Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 7 February 2009, 12:45 KO
City: Given, Richards, Kompany (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta, de Jong, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Robinho (Caicedo 83), Bellamy
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Gelson, Elano, Vassell, Evans
Goals: Bellamy (51)
City Man of the Match: Shay Given
Mark Hughes made one change from the side that lost at Stoke, bringing in new signing Shay Given for his debut and what a debut he had! Joe Hart was dropped to the bench, despite doing very little wrong all season, and he’s now got a fight on his hands to get the jersey back.
City were up for this game from the off, with Bellamy chasing a ball down the left, after good work from Ireland and Robinho. Ireland was then gifted the ball by Digard and he knocked the ball through for Bellamy to chase, but Brad Jones was out to clear.
Kompany then showed his ball-juggling skills before volleying just wide from a corner, and Robinho swung his leg but missed the ball when faced by Pogatetz in the box.
Middlesbrough should then have taken the lead on 28 minutes, when the City defence was caught off guard. The ball was whipped in from the right and Alves had slipped his marker to fire at goal first time, but Given made himself big and was able to push the ball away to safety and Richards completed the clearance.
City then broke down the other end and forced a corner. From it, Wright-Phillips had a go, but it was blocked in the box and fell to Bellamy. The centre-forward smashed a shot first time at goal and it would have broke the back of the net, but for Brad Jones, once again.
Zabaleta then collected the ball in midfield, carried it into the Middlesbrough half and hit one from range, firing it just over from 30 yards.
It had become end-to-end for the final few minutes of the first half, as Given produced a good stop when wrong-footed and City breaking with Ireland. The Irishman knocked the ball to the left and broke into the box for the return ball, flinging himself at it to get to it, clipping the bar with a header.
He nearly became the provider, seconds later, when his low drive across goal was just fractionally too quick for Bellamy to slot into the empty net, Wheater completing the clearance.
The last action of the first half saw Alves miss a one-on-one with Given, the new signing making another good save.
The first action of the second half saw City score what turned out to be the winning goal. De Jong found Ireland in the midfield and he swept the ball out to Bellamy on the right. The Welshman then cut inside onto his wrong foot and sent off a low, hard shot into the bottom left corner of the goal.
With just over an hour gone, Robinho could (and perhaps should) have made it 2-0. He found himself running one-on-one with Brad Jones and attempted to go around the Middlesbrough keeper. But, the keeper got a hand on the ball and knocked it from his stride.
The rebound fell to Shaun Wright-Phillips, but it was too wide of the goal to hit first time and when he did get a shot in, the visitors had got back in numbers.
Given proved his worth once again, with 20 minutes left, when Alves took advantage of a mix-up between Kompany and Onuoha, but City’s keeper kept out his low drive.
Robinho had a shot flash just wide, before being replaced by Caicedo, who had an effort comfortably saved from outside the box.
The Middlesbrough fans wanted a penalty for a possible handball in the final minute, but the players didn’t appeal and the referee said no. Three minutes were added and City ensured the victory by keeping possession in the corner.