Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 7 November 2009, 15:00 KO
City: Given, Zabaleta, Lescott, Touré (c), Bridge, Barry, Ireland, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips, Tevez (Petrov 75), Adebayor
Unused: Taylor, Richards, Johnson, Slyvinho, Weiss, de Jong
Goals: Wright-Phillips (42), Touré (54), Bellamy (57)
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Man of the Match: Craig Bellamy
On a rainy November afternoon, City knew that they needed three points to break their run of draws and to cement their position in the top four spots. But Burnley didn’t go to the City of Manchester Stadium to defend for a 0-0.
Burnley started the game the brighter. After winning a corner, Burnley swung it into the box and Clarke Carlisle tried a spectacular overhead kick, but it was well off target and not worrying Given.
City struggled to get going and Burnley took full advantage thanks to a dubious decision by the referee, Stuart Atwell. Mears fired in a point blank centre at Lescott and it appeared to strike his arm in front of his face, but the assistant referee was in no doubt and Graham Alexander left Given with no chance.
The referee then didn’t endear himself to the City fans any further, by ignoring blatant shirt pulling on Carlos Tevez on the edge of the Burnley box and then punishing a perfectly fair Gareth Barry tackle with a free-kick to the visitors.
Craig Bellamy was them harshly booked for catching Chris Eagles when trying to stop a cross, before Burnley punished the home side further. Eagles knocked the ball into the middle after Barry had given it away and Fletcher tapped in, with Given stranded.
Wright-Phillips had a goal ruled out for offside, before Bellamy forced the first save of the game from Jensen, as his low drive from the left was parried wide of the post.
But City were back in the game just before the half. Wright-Phillips had a pop from wide right and it flicked off ex-blue Stephen Jordan and curled around Jensen. It meant City had a platform to build on for the second half.
And, as the second half began, City went for the throat. First, Tevez had a go from a free-kick on the edge of the box, after Wright-Phillips was fouled, but it was an easy save for Jensen. Then, Ireland tried to curl one into the net from the edge of the box, but it flew well over the bar.
Zabaleta and Jordan then exchanged words over the City man’s tough tackle, before City were awarded a free-kick just over half-way. Stuart Atwell, though, frustrated the visitors by getting his arms mixed up and indicated first that he had awarded it for them.
Barry took the kick towards the back post, where Lescott was able to get a foot on the ball and divert it back across goal. There, City captain Touré was on hand to side foot home and pull City back level.
Then, just before the hour mark, City took the lead. Ireland knocked the ball to Wright-Phillips, who fired in a low cross towards Tevez. But it was behind the Argentine and Craig Bellamy was there to hammer the ball home.
City looked the more likely to go on and win the game, especially as Tevez missed at the near post from a hard-hit Bellamy centre and Adebayor tried to skip around Jensen, but the ball went out of play before he could control it.
Burnley were than thankful to substitute David Nugent as he used his thigh to clear the ball off the line to prevent a Clarke Carlisle own goal from a well hit Petrov corner. Petrov then cut inside from the right and fired an effort a yard or so wide of Jensen’s goal.
With ten minutes to go, Ireland knocked the ball to Petrov as the pair broke into the box, but it was on the Bulgarian’s right foot and he wasn’t able to get his shot on target. The effort was also just a yard too far for the late-coming Adebayor to reach for the tap in.
And with two minutes to go, City were hit with a sucker punch. After having created the better chances of the half and with Given having been much of a spectator for the latter stages of the game, Burnley found the net, again in dubious style.
The ball looked to have curled out of play on their right wing attack, but it wasn’t given by the linesman. Lescott then lost the ball to Nugent too cheaply, He crossed for Fletcher to nod back into the box and McDonald slotted the ball past the despairing dive of Given.
City tried to force another chance, but there wasn’t time and a game that should never have needed rescuing had been rescued and then thrown away at the end. For City, this will feel like a defeat and it’s now five draws in a row for Mark Hughes’s men.