UEFA Cup Round of 32, Leg One
Thursday 19 February 2009, 19:00 KO
City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta, Kompany, Ireland, Robinho (Caicedo 89), Wright-Phillips, Bellamy
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Weiss, Vassell, Elano, Evans
Goals: Onuoha (28), Ireland (61)
Booked: Bellamy, Richards
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland
City travelled to Denmark for the second time in their UEFA Cup campaign for the first leg of the Round of the Last 32. Mark Hughes named a strong side, with club captain Richard Dunne returning from suspension to take back the armband.
The first action came in City’s box, with Almeida going down after a challenge, but the shouts for a penalty came from the stands rather than the home side’s players and they were waved away by the referee.
Craig Bellamy was caught marginally offside three times, just before Shay Given slipped when collecting a corner and dropped the ball under no pressure. Fortunately for City, no København player was near and Zabaleta was on hand to thump the ball to safety.
Kvist headed the ball weakly towards goal for København, but Shay Given was able to catch and, immediately, at the other end, Wright-Phillips had a shot saved by Christiansen’s legs.
København looked to have cleared the danger from a cross on 29 minutes, but the ball was won back in midfield by Stephen Ireland. With one touch, he sent, of all people, Nedum Onuoha free in the box as the big centre back was strong to get past the defence. His shot was weak and straight at the keeper, but a howler from Christiansen saw it end up in the net, gifting City a vital away goal.
City could have doubled their lead on the half hour, but Ireland couldn’t quite get his toe on a deflected Craig Bellamy free kick.
Christiansen then punched a Bellamy cross out of the box, but it landed to the feet of Pablo Zabaleta. The Argentinian had a go with his wrong foot, but it didn’t have the power to curl around the keeper and, instead, fell nicely into his arms.
City were taking control of the tie, and should have doubled their lead, again, seconds before half time, as Pablo Zabaleta charged down a clearance and found himself through on goal. But with Bellamy square, he chose to shoot and his toe poke dribbled harmlessly wide.
But, shortly after half time, all of City’s hard work was undone with one moment of defensive slackness. A free header from a corner on 56 minutes resulted in a goal for Almeida and an equaliser for København.
City, however, weren’t on equal terms for much longer. København had a good spell of possession after their goal, but couldn’t force an opening and after five minutes they were behind again.
Wright-Phillips chased a lost cause on the right wing and fired in a low cross from just by the corner flag. Stephen Ireland, who found himself free in the box, didn’t need telling twice and he fired a low, hard shot first time past the goalkeeper, leaving Christiansen standing.
City were seemingly content with a 1-2 scoreline and began to allow København to have more possession, but were keeping it tight and looked dangerous on the break. København struggled to create any chances, with Bridge, Onuoha and Dunne all putting in vital challenges before the home side could get a shot away.
Robinho should have made it 1-3 when he was onside and through on goal with just the keeper to beat, but his shot was fired straight at Christiansen. Bellamy also found himself with just the keeper to beat, but in trying to dink the ball over him, he miss-hit it wide.
The keeper then made up for his first half error after a fine City move down the left wing, resulting in a Wright-Phillips drive for the near post from eight yards, Christiansen diving to put the ball behind for a corner.
But in the first of three added minutes, City were dealt another sucker punch. N’Doye crossed from the right and Richards had dropped off his man, leaving Martin Vingaard with a free header, which he planted into the corner, past Shay Given.
It was a disappointing end for City, in a match where they won’t just be asking how they have failed to come away from the game with a win, but also how they managed to leave Denmark without four or five away goals. Nevertheless, City were the better side and should be able to deliver the goods against København at the City of Manchester Stadium.