Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 10 May 2009, 13:30 KO
City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Kompany, de Jong (Petrov 73), Ireland, Elano, Robinho (Evans 89), Caicedo (Bojinov 63)
Unused: Hart, Berti, Gelson, Zabaleta
City Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany
City went into the second Manchester derby of the season looking to continue their good form of recent weeks and try and get back into seventh spot, after results the day before went, largely, against them.
And City started the brighter, forcing the game’s first corner from a through ball aimed towards Nedum Onuoha, who had broken out of defence and carried on into the box.
United had the game’s first shot, with Park dragging it well wide, after a Ronaldo cross bounced through the box to the Korean’s feet.
City had a half shout for a penalty after the ball struck Ryan Giggs on the arm from an Elano cross and, given that Blackburn had conceded the same type of penalty the day before, the City fans were adamant, but there were few appeals from the players.
Richard Dunne was then penalised for winning the ball in a tackle with Dimitar Berbatov and Cristiano Ronaldo fired the resulting free kick into the wall from 35 yards. But that decision seemed to set the precedent.
Shortly after, Stephen Ireland was chasing Berbabov back after City lost the ball in attack and his sliding challenge won the ball, á la Darren Fletcher against Arsenal, but a free kick was given. Ronaldo’s effort deflected off the wall and wrong-footed Shay Given, finding the net.
De Jong attempted a long range effort on goal, but seemed caught in two minds between a cross and a shot, and van der Sar smothered the ball in the six yard box.
Stephen Ireland was then booked for a late tackle on Evra, the Frenchman’s eight or nine rolls perhaps the deciding factor for the referee, who had let similar tackles go for both sides previously.
Berbatov was then perhaps a lucky boy not to have his name taken for kicking out at Vincent Kompany, when the two players were running into City’s box in a United attack. Displays of petulance similar to that had been harshly punished elsewhere, this season.
City were then lucky not to be two goals behind, as the ball fell to Carlos Tevez on the edge of the box and, with Given out of position, the Argentine curled the ball around City’s keeper, beating him, but not beating the post.
But that didn’t matter shortly after, as, from a long punt out of defence, Berbatov showed an excellent touch to take the ball down and find Tevez, who finished from range off Given’s left hand post. It was a good finish, but perhaps harsh on City, who had looked equal to what United had thrown at them, throughout the first half.
City started the second half brightly, with a ball in from Robinho towards Caicedo forcing a corner, and then Robinho was unable to find Kompany on the edge of the box. Fletcher then earned himself a yellow card for chopping down Ireland, the Irishman being on the receiving end of another tough challenge.
Rafael then nearly fluked a third goal from a miss-hit cross, before Robinho was found running through by Ireland, but he fired wide when it seemed like he was going to pull a goal back for the away side.
A loose ball from Elano then let United back in on the break. Robinho failed to slide the ball away from Rafael, and the Brazilian looked to find Park, but Kompany was on hand to clear.
Some good improvisation from Elano allowed City to attack further, finding de Jong in the middle, who knocked it wide to Bridge. His ball in was too high, but it bounced to Elano, whose reverse ball found Richards, but his cross-cum-shot was swallowed by van der Sar.
City forced the next opportunity, too. Elano found Ireland and, after some neat interplay with Robinho and Kompany on the far side, got the ball back and his shot was deflected, almost to Caicedo.
With 20 minutes to go, a poor corner from United resulted in a City break. De Jong superbly found Robinho, who squared for the substitute Bojinov, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Scholes somehow avoided a yellow card for thumping the ball 40 yards away from a City free kick, before a Richards flick on had just too much pace for Ireland and the ball ran through to van der Sar.
With fifteen minutes to go, Tevez won a loose ball in midfield and carried it towards the box. From just outside, he had United’s first shot of the half, but it was wide and didn’t trouble Given.
With seven minutes to go, a Ryan Giggs miss-hit cross tested Given, before another miss-hit ball in from Rafael was swallowed up by the City keeper on the second attempt.
Kompany then found himself running at goal and his ball towards Petrov was cut out. It fell to Robinho and, after getting it out of his feet, he hit an effort from range, but it was blocked by Vidic.
Martin Petrov then hit a shot from 30 yards, curling towards van der Sar’s post, but the United keeper was equal to it, tipping it around the post for a corner.
Paul Scholes suddenly found himself onside and through on goal from a long ball over the top, but an outstanding tackle from Richard Dunne, tracking back from high up the pitch, stopped the shot.
From the resulting corner, Darren Fletcher hit the post with a header, and, had it gone it, it would have been very harsh on City, after their second half performance. And with that, City pressed for the closing minutes, but were unable to force a goal.
A goal to a deflection, after a wrongly given free kick, and a moment of pure skill have beaten City at Old Trafford, who perhaps deserved a point for their efforts. Nevertheless, it won’t stop the media pretending it was a walk in the park for the home side, despite City having pressed for large spells of the match.