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