An entertaining match at the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday resulted in a 4 – 2 victory for the home side, a scoreline, which, without doubt, flattered the Blues. West Brom belied their lowly league position to trouble City on umpteen occasions and were, in my humble opinion, well worth a point. Goals from Robinho, Nedum Onuoha, Elano and Danny Sturridge meant City scored at least four goals at home for the third time this season, whilst a brace from Northern Irish international Chris Brunt was not enough for the Baggies as they continued their miserable winless run, which now stretches to eleven games.
The victory moves City up two places to tenth, four points off West Ham in seventh position, whilst the visitors stay marooned in bottom spot, a long way from safety. After the energy-sapping match in midweek for the Blues, this was a much-needed boost, although the three points did come at a cost as Argentinean defender Pablo Zabaleta was withdrawn with an injury that now looks set to keep him out until the end of the season.
Injury victim Zabaleta battles with Robert Koren for a header
Blues boss Mark Hughes, acutely aware of the catastrophic result and performance which followed his plethora of changes against Fulham, decided to limit the number of personnel swapping, so made only one change from the Hamburg game; replacing the lacklustre Micah Richards with Nigel de Jong. Valeri Bojinov was given dispensation to miss the game as he attempts to build up his fitness levels in the reserves, so there was another opportunity up-front for Felipe ‘Offside’ Caicedo. Brazilian midfielder Elano, who was so impressive in midweek, shrugged off an injury doubt to take his place in an attacking midfield threesome for City, alongside Stpehen Ireland and Robinho, the latter of whom was striving for his first league goal in 2009.
Tony Mowbray opted for a defensive-looking setup, with five midfielders strewn across the centre of the park to try to limit the effectiveness of City’s attacking play. Marc Antoine Fortuné, on loan from French side Nancy, started on his own up-front, whilst Scott Carson, who endured the wrath of City’s supporters as they sang ‘You F***ed Our Summer Up’ in reference to his costly goalkeeping blunder against Croatia, was named in net for the Baggies.
City Line-Up (4-2-3-1)
Zabaleta Dunne Onuoha Bridge
de Jong Kompany
Elano Ireland Robinho
Subs: Hart, Garrido, Richards, Useless, Petrov, Evans, Sturridge
Carson endured a miserable day in net for the Baggies
West Brom, seemingly placated by being at the bottom of the table, and therefore allowed the freedom and liberty to play attractive football, started the stronger of the two sides, and early shots from Graham Dorrans and James ‘Not The Singer’ Morrison tested Shay Given in the City net. Despite the slow start from the home side, the supporters, a picayune and inconsequential number of whom brought inflatable bananas, were still comfortable and expected a goal from the home side to ease any nerves.
And a goal was not long in arriving, as a beautifully weighted cross from the undoubted player of the season Stephen Ireland found Robinho at the far post, who, with his weaker left foot, buried the volley past the helpless Carson. It was the Brazilian’s first goal for quite some time, and it was hoped that the finish would relieve some pressure off Robinho’s rather fragile shoulders. Burly West Brom defender Abdoulaye ‘Difficult Surname To Type’ Méïté should have equalized almost immediately, but his shot from Jonathan Greening’s cross somehow ended up wide of the post.
Robinho celebrates his well-taken goal
City’s attacking players had seemingly taken a trip to the shoe shop as Robinho, Caicedo and Ireland all sported new red boots, whilst Elano had opted for a pair of luminous bright yellow ones, and it was from the Brazilian’s corner that City scored again. After his first cross had not been dealt with, the ball ballooned up into the air, and kindly fell to Nedum Onuoha, who calmly cushioned his header into the bottom corner. West Brom were livid however, as they, and Carson in particular, vociferously protested about a foul by Caicedo on the goalkeeper as he tried to catch the cross. On reflection, having seen a replay, they were justified in their claims, as it appeared that Caicedo purposely blocked off Carson before Onuoha headed home. It went unseen by referee Mike Jones though, and City now had a comfortable lead. Game Over?
Well, it certainly should have been, but we are all familiar with City’s propensity to self-destruct, and Caicedo headed off the line from Robert Koren’s header. But the warning signs were there for the Blues, and duly unheeded, they conceded a goal. A cross from the left found Fortuné, who laid the ball expertly into the path of the onrushing Brunt, who swept the ball into the far corner to give Albion a glimmer of hope.
Brunt celebrates his first goal with his captain
Half-time came and went, and as the second period began, one sincerely hoped that City could score another couple of quick goals and put the game to bed, but it was in fact the visitors who showed how it was done as they drew level. A free-kick was awarded by the referee about 22 yards out, just to right of centre, and from the set-piece, Brunt curled the ball into the bottom corner past an unsighted Shay Given, who was left helpless as a pair of visiting players opted to jump over the ball. It was no more than WBA deserved, and it meant that we would have a real game on our hands in the last 35 minutes.
But the lead only lasted for approximately 60 seconds, as, straight from the kick-off, City raced up the other end of the field, and as the ball broke in the box, Elano was illegally fouled by Jonas Olsson. The Brazilian dusted himself down, and grabbed the ball off Robinho as he sensed the chance to restore City’s advantage. Scott Carson, having clearly done his homework on the tendencies of Elano to put his penalty to the right of the ‘keeper, stood virtually next to his post in a valiant attempt to unsettle the star, but Elano coolly kept his head to stroke the ball home, sending Carson the wrong way in the meantime, to make the score 3 – 2.
Elano sends Carson the wrong way with his penalty
A spate of substitutions followed, with Mark Hughes replacing the perennially disappointing Caicedo with young striker Danny Sturridge, whilst Tony Mowbray made three changes in very quick succession as he tried to revitalise his tiring side. Elano then made way with fifteen minutes to go, as he was replaced by Gelson ‘Useless’ Fernandes, whose arrival was greeted with a cacophony of boos.
Stephen Ireland and Richard Dunne both delivered timely goal-saving interceptions as West Brom pushed for an equaliser, and after many renditions of ‘Da da da da Martin Petrov …’, Mark Hughes finally bowed to the demands of the South Stand by bringing on the Bulgarian in place of Robinho, who once again, was highly unimpressive. And the game was wrapped up in the dying moments, when Petrov’s immaculate through-ball found Stephen Ireland bursting forward and his cross was turned home by Sturridge to seal the win.
Sturridge scored the fourth to round off the victory
Nedum Onuoha ’v’ Marc Antoine Fortuné
Fortuné was quite impressive on his own up-front, but Onuoha was in magnificent form and scored a goal, whilst at the same time, looking secure at the back, so the winner is Onuoha.
Elano ’v’ Paul Robinson (Not The Blackburn Goalkeeper)
After his stellar performance against Hamburg, Elano wa again in superb form. His long-range passing was a delight to behold, and his penalty was delivered with suitable aplomb. Robinson was his usual self, trying to be physical with his approach, but the Brazilian had too much ability, so the winner is Elano.
Valeri Bojinov ’v’ Abdoulaye Meite
‘Podgy Boji’ didn’t play as he was still trying to recover match fitness, so this contest has No Winner.
Fortuné did well up-front, but was shackled by Onuoha
Given – Solid – 7
Zabaleta – Decent – 6.5
Dunne – Secure – 7
Onuoha – Fantastic – 9
Bridge – Average – 6.5
de Jong – Effective – 8
Kompany – Struggled – 5
Elano – Impressive – 8.5
Ireland – Involved – 7
Robinho – Poor – 4.5
Caicedo – Awful – 3
Sturridge – Underwhelming – 5
Fernandes – Normal – 0
Petrov – Sharp – 7
Man of the Match: Nedum Onuoha
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