City, unbeaten at home this season and indeed having not lost at home since we did them in 2010 — I remember it like yesterday — opened up as though they would swat us aside but it soon became apparent that the Blues of L4 were a match for the expensive and talent-laden City side and were showing it within minutes with some neat joined-up stuff that was enhanced via pace and work rate that had City having to hurry their efforts more than they would have liked.
Just after the 5-min mark, Kolarov pulled up with what looked like the dreaded hammy and was replaced by Zabeleta whose girlish squeals at every tackle were a source of amusement for those assembled in Royal Blue. Again the smart build-up play was being negated somewhat in the final third by either a hurried final ball or, in the case of both Naismith and Pienaar, not looking before delivering a pass.
Osman had the first shot in anger but alas his sat nav was well out as he drove well wide of the route to goal. We then witnessed a rare sight when Howard came and caught a ball above his head amongst bodies but then fell to the ground and injured himself. The ref restarted the game with a dropped ball for Howard to pick up and clear — is that allowed?
The half continued in strange fashion as City seemed a little wary of the Blues effort and slick counter-attacking and became a little hesitant themselves but we struggled to capitalise by being less than clinical in the final third. This was highlighted by Pienaar who broke really well on three occasions but each time his final ball seemed to be delivered in hope rather than head up and aim for someone.
City had a free-kick which Howard was not for catching this time and punched out straight to Dzeko who headed back but wide. That was about half-way through the half so the fact that we looked to be the side on top was about right. City did then have a little spell of good pressure but, with Hibbert in fine form, Jags and Distin seemed more confident so City found it hard to play through us, as is their preferred method.
Was it just me or was Baines indeed still hampered by the thigh strain? He seemed a little laboured but did break forward when he could but his final ball wasn’t being delivered with his usual whip and accuracy... I must hope it was just one of those things.
However, just after the half-hour mark, Baines got forward once again and, after a good joined-up passage with purpose, Osman I think fed Baines who crossed toward the far post for Fellaini to power in a header which Hart parried but the Belgian followed up and bundled home. Boy, was he pleased... and the faithful assembled roared along, jumping, hugging and kissing — luckily I was next to a Judy Blue!
All the songs were belted out now and we cared little that City were responding but had to adjust quickly as Tevez forced Howard into a sprawling save to push away for a corner. We then had a scramble in the box that threatened but a header went straight at Howard. We responded on the break then got a little rhythm back so it was end-to-end yet we never really seemed threatened or, if you were a City fan, you could say they were getting nowhere.
Almost half-time and City forced a corner and ended up being given a penalty that can only be described as a bizarre penalty. There was plenty of fouling going on in the box, as you get at corners in all matches, with nothing given. Jags was hauled to the deck, Distin had hold of someone, Osman ended up in a heap on the floor, Tevez likewise... and Dzecko and Fellaini jostled. The ref gave the pen but what for, by whom, and why for just one foul when umpteen were committed by both sides?
I suspect we will never know but hell it was a poor effort by Lee Probert, and it gave rise to the thought that the ref just wished to give City a pen, which I think is not the case as my thought is that at this time the refs who have come through to the EPL list are a very poor batch indeed; every week in matches up and down the country, teams are complaining about poor refereeing. Best to just hope our turn will come for a few of these gifts. It won’t be fair or right but it just might even out a few things.
Half-time came and it was disappointment over a coffee as we discussed how well we seem to play against City yet struggle with others.
Second half and you just knew they would come at us. Which way would we play it? As we had been... or go at them... or sit in, weather the storm, and look to get what we can on the break... then a real go in the last 15 mins? It was the latter.
For 25mins we repelled almost constant pressure with some luck but mostly good defending with Hibbert probably the most accomplished; his positional sense and awareness of late runners was very good. Jags and Distin were at times jittery but Osman and Gibson got stuck in and broke up a lot. We had a moment of both worry and light relief as Maicon hit a fierce one at Howard who, although startled, punched away two-handed whilst in mid-air legs forward and landed most ungainly on his derriere. It's worth looking out for on the highlights progs. Tevez was replaced by Aguero and loud angry boos went up from City fans. They did not like that call.
Passing the 70-min mark and we had survived the main onslaught; now we started slowly to come more into it as City seemed to slow just that bit. Oviedo replaced Naismith and this time went left as the misfiring Pienaar went right. Although we lost the Baines-Pienaar axis, it did seem to balance us better and turned into a good sub from our manager as we pressed on. Fellaini got fed up with the posturing of Zabeleta and breathed heavily on him, causing him to go down with the piercing girlie scream, having treatment and then racing back on when signalled. Fellaini shook his head as he was booked.
City did have some attacks but were now being dealt with better by Jags and Distin whilst nothing came to anything down Hibbert’s flank. We were now looking a little jaded and Jelavic, who had put in a good shift without support, was falling over more easily as the clock ticked... However, just before the end, he was awarded a foul against him and took the free kick himself — was Baines's leg not up to the blast?
Anyway, Jelavic fired in and Hart was almost beaten by the post but just managed to scramble it away with Fellaini bearing down for scraps. The corner came to nought. 90 mins up and the manager told us all he was now content to hold what we had and swapped Jelavic for Heitinga as the 3 added mins were played out. We departed the ground happy with the point from the home of the Champions. A smile on my face as I recall the second-half spat between Pienaar and Maicon — all arm waving, flapping and posturing, quite comical — I hope that one is on the highlights.
MotM — Difficult, as it was in essence a team effort... but my vote goes to Hibbert who no-one got the better of.
Overall, a good day out apart from the congestion getting away from Manchester and another good performance against a team regarded as one of the cream. However, after Wednesday and today and the opening game v Man Utd, I have to wonder why this level of play is not on show against much lesser lights; indeed, will this trait ultimately cost us a top 4 finish when, from my seat, we have the makings of a fine team and season? (first picks available if no help forthcoming in January...)
Time will tell as surely Manager and staff, as well as players, must recognise this and, I hope, act upon it. Today’s game showed everyone that it’s not all about money... but I found myself wishing the club was able to fund just enough for us to see a season out without the constant worry for both manager and fans of injury to any of our first-pick players as they are the only key players we have; that makes things more difficult to see out a season and challenge for that top four spot and indeed for top spot itself. Probably won’t happen but I know what I think is required and I can dream a little.
Still a long way to go and anything can happen and beating Spurs at home come Sunday next will help as winter draws on and I hope our draws become wins. It is after this game that I will take my first real look at the league table as usually after this date the table does not change that much and teams mostly finish where they are or two to three places either way. Totally non-scientific but it does me.
UP THE BLUES
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257 Posted 02/12/2012 at 00:06:58
272 Posted 02/12/2012 at 04:49:47
The Shite are just 4 points off our tails. I hope my prediction that they will be above us by Xmas does not come to fruition and over the next weeks we can register a few wins to give us momentum into 2013.
If big-spending Citeh can only get a dubious penalty to get a result against us, then I am hopeful that the defence can build upon this and we can get back to winning games even if it's only by a single goal.
274 Posted 02/12/2012 at 05:20:00
Everything seems stage-managed these days, and, as well as all the diabolical decisions we have had this season, Man City have had the benefit of some very generous officiating. I venture to say that if the decision-making were reversed, so would our league positions.
I would like to hear the referee's version of events, and how come the fourth official pointed the finger at Osman... Who told him? To me there is a nasty smell around football officials at the moment.
277 Posted 02/12/2012 at 06:31:26
287 Posted 02/12/2012 at 09:24:28
295 Posted 02/12/2012 at 10:43:01
3 points off 3rd place though, how good is that?
One point on Tim Howard: in the pre-match warm-ups, why do keepers practice catching so many crosses when they never have any intention of doing so in games, even when catching seems to be the best option? At least if they catch it, we keep possession and can build from it.
304 Posted 02/12/2012 at 12:25:29
Another great report Ken; I only watched the extended highlights on Sky, and we played some neat confident football — so much so that there isn't a team in the league that we should fear... respect, yes. Looking forward to the game next Sunday as I'm breaking my self-imposed embargo on GP and going to my first game since 2010-11.
310 Posted 02/12/2012 at 13:32:01
312 Posted 02/12/2012 at 13:50:54
Unfortunately for me I was in the City end. It's some sight witnessing a packed away end go mental when we scored. If I wasn't such a pussy I would have belted out a rendition of the Fellaini song myself to the fat Manc behind me who called us "bin-dippers" for 90 minutes (what does that actually mean by the way?)
All in all I thought it was a good point at the home of the reigning champions. I was slightly concerned at the form of Jelavic. He looked slow, nothing stuck and generally seemed isolated.
On to the next game, Spurs with no Bale - time for a long over due 3 points!
313 Posted 02/12/2012 at 14:16:24
315 Posted 02/12/2012 at 14:47:36
330 Posted 02/12/2012 at 16:40:25
383 Posted 03/12/2012 at 00:08:44
We've had a ridiculous amount of decisions go against this season, there is no way they will even themselves out, right from 2 perfectly good goals chalked off against Newcastle that took the steam out our flying start (No one ever mentions the impact poor decisions have confidence for subsequent games) to the three games over the last week which have seen Norwich equalise from a free kick that shouldn't have been given, Arsenal leave with a draw when Arteta clearly pulled Pienaar back yards from the Arsenal goal to Man City's penalty yesterday. The irony on the last one being that every time we get a corner Felli is pulled, pushed, his feet stood on and how often do we get a penalty for challenges on him?
There's plenty of decisions from the games in between that I could also mention, I may well be a bitter blue but I think I've got a hell of a lot more to be bitter about this year. We have a great starting 11 and even if we don't finish in the top 4, anywhere up to 10 points outside of it & I'll honestly feel officials have robbed us of the chance of a champions league placing and a shot again next season as players like Felli & Baines will go elsewhere to play at that level.
401 Posted 03/12/2012 at 08:50:40
Back to the game. As ever accurate! I said the same about Probert's peno decision. Fuckwit. How could he give a peno? Yes, he did want to give Citteh a peno!
All-in-all, though, it seemed a fair result for the overall play. Agreed, Hibbo was a potential MotM but I thought Gibson put in a class showing.
Onward and upward. Pity the Shite won!
432 Posted 03/12/2012 at 13:30:35
Thought Hibbert thoroughly deserved MotM, in fact I commented (out load though no-one else in the room) "The commentater has said Hibbo's name more times than the rest of the 2 teams put together" he stopped their attacks, and started ours.
Also the point about the poor refs, you are right, sometimes they go against, sometimes for...All I can say is "Offside Suarez!"
506 Posted 03/12/2012 at 21:33:38
553 Posted 04/12/2012 at 13:17:37
Another poor refereeing decision that affects our result. I'm sure we must be the top side this season to have had poor and crucial decisions given against us. If only MotD/Sky did some proper analysis on it to prove my allegation.... yeah right, as if!!
I wouldn't mind if all this pushing/pulling etc in the box was dealt with consistently but it isn't. Just typical of our luck generally that that prick Probert would give it against US. Does anyone think if it had been Dzeko doing the same to Felli in their box he would have given it? No frigging chance!
How many times have we heard the phrase 'if that had been anywhere else on the pitch it would have been a free kick'?! Will be interesting to see what Prick Probert will do the next time such a circumstance presents itself...
Spurs next and my optimism based on how well we are playing in most games is waning... come on you Blues, give us a win on Sunday and an early Xmas present.
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