FC Midtjylland 0 Manchester City 1 (2-4 on pens)

UEFA Cup Qual. R2, Second Leg
Thursday 28 August, 2008, 15:25 KO

City: Hart, Corluka, Dunne (c), Ben-Haim (Hamann 57), Ball, Richards, Ireland, Johnson, Petrov, Elano (Sturridge 57), Jo (Evans 78)
Unused: Schmeichel, Gelson, Garrido, Caicedo
Goals: Califf OG (89)
Booked: Elano, Richards
City Man of the Match: Joe Hart

City went into this game knowing that they would have to score at least once to avoid dropping out of the competition, and the boys in blue certainly made hard work of the game. As with the home leg, City didn’t really get going, and only secured an away goal, after the ball ricocheted into the goal off Midtjylland’s Califf.

The first chance of the game fell to City, as Stephen Ireland had a go from a corner early on, but the ball flew high and wide. Joe Hart then came to City’s rescue, saving low to his post.

But, as the first half drew on, City struggled to keep possession and Midtjylland were keen to kill the visitors off, but were also finding it difficult to keep hold of the ball.

Just after 20 minutes, Elano tested home-keeper Heinze with a low drive, but the Midtjylland man was able to save and hold his shot, with Brazilian striker Jo lurking for any rebounds.

A few minutes later, Midtjylland were breaching the City defence and a last-gasp tackle from Michael Ball saved red-faces from the away side, as the Danish team could have taken a 2-0 aggregate lead.

Just before half time, Michael Johnson released Jo on the left flank, and a sliding tackle from the defence cut out his return pass, which would have set Johnson up for a good chance. A minute later, the ball broke to Petrov in the box, but his smashed shot was blocked.

With the way the blues had played, Hughes would no doubt have been happy to hear the half time whistle, so he could shake the team up and get them to begin the second half at a higher tempo.

The start to the second half was delayed which repairs were made to the netting of the home side’s goal and it was a good spot from the referee, given that if there was ever a team to score, but the ball bounce through the net, it would be City.

City began to dictate possession in the second half, but chances were still few and far between. Petrov tried a spectacular volley from a tight angle, but got it all wrong, and, minutes later, the Bulgarian had a blasted shot charged down, after a Micah Richards header was only half-cleared.

Hughes looked the change things quickly as Ben-Haim and Elano went off for Hamann and Sturridge. It looked a sensible move, as Elano seemed to be getting wound up at Midtjylland’s gamesmanship and had just, seconds earlier, picked up a yellow card.

Just after the hour mark, Joe Hart made a crucial save with his chest as Thygsen broke away from Dunne and Richards and met the City keeper right on the edge of the 18-yard box.

Midtjylland substitute Babatunde had three excellent chances to seal the tie, but missed each, as he first floated a header wide, before Hart made a brave save as he was sliding in and then he skewed a shot hopelessly wide, when he was free in the box.

The same player should have done a lot better, though, when he used his thigh to volley over from six yards, with just Joe Hart to beat. City had begun to ride their luck as they pushed forward in search of their equaliser.

Danny Olsen then had the chance to see City off, as Midtjylland broke away, but he swung his foot and produced an air shot, to the relief of the travelling City support.

But with a minute of normal time to go, Michael Ball picked up the ball in the inside left channel and swung in a cross towards substitute Ched Evans. The big City striker jumped and his flick header looked to be going in, even before it took a wicked deflection off the defender Califf.

City had played their get out of jail free card and had bought themselves 30 more minutes to get their second away goal and avoid the dreaded penalty shootout.

The best chances of extra time came one after the other, as Michael Johnson found himself one-on-one with Heinze, but the midfielder placed his shot down the middle and it was an easy save for the keeper. Petrov retrieved the rebound, crossing for Ireland, who headed wide from four yards.

City thought they had got their second goal when Danny Sturridge latched on to a Stephen Ireland pass, but he was adjudged to have been offside, despite rounding the keeper and finishing off the near post. Replays showed the linesman was correct.

It was now all City, full of belief after their equaliser, and Sturridge had another chance to win the game for City, but his rising, left-footed drive smashed into the crossbar and fell clear.

Hart then produced a comfortable save from range, before watching the ball safely over his crossbar from a shot that looked, albeit for just a moment, like it might just sneak in.

City then had to endure a goalmouth scramble, when Midtjylland threatened to nick a goal, but as Petrov won the ball back on the edge of the area, he was fouled and City were able to relieve the pressure.

City’s last attempt at goal came as Michael Ball swung a ball in, but it was caught and cleared by goalkeeper Heinze, moments before Hamann volleyed high and wide late on.

And with that, the game went to penalties.

Ched Evans scored: 0-1
Winston Reid scored: 1-1
Martin Petrov scored: 1-2
Christopher Poulsen scored: 2-2
Michael Johnson missed: 2-2
Jonas Borring missed: 2-2
Dietmar Hamann scored: 2-3
Danny Califf missed: 2-3
Vedran Corluka scored: 2-4

Joe Hart pulled off an outstanding save to keep City level from Jonas Borring and then went the right way when facing Danny Califf, leaving Corluka the task of scoring to win the tie. The Croatian thumped the ball in and City, just, got through to the first round proper of the UEFA Cup.

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