Barclay’s Premier League
Saturday 12 February 2011, 12.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Richards, Kolarov (Wright-Phillips 52), Barry, Milner (Dzeko 60), Y Touré, Silva, Tevez (c)
Unused: Given, Boateng, K Touré, Vieira, Jo
Goals: Silva (64)
Booked: Kompany, Milner
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: David Silva
United started the game quickly with a series a corners, but none of them were able to trouble the City defence and the visitors were able to clear the danger. It was City who had the best chance of the opening minutes, as Tevez slipped Silva through inside the box, but the little Spaniard poked the ball wide as Van Der Sar closed down the angle.
Nani shot over on 11 minutes from the edge of the box, after Silva had returned the compliment to Tevez and put him through, but the striker’s cross was too deep for any of the supporting players. Yaya Touré then headed over from the back post from a Kolarov free kick.
City wanted a penalty with 15 minutes played for a possible handball by Smalling as Silva put Touré through, but it was nothing doing from the referee and City got themselves a corner. It would have been a harsh penalty and the corner came to nothing.
A spell of United pressure was twice dealt with by Richards flying headers, before a dummy from Yaya Touré left Silva with the chance to break. He ran at the United defence, but couldn’t slip the return to Touré in, sending him too wide and the momentum of the move was lost.
Kolarov then benefited from some neat play between Milner, Tevez and Silva and cut inside from the left flank, working the shooting opportunity. But it was on his right foot and he skied it well over the bar from the edge of the box.
United then fashioned their first good chance of the game with 33 minutes played. Giggs found some space on the left and crossed to the back post where Fletcher was free, but his header was straight at Joe Hart and the City keeper held on to the ball. He then did the same to a deflected Nani shot from the left side of the box.
With 37 minutes on the clock, City wanted a penalty for another possible handball, this time the question was asked with more conviction. Again, though, it would have been harsh on Evra, as he charged down Silva’s goalbound shot before Van Der Sar was needed.
But then, just before half time, United took the lead against the run of play. A ball over the top fell to Nani via Giggs and he slotted the one-on-one past Joe Hart. City had been the better side, but they found themselves behind at the break.
City had the chance to get the ball into the box early into the second half, but Richards’s fired pull back missed everybody and United were able to get the ball back. And it was the visitors who started the second half the better, but they needed to score whilst they were on top. Richards couldn’t quite connect from a corner, before a bad touch from Touré in the box let the ball get away from him.
Rooney then denied Richards a goal by heading off the line from a City corner, before Silva found Van Der Sar’s gloves as he got the chance to shoot from the edge of the box, on 56 minutes. A fantastic tackle from Kompany in the area then denied Rooney the chance to shoot.
Some neat work between Silva and Tevez put the former United man free in the box on 62 minutes and Tevez drilled it towards the front post. Dzeko and Silva missed it and nobody was following up to get the shot away and the danger was cleared.
And then, with 64 minutes played, City got their equaliser. Wright-Phillips drilled in a low cross into the box and Dzeko smashed it whilst falling. His shot hit Silva on the back and looped past Van Der Sar to give City the goal they deserved. Tevez then forced a great save from Van Der Sar with his foot from a header, but it wouldn’t have counted as he was in an offside position.
Four minutes later, Tevez had the chance to shoot from the edge of the box after Silva and Zabaleta had combined on the left, but it was deflected into Van Der Sar’s arms, as Dzeko closed in. Silva then had to be quick to intercept Gigg’s pass into the City box, after he had beaten Touré and Richards and Rooney’s shot was blocked to Hart by Lescott.
Vidic had to nip in to steal the ball ahead of Wright-Phillips in the box, as the little winger tried for a one-two with Dzeko and it would have been a shooting chance for the City substitute. Nani then fired a shot well over the bar.
But then, with 12 minutes to play, City were stung again. A cross in from the right found Rooney between two defenders and he scored perhaps the goal of the season – an overhead kick from the right left side of the box. It was United’s second goal against the run of play and they didn’t deserve to be leading, but it was one of the best goals this fixture has ever produced.
United were lucky not to concede a penalty as Vidic elbowed Dzeko in the box, but the referee missed it, before Zabaleta fired in a volley from the edge of the box that was blocked and a Wright-Phillips deflected effort bounced behind for a corner. Van Der Sar then dropped the ball under pressure as Kompany challenged, but the referee gave a foul when it looked harsher than harsh.
But that was the last of the action and United ran down the clock by the corner flag. City had the chance to build one last attack in stoppage time, but they couldn’t find the vital shot in the closing seconds and it was an undeserved victory for the hosts. United were almost the away team as the visitors dominated possession and goal attempts, but it was a sublime goal that won it.
It will be little consolation to them, but City know that the gap between the sides is now minimal.