November 2007 - Reports
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Manchester City 1 Sunderland 0     Ireland Sinks Sunderland
Monday 05 Nov 2007 : Denis Cope for Get Your Kits Out at the COMSTAD

Stephen Ireland produced one moment of magic to help Manchester City create a post-war record. The midfield player's spectacular winner against Sunderland made it seven successive home league victories for City, their best start to a season since 1902. Ireland's strike midway through the second half finally broke the stalemate on what was an otherwise frustrating night for Sven Goran Eriksson's side which struggled to break through a stubborn Sunderland defence.

Indeed, it looked for three-quarters of the match as though the Black Cats would pick up a valuable point in their battle against relegation.

City's goal followed their best move of a lack-lustre display in which they looked to be still suffering a reaction from their 6-0 defeat at Chelsea. Martin Petrov sent a raking crossfield pass to Javier Garrido on the left and he released substitute Darius Vassell whose cross from the left side of the penalty area was volleyed home by Ireland from a tight angle.

And Leadbitter dragged a tame shot wide after Sun Jihai, who had a torrid evening, slipped on halfway to gift the breaking Stokes the ball.

By then City had at least been roused from their torpor.

The muted home support, who entertained themselves by roundly booing visiting boss and former Manchester United stalwart Roy Keane, had to wait 26 minutes before seeing Gordon tested with a bobbler from Elano.

That seemed to ignite the hosts with Elano to the fore and Emile Mpenza twice firing on goal, once on target and once wide.

But the match soon fizzled back to a turgid, one-paced affair littered with mis-placed passes and little sparkle.

Yet late in the half City almost took the lead when Vedran Corluka's header from Petrov's corner beat keeper Craig Gordon only for Daryl Murphy to save the day with a goal-line clearance.

Eriksson brought on Vassell in place of Michael Johnson for the restart to try and inject more bite into their attack. It eventually paid dividends when Vassell helped set up Ireland's match-winning goal, his first of the season. The goal provoked an immediate response from Sunderland who had their best spell of the match.

Leadbitter stole in at the far post and his shot beat keeper Joe Hart only to luckily strike captain Richard Dunne who was covering on the line. Ross Wallace then delivered a superb low cross from the left which Kenwyne Jones, sliding in at the far post, narrowly failed to reach, as City endured some nervous moments defensively.

And though City were far from their best, they still secured a win which maintains their fine start to the season.

Man City: Hart, Jihai, Dunne, Corluka, Garrido, Ireland, Hamann, Johnson (Vassell 46), Petrov, Mpenza (Bianchi 57), Elano (Ball 82).
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Geovanni.

Goals: Ireland 67.

Sunderland: Gordon, Nosworthy, Higginbotham, Collins, Harte, Stokes (Chopra 58), Miller, Etuhu, Leadbitter, Murphy (Wallace 58), Jones.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Kavanagh, Connolly.

Booked: Nosworthy.

Att: 40,038

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Portsmouth 0 Manchester City 0        Hard earned point
Sunday 11th November : Chris Bevan for Get Your Kits Out at Fratton Park

Manchester City stayed in third place in the Premier League table after a battling draw with in-form Portsmouth. City goalkeeper Joe Hart (pictured left) was kept busy early on and he brilliantly tipped Glen Johnson's shot on to the bar as Pompey poured forward at every opportunity.

The visitors should have scored themselves when Darius Vassell somehow missed from Martin Petrov's cross. But Pompey continued to press and David Nugent was unlucky to see his deflected shot come back off the post late on.

Only Arsenal have managed more goals than Portsmouth in the Premier League this season and the home side's early play here showed why they have been in such free-scoring form.

City were just grateful that Hart - who has won the battle to become boss Sven-Goran Eriksson's first choice between the sticks, at least until the January transfer window opens - was equal to everything that was thrown at him. The England Under-21 international had to push away Kanu's shot at his near post and, from the resulting corner, Sean Davis saw his curling shot dip just over the bar.

Pompey right-back Johnson was also getting forward as much as possible and, after testing the water with a long-range effort that was easily collected by Hart, he went close to breaking the deadlock.

The former Chelsea defender forced his way into the area before unleashing a powerful shot that the City keeper did brilliantly to tip on to the crossbar.

City were having to withstand some substantial pressure by this point but they stood firm and Richard Dunne and Micah Richards both made key interceptions as Pompey continued to press.

Niko Kranjcar did manage to wriggle free inside the area but he saw his shot fly wide of Hart's far post as City survived again.

It was not all one way traffic however, as City looked to come forward themselves when possible.

The visitors' wide-men Petrov and Stephen Ireland were looking dangerous in patches and Petrov twice shot straight at David James after some neat passing moves opened up Pompey.

And Eriksson's side may not have won on their travels since their opening-day success at West Ham but they could have been celebrating all three points if Vassell had taken a golden opportunity after the break.

It was important not to concede heavily and we kept a clean sheet, partly due to individual brilliance from Joe Hart and a good block from Micah Richards. The former England international, making a rare start up front, was perfectly placed to slot home after Elano and Petrov combined but instead contrived to shin the ball and send it spinning away from the target.

Elano also tested James after breaking into the area but Harry Redknapp's side resumed control in the closing stages, although they were unable to find the net.

Hart was finally beaten when Pompey subsitute Nugent's shot was deflected past him off Richards but the ball ricocheted back off the inside of the post.

Nugent was denied again by another fine stop soon after, and despite some late pressure, City held on.

Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Pamarot, Utaka (Taylor 46), Davis, Muntari, Kranjcar, Kanu (Nugent 63), Mwaruwari.
Subs Not Used: Ashdown, Pedro Mendes, Hreidarsson.

Booked: Distin.

Man City: Hart, Corluka, Richards, Dunne, Garrido, Ireland, Hamann, Gelson, Petrov, Elano (Geovanni 90), Vassell (Bianchi 89).
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Ball, Samaras.

Booked: Garrido.

Att: 19,529

Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).

Manchester City 2  Reading 1        Never too late
Saturday November 24th 2007 Philip Dorward for GYKO at The COMSTAD

When Sven-Goran Eriksson left Soho Square, it was a shame no one checked his luggage for luck. It seems he left none of it behind for Steve McClaren, but used up a large slice of it here when, three minutes into injury time, Stephen Ireland lashed in a volley to maintain the Premier League's only 100 per cent home record.
The Manchester City manager was asked if he still felt like 'lucky Sven'? The Swede gave little smile before saying: 'Lucky Sven? Yeah, of course you get a bit of luck, but I think the players worked hard until the end and created two excellent chances in the last two minutes. That shows that the spirit is good and that we wanted to win this game.'

So, luck, spirit and a will to win. What would England have given for that last week?

City did not play particularly well, whereas travel-sick Reading - who have picked up just one point on their travels this season, in their opening game at Old Trafford - gave a good account of themselves.

'We have to feel robbed,' said the Reading manager Steve Coppell. 'We had a game plan and it worked effectively. When [at the end] Geovanni went through and missed I thought it was going to be our day, or at the very least we would get a point.'

As it was Sven escaped with three to move within a point of local rivals United. And all this with only two-thirds of a squad. No doubt the transfer window will find Eriksson buying an international-class goalkeeper (he deferred to Andreas Isaksson yesterday) and a couple of strikers. Once more, City made heavy weather of a game because they had no one up front to put the ball in the net and had to rely on the midfielders to earn the victory. Certainly, if Eriksson can bring in some top-class forwards then City could have a say in the destination of the title this season.

They made all the early running and were rewarded for their pressure in the 11th minute, although had they been a bit more ruthless, this would have come earlier. When it did arrive, it was a goal with an international flavour.

Vedran Corluka released Ireland down the right, and he delivered a cutback that saw Elano first hit the post, then be denied on the follow-up by Marcus Hahnemann. The Reading keeper then blocked again from Emile Mpenza before Martin Petrov hit an angled left-foot shot into the net.

That was the peak of the first-half action until the 43rd minute. Kevin Doyle took advantage of Corluka, who was struggling with a hamstring injury, to out-run the Croat and pass the ball inside from the left to Bobby Convey, who laid the ball off for James Harper to drill a shot that fizzed into the City net.

Georgios Samaras came out for the second half and Geovanni followed just before the hour, but City were limited to half-chances and long-range efforts. When, in the 90th minute, Geovanni ballooned over from eight yards out it seemed that Sven and his team's fortune might be out. But the substitutes had a final say, combining to set up Ireland. Sun Jihai's long punt up-field was headed on first by Samaras and then Geovanni for the Republic of Ireland international to volley home a stonker from 25 yards .

No Superman pants this time, but lucky heroics all the same. Napoleon would have liked Sven.

Man City: Isaksson, Corluka (Jihai 43), Richards, Dunne, Garrido, Gelson, Hamann, Ireland, Petrov, Elano (Geovanni 58), Mpenza (Samaras 46).
Subs Not Used: Hart, Ball.

Goals: Petrov 11, Ireland 90.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hunt, Gunnarsson, Harper, Convey, Doyle (Long 85), Kitson.
Subs Not Used: Federici, Oster, Fae, Bikey.

Booked: Hunt, Long.

Goals: Harper 43.

Att: 43,813.

Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).

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