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City face battle for survival in Poland
Manchester City 1-1 Groclin-Dyskobolia

Daniel Taylor for Get Your Kits Out at the City of Manchester Stadium
Thursday November 6, 2003

Had Manchester City kept their composure this should have been a heartening story about the ongoing renaissance of Robbie Fowler and his blossoming relationship with Nicolas Anelka. Fowler created Anelka's goal with a moment of sheer class, but a wretched second-half display gave their Polish opponents the encouragement to concoct an equaliser their persistence thoroughly deserved.

Kevin Keegan's men must now overcome a potentially treacherous trip to Poland at the end of the month if their first European campaign for 25 seasons is not to suffer the ignominy of ending in a stadium that would look modest in the Unibond Premier League. The free-kick with which Sebastian Mila drew this disappointing game level was a classy strike and, even with their nondescript background, Groclin will be encouraged by the vulnerabilities that Keegan has failed to eradicate among his players.

Claudio Reyna had already fired recklessly over by the time, with most players yet to muddy their knees, Fowler's exquisite through ball sent Anelka running clear to expose Groclin's deficiencies in defence. Had Mariusz Liberda, the visiting goalkeeper, been more alert he might have beaten Anelka to the ball. Instead the Pole hesitated at just the wrong moment, allowing City's leading scorer to nip in first and expertly lift the ball over him for a goal clinical in its execution and classy in its creation.

So dishevelled was some of Groclin's defending during the opening period, it was a surprise Keegan's men did not enhance their lead before half-time. From good positions Fowler (twice) and Sun Jihai both missed the target, but City were not helped by an injury to Reyna and Groclin, a neat passing side, occasionally flickered into life. David Seaman twice spared his defenders for their lax marking, first from Grzgorz Rasiak's header and then when Marcin Zajac ran clear on goal.

As much as he will have relished Fowler's apparent return to form, Seaman's safe handling will have been of intense relief to Keegan, whose loyalty to his players has been sorely tested by the goalkeeper's fitful start to his first season at the club. There was also plenty to admire in the performance of Steve McManaman and Shaun Wright-Phillips, whose willingness to run at opponents has become one of the prominent features of an entertaining, if occasionally rudderless, team.

Finally, their lethargy was punished. Sylvain Distin was unfortunate for his challenge on Rasiak to be deemed illegal but Sebastian Mila's left-foot free-kick over the wall was struck with perfection.

A fine result for the Polish visitors and just reward for their entertaining supporters who were backed throughout by a superb travelling band.


Man City: Seaman, Jihai, Distin, Dunne, Tarnat, Wright-Phillips, Reyna (Bosvelt 25), Barton, McManaman (Tiatto 64), Fowler (Wanchope 71), Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Stuhr-Ellegaard, Sibierski, Sommeil, Macken.

Booked: Tarnat.

Groclin Dyskobolia: Liberda, Mila, Koziol, Pawlak, Mynar, Krizanac, Zajac (Kaczmarczyk 90), Wieszczycki, Sedlacek, Rasiak, Niedzielan (Piechniak 70).
Subs Not Used: Przyrowski, Prusek, Rocki, Gorszkow, Moskala.

Booked: Pawlak.

Attendance: 32,506

Referee: G Kaznaferis (Greece).

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Groclin 0 Man City 0 (agg 1-1, Groclin got through on away goals rule )

Report for Get Your Kits Out by our special Polish Reporter
Thursday November 27, 2003

The fireworks lit up the night sky as the little Polish club advanced to the third round of the Uefa Cup. City manager Kevin Keegan might feel like launching a few of his own after this shameful display. Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler, who cost a cool 20m between them, could have secured the victory needed. But they squandered good chances in quick succession and it proved so costly.
It would be wrong, though, to put the blame just on their expensive shoulders. The team as a whole never got going.

Keegan made two changes from the team that lost to Newcastle at the weekend for this game.

German full-back Michael Tarnat was ruled out with a hamstring strain. Sylvain Distin switched to left-back with David Sommeil returning to the side and partnering Richard Dunne in the centre of defence.

Shaun Wright-Phillips was reinstated in the team at the expense of Paul Bosvelt after serving a three-match domestic suspension.

About 2,000 City fans made the trip to this remote corner of Poland and were packed into the neat 5,000-seater stadium. Groclin went into the game lying fourth in the Polish League, eight points behind leaders Wisla Krakow. There was an anxious moment for City in the third minute when David Seaman had to clear quickly when Andrzej Niedzielan rattled in a shot from an acute angle.

Play switched down the other end and Steve McManaman saw his 18-yard effort go narrowly wide of the post.

Then Fowler tried to release Trevor Sinclair but goalkeeper Mariusz Liberda was alert to the danger.

Sinclair should have done better in the 12th minute when he got on the end of a cross from Wright-Phillips but steered a poor header into the hands of Liberda.

Fowler broke deep into Groclin's half after 24 minutes but his effort did not trouble Liberda and went wide of the post.

City nearly went a goal behind in the 27th minute when Niedzielan raced forward only for Sun Jihai to clear at the last minute. From Sebastian Mila's corner, Tomasz Wieszycki got away from his marker but his header came back off the woodwork.

These were difficult times for City and a minute later Dunne cleared off the line from Niedzielan after he had skipped around Seaman.

Then the influential Wieszcycki found space and saw his shot go wide of the target. City knew they had been in a game going into the second half of this match against a team from a town that boasts only 12,000 people.

Groclin, however, had shown in the previous round they were not to be underestimated after disposing of Hertha Berlin.

Anelka, who had hardly been in the game, got away in the 47th minute only to deliver a poor cross.

Wright-Phillips then got on the end of Distin's long throw but slipped as he was about to shoot and miscued.

City were entering a crucial stage of the game and there was little sign of them making the breakthrough.

With the score remaining at 0-0, Groclin were in the driving seat in front of an expectant crowd.

City looked short on ideas and invention and there was little spark in the middle of the park. The travelling army were still in good voice, however, and desperate to see a goal.

That nearly came when Fowler got on the end of a cross from Wright-Phillips but flicked his header wide.

Fowler and Anelka both squandered good chances in quick succession. Fowler sent a header over the top from Sun Jihai's cross then Anelka saw his shot turned away by Liberda.

The City strikers were taken off in the 73rd minute . Jon Macken and Paulo Wanchope came on with Keegan hoping they would make a difference. But City were left to count the cost as they tumbled out of the Uefa Cup on the away goals rule.

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