Racing Santander 3 Manchester City 1

UEFA Cup Group Stage
Thursday 18 December 2008, 19:45 KO

City: Schmeichel, Garrido, Ben-Haim, Richards, Zabaleta, Hamann, Gelson, Elano (Kompany 60), Vassell, Robinho (Ireland 45), Evans (Caicedo 76)
Unused: Hart, Ball, Onuoha, Logan
Goals: Caicedo (90)
Booked: Ben-Haim, Hamann, Elano, Zabaleta, Kompany
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland

Already through to the round of the 32, Mark Hughes fielded a somewhat understrength side for the trip to Spain, with his mind clearly on the match with West Brom game on Sunday.

The referee was stamping his authority on the match immediately, booking Santander’s Marcano for hauling down Ched Evans as he ran towards goal on 11 minutes. Serrano then joined him in the referee’s notebook for blocking Garrido’s first free-kick from closer than 10 yards. The Spaniard’s second free-kick flew well over the bar.

Tal Ben-Haim earned a booking on 17 minutes for a needless foul midway into the City half and it was a costly free-kick to concede. From the quickly taken free-kick, Santander fired a low cross into the area, Schmeichel could only parry it and Pereira passed the ball into the unguarded goal.

City couldn’t get a foot on the ball and, mid-way into the first half, Santander doubled their lead. Serrano finished off a neat move from the home side, after he had exchanged passes with Pereira, slotting the ball past Schmeichel as City offered little resistance.

The home side continued to press, but didn’t cause Schmeichel too much trouble in the City goal. Tchite tried his luck from range, but it was straight at the City keeper.

Santander then wanted a penalty for a challenge by the City keeper, as he came out to the edge of his box to deal with a through ball. The referee gave a corner, adjudging Schmeichel to have touched the ball first. Just.

Tempers were bubbling over just into the second half, with Elano going in heavily on Navas and earning himself a booking, more for his reaction than the challenge. Elano himself then nearly pulled one back with an overhead kick, but the flag was up for an offside.

City were poor in defending a corner on 54 minutes and Valera took full advantage. After the first clearance, City didn’t deal with the second ball and a free header at the back post allowed Valera to slide the ball past Schmeichel from 2 yards out. It was less than an hour gone and game over.

Tchite could have made it more embarrassing for the away side on 64 minutes, when he rounded Schmeichel, but he sliced the ball wide, when facing an open goal.

Hamann hit one over the bar from outside the area, after substitute Caicedo knocked the ball to Vassell and his cross sat up nicely for the German.

City did, though, manage to grab themselves a consolation goal – but it was too late to change the outcome of the game. Zabaleta whipped a ball into the box and Caicedo swept the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.

It was a bad night for the blues, but news filtered through from Paris that FC Twente had been hammered 4-0 by PSG, meaning that City finished top of Group A. This should give them, arguably, the easiest possible draw for the next round.

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