October 2007 - Reports
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Bolton 0 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 "nonsensical".

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 right-wing cross.

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 deserved.

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 Bridge."

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), Elano, Samaras.
Subs Not Used: Hart, Bianchi.

Booked: Ireland, Vassell.

Goals: Elano 86 pen.

Att: 15,510.

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.

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 Schalke.

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.

Between these 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 legs.

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.

Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Carvalho, Alex, Ferreira, Joe Cole (Shevchenko 67), Essien, Lampard, Obi, Kalou, Drogba (Pizarro 80).
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.

Booked: Richards, Johnson.

Att: 41,832

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).

Manchester City 1 Birmingham City 0    Six on the Bounce
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 World Cup.
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 important.

'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 away.'

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, Jerome.
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Sadler.

Booked: Palacios, Ridgewell.

Att: 45,688

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Manchester City 3-1 Middlesbrough  Its Samba Time

Sunday 7th October 2007 : Ian Hughes for GYKO at the COMSTAD

Elano was in outstanding form all afternoon
An Elano-inspired Manchester City dispatched injury-ravaged Middlesbrough to maintain their 100% home record.  

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 opponents.

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, 63.

    Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Young, Riggott, Woodgate, Taylor, O'Neil, Boateng (Sanli 46), Rochemback, Cattermole, Downing, Craddock (Hutchinson 59).
    Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Shawky, Wheater.

    Booked: Woodgate, Young, O'Neil.

    Goals: Hutchinson 89.

    Att: 40,438

    Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).


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