UEFA Cup Round of 16, Leg One
Thursday 12 March 2009, 19:45 KO
City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta, Ireland, Elano, Wright-Phillips (Etuhu 87), Robinho, Caicedo (Evans 60)
Unused: Hart, Berti, Garrido, Vassell, Gelson
Goals: Caicedo (8), Wright-Phillips (29)
City Man of the Match: Shaun Wright-Phillips
City’s priority in this match was to get themselves a good platform for their third visit to Denmark in this competition and that they did. In truth, though, it could, and probably should have been a lot better than it actually was.
City showed their intent from the off, with Robinho sending a delightful through ball towards Shaun Wright-Phillips, but it was just too far in front of him and the Aalborg keeper was about to slide out to collect.
Then, with just 4 minutes on the clock, Micah Richards broke from the City defence and set up Shaun Wright-Phillips for a run down the right. But the little winger’s low, hard cross was whacked clear for a throw-in.
City continued to press in the opening stages and were unlucky not to have taken the lead on 7 minutes. Some neat interplay between Elano and Shaun Wright-Phillips set up Caicedo with his back to goal. The big centre forward chipped it up for himself, swivelled and volleyed, but it was over the bar.
But, a minute later, it didn’t matter. Robinho fed the ball to Caicedo on the edge of the box and he showed great strength to work his way past the defender for a one-on-one. He gave the keeper the eyes, and rolled the ball into the near post for the opening goal.
Aalborg forced their first chance on 12 minutes, when a break down the left led to the ball falling to Enevoldsen, but he sliced the ball well wide under pressure from Stephen Ireland.
The visitors were on top for a few minutes, trying to get their equaliser and a vital away goal. First, Micah Richards slid to block a shot wide from inside the box and, second, Shay Given stood up well to save a one-on-one.
From the resulting corner, City broke away, with Shaun Wright-Phillips finding Robinho on the right. The Brazilian tricked his way into the box and fired off a shot, but it was pushed wide by the goalkeeper.
Richards was then unable to get enough on a Robinho through ball, after it sent him slightly too far wide of the goal and the keeper blocked for a corner.
But then, on 29 minutes, City sublimely doubled their lead. Elano found Shaun Wright-Phillips on a breakaway, and the little winger picked the ball up on the halfway line. Running at the Aalborg defence, he beat three men to fire off a shot from just outside the box that flew into the top right corner of the goal.
But, just two minutes later, Aalborg should have had an away goal. Elano put in a block on a long range shot and the rebound fell to the unmarked Luton Shelton, but he slid the ball wide of Given’s far post.
Seconds before half time and City looked like they should have had a penalty. Robinho had the ball inside the box and appeared to have been hacked down whilst doing his step-overs, but the referee awarded a goal kick and waved the claims away.
The first action of the second half saw Stephen Ireland breaking down City’s left. He worked his way into the box and forced the ball across, but there was nobody waiting and it was cleared for a corner.
From that corner, Dunne nearly grabbed his second of the season, but the keeper was able to punch the ball away just before he connected. From the second corner of that spell, Onuoha should have scored, heading over from six yards out.
City had taken their foot off the pedal in the second half, but were still, by far, on top. Wright-Phillips had a heavy touch on a one-on-one and the keeper collected the ball, before a Robinho pull back from the by-line didn’t quite make Evans.
On 69 minutes, Richards, somehow, managed to not get enough on a header towards an open net from four yards and the ball was cleared off the line. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, because the linesman had flagged him offside.
Four minutes later, Wright-Phillips missed from just inside the box after a great ball from Elano, before Richard Dunne put in a cracking block to stop a free header from troubling Given.
Pablo Zabaleta then gave away a free kick in a central position, in range, and a long delay to the injured Jakobsen left City fans fearing an away goal. It didn’t matter, though, because it was hit well over Given’s bar.
And with just a minute left, Luton Shelton was clean through in City’s box, but he couldn’t stretch far enough and the ball was sliced wide.
With that, Aalborg’s chance of an away goal ebbed away and City were able to see out the first leg of the tie. City will be pleased with the performance, but perhaps disappointed that the tie isn’t already over with the number of chances they had. Nevertheless, a clean sheet and a two goal lead are not to be sniffed at.