Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 26 October, 2008, 15:00 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Ben-Haim, Dunne (c) (Gelson 76), Garrido (Onuoha 70), Kompany, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Elano, Robinho, Evans (Sturridge 42)
Unused: Schmeichel, Berti, Hamann, Caicedo
Goals: Robinho (14, 47, 72)
City Man of the Match: Robinho
The home side got off to the better start, testing Stoke’s goalkeeper Sorensen immediately, but he was equal to Robinho’s effort. He was in action again two minutes later, punching away a Garrido cross a split second before youngster Ched Evans make contact with the ball.
City fans didn’t have to wait long to see their side score, though, as Wright-Phillips crossed for Elano, who nodded the ball back for Evans. It looked on first viewing like the young Welshman had miss hit his shot, but replays showed he played the ball as intended to Robinho, who took a touch and slid the ball in the near post.
City were well in control of the match, but looked like they might throw away their lead when Tal Ben-Haim underhit a pass across the box, for Ricardo Fuller to steal in, but skipper Richard Dunne deflected the Stoke man’s shot and Hart was able to tip the ball round the post.
Dunne received treatment for a tangle just out of the left side of the box soon after, and the crazy rules of football meant he wasn’t on the pitch for the following Stoke corner.
Shawcross powered his header straight at Hart, who was able to deflect the shot around the post and allow the captain back on to steady the ship.
With just three minutes of the half remaining, Ched Evans was forced off with injury and replaced by fellow academy graduate Daniel Sturridge, with Jo missing out because he has tonsillitis.
One minute after the restart, Robinho doubled his tally and City’s lead, after some good work by Sturridge, cutting in from the right and sliding a delicate pass through to the Brazilian, Robinho was able to drive the ball low and hard into Sorensen’s bottom right corner.
Sorensen looked shaky just before the hour mark, as he punched a Garrido cross straight up instead of away, but he got lucky, as Wright-Phillips curled the ball with the outside of his foot straight back into the keeper’s arms.
On 58 minutes, Richards missed a volley that looked easier to score, after some neat play from Ireland and Robinho found the defender unmarked in the six yard box and seconds later, Robinho almost grabbed his hat-trick goal, but Sorensen superbly saved to his right.
Joe Hart, a spectator for large parts of the second half, had to be on his toes on 61 minutes to tip a Tom Soares powered drive over the bar.
City were in complete control of the game and looking comfortable, but they wanted a third to put the game well beyond their opponents. It nearly came on 64 minutes when Wright-Phillips found Robinho in the area, but the Brazilian smashed the ball right at Sorensen.
The home side broke with less than 20 minutes to go, and Wright-Phillips tapped the ball back to Sturridge, who slid the ball across the edge of the box for the unmarked Robinho, who made sure this time – sealing his and City’s third of the game.
Wright-Phillips almost broke the heart of the lad in front of me (who had £1 on City to win 3-0 and Robinho to score at 27-1) a minute later, when he was clean through and tried to round Sorensen, but the big keeper was able to smother the chance and get the ball out for a corner.
Dave Kitson, who was on for Soares, should have grabbed the away side a consolation on 85 minutes, but his header from a corner was straight at Joe Hart, who held the ball well.
City had the last chance of the game, with Ireland clean through, but his shot spooned uncharacteristically over the bar. Robinho was there, however, to give the Irishman a quick hug and get him back to his feet.
It was a comfortable win for City and a game that was thoroughly enjoyable for the home crowd. Not one player had a bad game, but Robinho will take the headlines with his first hat-trick in English football.