Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 16 May 2009, 15:00 KO
City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Kompany, de Jong, Ireland, Elano (Zabaleta 30), Petrov (Bojinov 60), Caicedo (Benjani 60)
Unused: Hart, Berti, Gelson, Sturridge
Goals: Bojinov (64)
City Man of the Match: Nigel de Jong
It was all or nothing for City’s European push this afternoon, confirmed when Fulham took all three points against Newcastle. A victory would put City two points ahead of Tottenham, but a Tottenham win and it was all over for the visitors.
Despite this, City just never got started. It took two wonderful saves from Shay Given, from Jermaine Defoe, to keep the scores level. It was all one-way traffic and the only real surprise was that the home side didn’t take the lead sooner.
A long ball from the back was taken down well by Tom Huddlestone, who crossed into the box. Defoe had gotten around the back of the City defence, stayed onside and was able to flick the ball past Given, from five yards.
Zabaleta came on to replace the injured Elano, who appeared to be suggesting he had been poked in the eye, and was almost immediately yellow carded. Petrov then had City’s best chance of the half, running down the left, before cutting inside. But his tamely hit shot was straight at Gomes.
Just a few minutes before half time, Jermaine Defoe was lucky to have escaped a yellow card for an over the top tackle… on the linesman! Nedum Onuoha won the ball and brought the Spurs striker down, who then appeared to kick out at the official on the line, perhaps thinking it was Onuoha.
The second half started with City looking much brighter. In fact, they looked the better of the two sides with Caicedo almost connecting with a Zabaleta cross from the right, before he was able to cut inside on his left foot, but his shot was well wide.
Bojinov and Benjani joined the match and it only took four minutes for the change to affect the game. A ball to the right was headed down by Benjani and Valeri Bojinov was on half to half-volley the ball into the goal with his left foot, for his first league goal for City.
Kompany then missed a golden chance to put City ahead, when he mistimed his free header at the back post and it ended up going backwards. The Belgian then tried to lift the ball to Benjani a couple of minutes later and the Zimbabwean threw himself at the ball, but it was cleared.
Replays suggested, however, that the cross could have been blocked by the defender’s arm and City might have had a case for a penalty.
Pavlyuchenko then, somehow, sidefooted wide from four yards out. He was in an offside position and it would have been disallowed by the linesman, but neither he nor Given would have known that at the time.
Five minutes from time, though, and Tottenham were gifted a golden chance to put City out of the running for European football next season. Both Fraizer Campbell and Micah Richards went down after coming together in the City box, as a harmless cross bounced to Given and the referee awarded the home side a generous penalty. Robbie Keane stepped up and sent Given the wrong way.
City should have equalised from a corner two minutes later, however, when Nigel de Jong’s header fell to Benjani in acres of space at the back post. But the Zimbabwean headed over, when he should have scored.
City finished the game pushing for an equaliser, sending everybody – including Given – into the box for a couple of corners, but they were unable to force the goal. It’s the end of the road for City’s season, the defeat ensuring the visitors can’t reach seventh position.