Stoke City 1 Manchester City 0

Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 31 January 2009, 12:45 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta (Elano 55), de Jong (Caicedo 72), Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Bellamy
Unused: Schmeichel, Vassell, Garrido, Jo, Gelson
Booked: Elano
City Man of the Match: Craig Bellamy

The game began with City in control of the ball for long spells, but never really looked threatening. Stoke flattered to deceive with a few long throw-ins from Rory Delap.

In fact, City’s first chance of the half came from a Delap throw-in. The ball was nodded clear and fell to Stephen Ireland down the right wing. He knocked the ball on to Bellamy, who squared for Robinho in acres of space. But the Brazilian decided not to take a touch and hit it first time, straight at Sorensen.

On the half hour, Onuoha clashed heads with Faye and the Stoke man was down for almost five minutes. The City centre back was fine, but the home side’s player needed lengthy treatment.

Stoke then lost their main weapon in Rory Delap. Seconds after Wright-Phillips looked lucky not to have been sent off for what appeared to be a dangerous tackle, Delap felled the winger from behind. After a little bit of a fracas involving most of both teams, the long throw expert was sent to the changing rooms for an early bath.

And just when it looked like City would be able to mount the offensive, Stoke took the lead, seconds before the break. A cross from the left wing perhaps could have been blocked by Richards and James Beattie, who had given Wayne Bridge the slip, headed past Joe Hart at his near post.

With a man down and a goal in front, it’s hardly a surprise that the home side sat in front of their own box and presented City with a sizeable obstacle to break down.

Robinho fired a shot just wide from about 25 yards, before Elano came on for the more defensively minded Zabaleta, to try and break the home side down.

Ireland almost got his head on an Elano cross-cum-shot, but his dive left him inches away from making a connection. Bellamy then had a good chance to score, but he blazed a volley over from inside the box.

It was then Robinho’s turn to volley well over, when he should have done better, before Bellamy’s long range effort had Sorensen scrambling, but it went just over the bar.

Richards was denied a late penalty claim after he steamed into the box, with replays suggesting the referee was probably right to wave play on.

City’s unbeaten run petered to an end at the Britannia Stadium, in a match where City dominated possession, but never actually looked like they were going to score. Just when Mark Hughes thought things were heading in the right direction, it seems it has been two steps forward and one step back for the blues. Roll on Middlesbrough.

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