Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 1 March 2009, 12:30 KO
City: Given, Richards (Caicedo 15), Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Kompany, Zabaleta, de Jong (Bojinov 88), Ireland, Robinho, Bellamy (Elano 65)
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Berti, Vassell
Booked: Kompany, Ireland
City Man of the Match: Richard Dunne
City’s away record had been poor before their visit to West Ham, and the travelling City fans were hoping it would change. With Bellamy’s recent form against his former clubs, there was a sense of hope in the air that he could get the visitors the three points.
But, it was West Ham who began the game the brighter, with Carlton Cole first being inches away from charging down a Given clearance and then almost converting from a low, Ilunga cross.
With just under ten minutes gone, Scott Parker found his name in the book for a foul on Micah Richards, as he tried to break down the right.
At the quarter-of-the-hour mark, Vincent Kompany had a volley on goal backheeled towards the corner by Robinho, who looked to be well offside. But the flag didn’t go up and Green was forced into a superb fingertip save to put the ball behind for a corner.
Richards was then forced off, still struggling after the challenge with Parker, and a quick re-shuffle allowed Caicedo to come on, with Zabaleta dropping to right-back.
Bellamy found himself on the left flank, where he was able to work the best chance of the match. He took the ball around Lucas Neill and played it into the box. Caicedo missed it, but it fell to Robinho, who slotted it wide, when the goal looked more likely.
Di Mechele then should have given the home side the lead, when he found himself with time and space on the left side of the box, but he could only drive his shot directly at Shay Given.
The first half petered to a close, when Behrami went to ground after trying to tackle Bridge, with replays showing that he could well be very seriously injured after his studs got caught in the ground and both his ankle and knee twisted awkwardly.
Brdige found himself in the box, early in the second half, and on the receiving end of a Craig Bellamy cross, but he was unable to get over the ball and headed it up and over Green’s crossbar.
Richard Dunne was earning his corn two minutes into the second half, nipping in to deny Collison a strike on goal. Minutes later, Carlton Cole turned in the box and was ready to fire a shot at Shay Given, but Dunne arrived with a superb sliding tackle. The Hammers wanted a penalty, but it was an excellent tackle and the referee got it right.
It was backs against the wall for a while for City, who couldn’t get out of their own half. West Ham weren’t especially troubling Given, but they were pressing well, with Scott Parker having their next attempt on goal blocked by Wayne Bridge.
But then, with 20 minutes to go, West Ham took the lead. Given produced a good save to deny Savio, but the rebound fell to Jack Collison who lobbed the ball over the despairing dive of the goalkeeper and into the net.
City then took the game to West Ham, trying to force an equaliser. Four minutes they had been behind when Caicedo wriggled free for a one-on-one with Green, but his final touch was a bit heavy and he could only find the side netting.
A minute later, Robinho dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box, when he received a back-heel from Elano. The Brazilian snatched at the shot, possibly not realising he had more time than he would have expected.
It was the home side’s turn for backs against the wall defending, as the clock ran down, with Lucas Neill touching a Robinho effort wide and Elano and Robinho getting in each other’s way for an Ireland knock-down.
Valeri Bojinov made his first team return, coming on for De Jong with a couple of minutes to go, as Mark Hughes attempted the throw the kitchen sink at the home side.
As the clock hit the final minute, Parker was lucky not to see his second yellow card, as he hauled down Robinho on the edge of the box. Robinho had to leave the pitch injured, with City having used all three substitutions.
This left Elano to hit the free kick, and it looked to be curling in until Neill again touched the ball onto the post and behind.
Bojinov dispossessed Cole, as the big forward was wasting time by City’s corner flag. But, try as they might, the visitors couldn’t force the ball back up to the other end of the pitch for another chance before the final whistle.
It was another away defeat for City, but a performance that was ten times better than that at Portsmouth. But, nevertheless, there’s still a lot of work to be done.