UEFA Cup Group Stage
Thursday 6 November 2008, 19:45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Dunne (c), Richards, Garrido, Gelson, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Vassell (Elano 65), Robinho, Jo (Benjani 59)
Unused: Schmeichel, Ben-Haim, Onuoha, Hamann, Evans
Goals: Wright-Phillips (2), Robinho (57), Benjani (62)
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland
With City’s league form faltering over recent weeks, it was vital that Mark Hughes’s side got off to a good start in their opening UEFA Cup Group game with FC Twente, and they didn’t disappoint. With just two minutes on the clock, Gelson Fernandes marked his return to the starting eleven by providing the spark for the opening goal. He knocked it to Wright-Phillips in the Twente half, and, a one-two with Jo later, the tricky winger fired the ball under the away team’s goalkeeper to make it 1-0.
I’ll be honest, I’m describing replays because the goal was too quick for me. I wasn’t in the ground when the ball hit the net.
City looked to be well in control of the game, until Twente snatched themselves back level. A ball over the top was left by both Dunne and Richards after it appeared to be aimed at a Twente player who was well offside, but he let the ball run and Eljero Elia ran between the defenders to slot past Joe Hart.
The game then became very scrappy, with City having a lot of possession, but with little penetration and Twente looking very dangerous on the counter attack.
Zabaleta picked up a yellow card for a slight tug on Hersi, who appeared to go down two or three strides after the incident, before Twente goalscorer, Elia, talked himself into the book, disputing a foul.
Jo provided the home fans with a little spark, just before the break, beating two Twente defenders in the area and attempting to drill the ball through the keeper’s legs. Unfortunately, the ball was on his less-favoured right foot, and the Brazilian didn’t get the power in it he would have wanted, and Boschker saved.
City looked to take the lead again from the second half kick off, but their early pressure came to nothing. Robinho released Jo in the area, but the big centre forward could only stretch to toe poke the ball towards goal, with the through pass being ever so slightly too fast for him.
Eight minutes into the second half, a large section of the City fans thought Wright-Phillips had grabbed his second of the night, when his 20-yard effort narrowly missed the right hand post.
But, on 57 minutes, City did retake the lead. Stephen Ireland broke into the Twente half, before laying the ball left to Robinho. City’s record signing then cut inside and curled a beautiful, dipping shot around the goalkeeper and into the top corner, to the delight of the home crowd.
Jo then made way and Benjani came on for his first appearance of the season, after injury. And the Zimbabwean didn’t have to wait long for his first goal of the season, as, on 62 minutes, he broke into the Twente area and his shot deflected off the defender’s feet and into the corner of the goal.
And after his regular celebration, he performed it once more, with a big smile on his face and with Robinho joining in. Every home fan in the ground shared his pleasure, as City were 3-1 up and Benjani was back with a goal.
But the home fans had barely taken their seats, when they ended up back on the edge of them! Robbie Wielaert broke free of his man at a corner and, despite a last-ditch attempt by Dunne to challenge, he headed home.
On 75 minutes, City fans thought they had a two goal cushion, after Robinho snapped a shot across goal, only to see it rebound back to the keeper’s arms after hitting the post.
With 11 minutes to go, Benjani nearly grabbed his second with a shot from range, but Boschker pushed it around the post.
Benjani, Robinho and Zabaleta then combined, and Robinho found himself free in the box. He shot across goal, only to see the ball rebound back off the very same post he had hit ten minutes earlier.
And just as the fourth official’s board went up, the ball fell to Huysegems in the City area. The Twente man had time, but his shot was blazed over, when he could have salvaged a perhaps undeserved point for Steve McClaren.
City got off to a great start in their ground and sit in second place after their first game. Mark Hughes will be happy with the chances created, but perhaps he will be disappointed with the goals conceded. Roll on Tottenham.