UEFA Cup Round One, Second Leg
Thursday 2 October, 2008, 19:45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards (c), Ben-Haim, Garrido, Kompany (Hamann 67), Elano, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Robinho (Petrov 70), Jo (Evans 67)
Unused: Schmeichel, Ball, Gelson, Sturridge
Goals: Elano (48), Wright-Phillips (55)
City Man of the Match: Elano
City carried a one goal lead into the home tie with Omonia Nicosia, but it was just a matter of making sure the job was done, with Jo’s two strikes in Cyprus giving City two away goals. And Mark Hughes was taking no chances, especially after the upset at Brighton and the disappointment of the JJB, giving only skipper Richard Dunne a rest from first team duties.
The match began on a nasty note, with a bad foul on City’s winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, by Charalambous. The referee, however, didn’t think it worthy of a card and Wright-Phillips was able to continue.
Just before the quarter of the hour mark, the first real chance of the game was fashioned and it was for the home side. After some quick feet from Robinho, the Brazilian flashed an effort across the goal, but it flew wide of the keeper’s far post.
And that looked to be the best of the first half action, as Omonia struggled to get their game going and City were playing keep-ball, but not carving out any chances.
As it looked like the game was going to ebb to half time, Wright-Phillips, Ireland and Robinho linked up well, but Ireland’s low cross was intercepted by keeper Georgallides before Robinho could connect, nine minutes before the break.
The second half began at a much higher tempo from the home side and the City fans, who had all gathered in the North Stand, hoping for goals, didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough.
Robinho latched onto a loose ball on the left and raced away from the Omonia defence, before slowing at the corner of the box. After holding up the ball for support, he found fellow Brazilian Elano, who volleyed home excellently from 25 yards, beating Georgallides low to his right.
City almost had a second immediately after, but Wright-Phillips could only stab a Garrido low ball straight at the away side’s goalkeeper.
But it was 2-0 shortly after, as some neat play by Zabaleta found Wright-Phillips in the area. The little winger battled his way through two challenges, before smashing the ball into the net, all but ending Omonia’s hopes of reaching the group stages.
Shortly after the second goal, Mark Hughes made his changes, replacing Jo and Kompany with Evans and Hamann on 67 minutes, and Robinho with Petrov, fresh from his injury, with 20 minutes to go.
City were back in keep-ball mode, as they toyed with Omonia, who looked to be going back to Cyprus well and truly beaten.
Stephen Ireland should perhaps have grabbed himself a goal, when he was played through by Zabaleta, but the Irishman’s chip was miscalculated and dropped well wide of the mark.
With 12 minutes to go, the away side grabbed themselves a goal, when Alabi gave his man the slip from a right wing corner and had a free-header to beat Joe Hart.
Martin Petrov almost marked his return with a goal, after he took a short corner from the right, received it back from Zabaleta, cut inside and unleashed a rocket shot from 25 yards. But Georgallides was equal to it, palming the ball away to safety.
Three minutes from time, the Bulgarian might feel he should have scored again, when City broke and Wright-Phillips squared to Evans, who dummied a shot and then found Petrov in space on the left. But the left-winger’s shot was straight at Georgallides.
Omonia tried for their second away goal with some late pressure from a corner, but the ball was hacked to safety by the City defence. City were safely through to the group stages of the UEFA Cup and Mark Hughes will be hoping for a kind draw on Tuesday morning.