren Bent.

Subs Not Used: Andersen, Kishishev, Marcus Bent.

Booked: El Karkouri.

Goals: Darren Bent 28.

Man City Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher, Sinclair,Barton, Reyna, Beasley (Vassell 50), Dickov (Corradi 63),Samaras (Trabelsi 63).

Subs Not Used: Hart, Johnson.

Booked: Thatcher, Vassell.

Att: 26,011

Ref: C Foy (Merseyside).

 

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