Sunday 7th October 2007 : Ian Hughes for
GYKO at the COMSTAD
Manchester City 1
Late Late Winner
Wednesday October 31st 2007 :
Daniel Taylor for GYKO at the Reebok Stadium
Thirty-one years after Dennis Tueart's overhead kick against
Newcastle United won Manchester City the League Cup, Sven-Goran
Eriksson's team are in the quarter-finals and daring to dream about
ending the long wait for another major trophy. It is the first time
they have reached the last eight for seven years,
although it needed a stroke of immense fortune courtesy of a penalty
that Gary Megson, with complete justification, described as
Megson was entitled to be angry and even Eriksson admitted his side
had been fortunate after the officials deduced that the substitute
Lubomir Michalik had handled the ball five minutes from the end of a
tie that had looked destined to drag into extra time. "I can
understand if Bolton are upset about it," said the City manager
after watching a video replay of Michalik cutting out Elano's
In reality, the ball hit Michalik at pace and there was little the
Slovak could do to get out of the way. Megson was also entitled to
point out that his player had kept both arms to his side. However,
the referee Howard Webb, acting on instructions from his assistant
Mo Matadar, made a decision that was generous, to say the least.
Elano duly scored his fifth goal of the season to leave Megson still
looking for a win after his first three games in the dugout.
"You have to be 100% to give a penalty at that stage of such an
important match and I don't see how he could even be 50% sure," he
complained afterwards. "I thought it was a nonsensical decision."
These are testing times for Bolton's new manager and his
frustrations were compounded by several close misses in a late
onslaught that saw El Hadji Diouf slash a shot against the crossbar
and Michael Ball head a Kevin Nolan header off the goal-line.
Andreas Isaksson, making his first appearance of the season, also
spared Richard Dunne from scoring an own goal in the fifth minute of
stoppage time as City, with Micah Richards forced off early,
desperately sought to preserve their lead.
After sieving six goals at Chelsea on Saturday, Eriksson's team
undoubtedly had a point to prove and, on the back of several
training sessions dedicated exclusively to repelling opposition
attacks, there was a stubbornness that prevented Bolton, minus the
injured Nicolas Anelka, from getting the equaliser they probably
City edged a dreary opening 45 minutes but this was another game
when their Greek striker Georgios Samaras showed why the club's
supporters have given him the unfortunate moniker of "Tragedy" and
the visitors rarely looked like scoring until Matadar punished the
unfortunate Michalik. Fortunately for Eriksson, his back line has
rediscovered the art of defending. "The spirit is there again," he
said. "It was very important after what happened at Stamford
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Joey O'Brien (Michalik
33), Meite, Andrew O'Brien (Campo 77), Samuel, Nolan, McCann,
Alonso, Guthrie, Giannakopoulos (Braaten 90), Diouf.
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Speed.
Booked: Diouf, Meite, Jaaskelainen.
Man City: Isaksson, Corluka, Richards (Onuoha 73), Dunne,
Ball, Ireland, Hamann (Gelson 78), Johnson, Garrido (Vassell 56),
Subs Not Used: Hart, Bianchi.
Booked: Ireland, Vassell.
Goals: Elano 86 pen.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
Chelsea 6 Manchester City 0
A Good Old Gubbin'
Saturday October 28th 2007 : Duncan Castles for Get
Your Kits Out at Stamford Bridge
The slumped shoulders and
hangdog scowl of one first-half camera shot
might not have suggested it, but Roman
Abramovich received his first shot of the
free-flowing entertainment he is demanding from
his 'new way' Chelsea.
Chelsea: Cech, Belletti,
Carvalho, Alex, Ferreira, Joe Cole (Shevchenko 67),
Essien, Lampard, Obi, Kalou, Drogba (Pizarro 80).
This was an exhilarating
encounter: Chelsea, powerful, coherent and swift
in their attacking; Manchester
City, precise on the counter and resolute in
their determination not to fold against an early
home advantage. If both defences were ragged and
never wholly capable of shutting opponents down,
it only added to the enjoyment of a game that
matched Avram Grant against incontestably
in-form opposition for the first time since
usurping Jose Mourinho last month.
That the Israeli triumphed so
impressively could again be attributed to the
efforts of two of his predecessor's staunchest
allies. Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba were
once more immense - the midfielder central to
the first three of Chelsea's goals, the
centre-forward driving home two of them. Yet if
some wondered whether the betrayal of Mourinho
would have come so early in the season had the
pair been fit from the start of it, this was a
day for Abramovich and Grant to savour.
Henk ten Cate had spent much
of his first week of hands-on training at the
club riling the players Abramovich expects him
to get performing like Barcelona. The problems
began on Monday when the £40,000-a-week
'assistant first-team coach' halted his first
full session to reprimand his charges for
laughing, warning them to take his their work
more seriously. They intensified on Thursday
when the Dutchman put the team through a full
programme of sprinting, box-to-box running and a
10-versus-10 half-pitch game the morning after
their Champions League's victory over Schalke.
How much calmer has been
the change of stewardship at City, where
Sven-Goran Eriksson has turned over half his
playing staff, established an economical
counter-attacking style, and guided the club to
long-forgotten early-season heights.
One advantage Eriksson has
had over Grant is continuity of selection.
Yesterday there was an enforced change for the
first time in four outings, but just the one -
Georgios Samaras replacing the injured Emile
Mpenza as solo striker. Grant has altered his
line-up in every one of his eight matches in
charge. Here Florent Malouda was lost to a thigh
injury and Wayne Bridge suspended, while Claude
Makelele dropped to the bench after facing
Eriksson's men started
more confidently, passing and breaking, while
filtering the ball to Elano at every
opportunity. Like much of the Premier League
before him, John Obi Mikel struggled with the
quick-witted Brazilian, hacking him down twice
in early breaks. One of Elano's deft chips into
the area placed Stephen Ireland free on goal
where his slightly too delicate header was
parried away. A thunderous Elano free-kick from
all of 35 yards headed for the top corner where
Petr Cech met it with a truly magnificent save.
opportunities, however, the possession and
pressure was predominantly Chelsea's, their
power regularly taking them to the edge of Joe
Hart's penalty area. Lampard, Michael Essien and
Joe Cole's movement was excellent and from the
latter's corner kick City were forced to clear
an Alex header off their line.
That was a warning of
worse to come. On 16 minutes, Mikel combined
with Lampard to release Essien, who strode
onwards, collected himself and pulled the ball
low across Hart and in. A similar sortie into
the space between Micah Richards and Javier
Garrido all but allowed Drogba to add a second.
That, though, was only a postponement.
Richards ill advisedly
wound up Lampard in a tangle for possession and,
after both had been booked for the scuffle,
Chelsea's captain extracted beautiful revenge.
Collecting possession from Salomon Kalou 40
yards from and with his back to goal, the
midfielder spun round and spun a pass of
forensic precision behind the entire City
defence. Unlike his opponents, Drogba saw it
coming and cantered on to strike through Hart's
The game was now stretched
and Kalou almost extended Chelsea's advantage.
At the other end Ireland was a foot away from
reducing it when teed up by Garrido and Michael
Johnson's quick interplay. Kalou vainly appealed
for a penalty after the striker had tumbled in
front of the posts, while Martin Petrov drew
another solid stop from Cech.
As Thaksin Shinawatra, the
City owner, took his turn at looking glum,
Drogba and Kalou worked Lampard into a shooting
position. Though Hart parried that effort, the
ball fell to Drogba to carry back across the
area and wallop beyond the keeper in the 56th
minute. City continued to push forward leaving
larger gaps for their opponents to exploit. On
the hour mark, Drogba nodded Cole into a
particularly broad one and the right-winger
ramped up the volume again. Kalou took the total
to five from one fine Essien pass, Andriy
Shevchenko made it six with another.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Makelele, Ben-Haim.
Booked: Essien, Lampard.
Goals: Essien 16,
Drogba 31, 56, Joe Cole 60, Kalou 75, Shevchenko 90.
Man City: Hart,
Corluka, Dunne, Richards, Garrido, Ireland (Vassell
63), Hamann (Ball 66), Johnson, Petrov, Elano
(Bianchi 73), Samaras.
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Onuoha.
Ref: Mike Riley
Manchester City 1
Birmingham City 0 Six on the
Saturday October 21st 2007 : Spencer Vignes for GYKO
at the COMSTAD
As the England manager
receives the mother of all kicking's, seemingly
from all corners, so his oft -criticised
predecessor continues to mastermind a largely
unexpected revolution in the blue half of
Manchester. Played six, won six. That's
Manchester City's home record in the Premier
League since Sven-Goran Eriksson swept into town
during the summer. 'Benfica, Gothenburg maybe, I
don't remember,' was the Swede's response to a
post-match question about whether he had ever
enjoyed a similar run at club level before. 'But
in England, no for sure,' he added, flashing the
kind of smile last seen following the 5-1 away
win over Germany during qualifying for the 2002
Played six, won five, drawn
one would probably have been a more accurate
record following this largely forgettable
encounter. Eriksson's charges enjoyed the lion's
share of the play until late in the game,
despite the manager's worries that international
fatigue may have a negative effect on, what is
now amounting to, a push for Europe.
Their failure to see off
stubborn Birmingham so nearly proved costly
during the final quarter, when Joe Hart
brilliantly denied Olivier Kapo from point
-blank range before Micah Richards headed Rafael
Schmitz's lob off the line.
'We could have scored some
more goals, but they had some good chances as
well,' said Eriksson. 'I don't know how Joe Hart
saved one of them. I think it was with his
shoulder. Anyhow, three points, that was very
'As you know we have had a
lot of players away and it's always difficult to
know what shape they will be in when they come
back. Elano and Micah Richards, for example -
they have done nothing until the warm up today,
before the game, since the internationals. We
looked tired, but we managed to take three
points, even on a day when we were not perfect.'
Cue a second smile.
Elano, for one, shook off
the effects of turning out (and scoring) for
Brazil against Ecuador, in Rio, last week to
produce a match-winning performance. It was his
goal, in the 37th minute, that ultimately
separated the sides, Elano dispatching a low
shot, from 15 yards out, that found the bottom
corner of Maik Taylor's net. Did Michael Johnson
win possession by fouling Wilson Palacios in the
build-up to Elano's strike? Definitely, reckoned
Birmingham manager Steve Bruce, whose protests
at the time led to him being escorted back to
the visiting team's bench by the fourth
official. No, said referee Mike Dean, who
awarded the goal with no qualms. I think Mike
Dean had it right and Steve Bruce should take a
leaf out of Sven's book and keep his cool.
'It's a foul man, you've all seen it,' said
Bruce . 'I heard the contact from where I was
(about 75 yards away). How can he [Dean] make
that mistake? I'll leave it to you, otherwise
I'll get fined. But we feel really harshly
treated. - and the game has hinged on it. I
didn't want the game to hinge on it. We could
have quite easily got beat anyway, but we didn't
deserve to get beat that way.'
Whether this result will
have any negative consequences on Bruce's
increasingly uncertain future at Birmingham is
anyone's guess. The former Manchester United
defender insists he is as much in the dark as
anyone about what lies ahead as Hong Kong
businessman Carson Yeung prepares to take over
the St Andrew's club .
'I'll be at work on Monday
morning - I think,' said Bruce, insisting he was
doing his utmost not to let the uncertainty
affect his players. 'In all seriousness, it
needs to be sorted because, every time press
conferences come up, I'm speaking about it. But,
unfortunately, at the minute it's not going
Man City: Hart,
Corluka, Richards, Dunne, Garrido, Ireland (Ball
80), Johnson, Hamann, Petrov, Mpenza (Samaras
65), Elano (Gelson 89).
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Geovanni.
Booked: Corluka, Garrido, Johnson.
Goals: Elano 37.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Schmitz (Danns
87), Ridgewell, Queudrue, McSheffrey (De Ridder
58), Palacios, Muamba, Nafti (O'Connor 76), Kapo,
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Sadler.
Booked: Palacios, Ridgewell.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).
Manchester City 3-1
Middlesbrough Its Samba Time
An Elano-inspired Manchester City dispatched injury-ravaged
Middlesbrough to maintain their 100% home record.
Elano was in
outstanding form all afternoon
Boro made their task harder when Chris
Riggott diverted the ball into his own goal from Martin
Petrov's corner. That was only eight minutes in and, 25
minutes later, City doubled their lead when the impressive
Elano arrowed a 25-yard shot into the bottom corner.
Elano curled in a stunning free-kick
after the break to cap a fine display before Ben Hutchinson
notched for Boro.
It was another impressive performance from Sven-Goran Eriksson's
side, who remain third in the Premier League table, three
points behind leaders Arsenal.
And it was Eriksson's summer signings
who particularly caught the eye - Elano proving the pick of
the bunch once again.
How Boro boss Gareth Southgate must
have wished he had an equivalent of the skilful Brazilian to
call on.But instead he was forced into giving 20-year-old
forward Tom Craddock his first Premier League start as his
other first-choice strikers were all unavailable. There was
little chance to see how Boro might fare offensively before
they fell behind.
In came Petrov's corner from the right
and Riggott, brought in to bolster the Boro defence,
side-footed the ball past his own keeper. Credit to Boro,
they did respond well and tried to take the game to their
But City always looked the more
threatening with their possession, with Elano displaying
deft touches and Petrov showing his pace. On 35 minutes,
City launched a fast counter-attack which ended with a
fierce low drive into the bottom corner from Elano, who had
strode on to Michael Johnson's exquisite back heel.
It was a blow for Boro, who might have
been on level terms three minutes before had Lee Cattermole
done better with a free header that Joe Hart pushed away.
After the break, City quickly had a
chance to add to their advantage but Stephen Ireland's shot
was well blocked.
Craddock then had his best moment for
Boro when he bore down on goal but had his shot smothered at
his feet by the on-rushing Hart. It was just about
Craddock's final contribution before he made way for Ben
Hutchinson to make his Boro debut. And though Boro came
forward more, they presented no greater threat.
Not so of City, whose crisp passing
and swift movement earned them a free-kick on the edge of
the box when Emile Mpenza was upended. It seemed a perfect
opportunity for Elano and so it proved as the striker
precisely swept the ball from turf to top corner with an
effortless swing of his gifted right foot. An athletic save
from Mark Schwarzer prevented Ireland's volley from Elano's
pass creeping into the near corner as City threatened again.
On 78 minutes Elano was substituted
and left the field to a standing ovation, while Boro will
have no doubt been delighted to see the back of him. But
City still had plenty of attacking prowess on the field and
it took a superb save from a stretched Schwarzer to prevent
Petrov making it 4-0 late in the game.
The home side had the points wrapped
up but it was Boro who scored the final goal of the game
when Hutchinson reacted fastest to slot home after Hart had
kept out a shot.
Man City: Hart, Corluka,
Dunne, Richards, Garrido, Ireland, Hamann, Johnson (Ball
60), Petrov, Mpenza (Samaras 74), Elano (Geovanni 78).
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Onuoha.
Booked: Richards, Geovanni.
Goals: Riggott 10 og, Elano 33,
Young, Riggott, Woodgate, Taylor, O'Neil, Boateng (Sanli
46), Rochemback, Cattermole, Downing, Craddock (Hutchinson
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Shawky, Wheater.
Booked: Woodgate, Young,
Goals: Hutchinson 89.
Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).