Manchester City 2 Hamburg 1

UEFA Cup Quarter Final, Leg Two
Thursday 16 April 2009, 19:45 KO

City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta (Gelson 75), Kompany, Ireland, Elano (Sturridge 84), Robinho, Caicedo
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Logan, Petrov, Evans
Goals: Elano (pen 17), Caicedo (50)
Booked: Dunne, Kompany
Sent Off: Dunne
City Man of the Match: Elano

City began the game with a packed stadium of fans waving flags and inflatable bananas. Everybody knowing City needed to score at least twice to get to the UEFA Cup Semi Finals, but knowing that a goal for the visitors and three were needed just to force extra time.

City were trying to get going from the off and they forced the first chance of the game for Micah Richards after some neat work by Elano and Zabaleta. Richards, however, lost his footing before he could pull the trigger and the ball ran through to the keeper.

But City’s task became immediately harder when the visitors got an away goal. Pitroipa crossed to Olic, who was able to hold off Dunne before he found Guerrero. Guerrero slid the ball past Given, as the keeper rushed out and Kompany threw himself at it, but couldn’t get a block in.

Dunne was then booked for a foul right in front of Mark Hughes, perhaps harshly, as it was his first foul of the game.

City, though, responded well. Five minutes later, Elano picked up the ball on the edge of the box and sent a cross in. It struck Trochowski on the arm and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Elano himself stepped up and he scored the penalty.

Elano was beginning to get into the game and, from his neat ball over to Ireland, who was making a late dash into the box, City hit the side netting.

Hamburg, though, were always dangerous on the break, with Trochowski forcing Given to concede a corner with a good save, before Dunne blocked Mathijsen’s header.

As the clock hit 40 minutes, Caicedo volleyed wide when he had more time than he realised, before he was almost able to convert Robinho’s low cross, but Rost was there to dive at his feet and smother the ball quickly.

A minute later, Robinho was hauled down about 30 yards out and Elano was first on the scene to plant the ball down for the free kick. And the Brazilian was unfortunate not to have had his second of the night, when he struck through the ball, only to see it fly over the wall and crash into the crossbar, with the keeper beaten.

The first action of the second half saw City get themselves their second goal. Richards was initially in an offside position, but the ball was cut out before it reached him. It landed at Ireland’s feet, who played it in to Caicedo, who switched it from his right to his left foot, before slotting it past Rost.

40 minutes to go and City needed one more goal. And for most of the game, it looked like it was coming. On 54 minutes, Elano hit another free kick from the left hand side of the box, beating Rost again, only to see it rebound off the post and be cleared for a corner.

From the resulting corner, he shot directly at the goal, Rost flapped at it and it landed to Caicedo’s feet, but the big Ecuadorian skied it when it seemed easier to score. Replays, though, showed it came at him quickly and he was unfortunate to have missed.

Zabaleta then had a go from outside the box, but it was a comfortable save for Rost, who must have been wondering what had hit him.

Robinho got onto the end of a delightful chip from Elano and, after deft control, he attempted to pass the ball past the keeper, but Rost was able to block with his foot. Then, a minute later, Caicedo raced through from an Ireland pass, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home, only to see the linesman’s flag in the air for an offside.

On 69 minutes, Robinho stole the ball from the goalkeeper and hit the post from a narrow angle, but it wouldn’t have mattered as the referee decided his challenge on Rost was a foul.

Then, with 15 minutes to go, City’s task got harder. Richard Dunne was shown a second yellow card for a foul by the right side of City’s box, with replays showing he was unlucky to have been booked. However, having already being shown a yellow card, there had been several fouls where he was fortunate not to have seen red.

For a while, Hamburg were on top, dominating possession, while City struggled to come to terms with having ten men. Olic must have thought he has won the game for the visitors, but Given’s foot came out of nowhere to save his stabbed shot.

Then City began to press for an equaliser. Richards volleyed over after a neat one-two with Robinho, before Gelson Fernandes skied a shot from the edge of the box.

With a minute to go, substitute Sturridge shot wide and, in the first of four added minutes, Richards worked hard to win a corner that saw Given join the attack. Robinho’s cross, however, missed everyone, before Caicedo shot well over.

Replays suggested that City were unfortunate not to be rewarded with a second penalty, when Onuoha’s shirt was pulled during the corner and he was hauled over in the box.

The game ended after Olic was chopped down by Ireland and Hamburg were able to see City off by holding the ball by the corner flag.

City won the game on the night, but lost the tie overall. They were extremely unfortunate to go out of Europe in this manner, and perhaps deserved at least a crack at Hamburg in extra time, if not to win. But it was a respectable defeat and City went out with a fight.

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Hamburg 3 Manchester City 1

UEFA Cup Quarter Final, Leg One
Thursday 9 April 2009, 19:45 KO

City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge (Garrido 45), Zabaleta, Ireland, Wright-Phillips (Gelson 83), Bellamy, Robinho, Sturridge (Benjani 61)
Unused: Hart, Berti, Elano, Petrov
Goals: Ireland (1)
Booked: Bellamy, Given
City Man of the Match: Shay Given

Guest report by Andrew Gartside.

A dream start to City’s UEFA Cup Quarter Final ended in a nightmare as Hamburg came from behind to take a commanding lead, going into the second leg at the City of Manchester Stadium.

It couldn’t have started better for the away side, as City took the lead with just 35 seconds on the clock, courtesy of Stephen Ireland. From the kick off, City picked the ball up in defence and, after working it to the centre circle, Ireland played an accurate long pass to the left wing, where Robinho took it in his stride expertly. He dummied a shot, before sliding a pass into Ireland, who had run the length of the half, to slot it into the corner to give City a crucial away goal and silence the Volksparkstadion.

To Hamburg’s credit, they didn’t let their heads drop and could have been level and even taken the lead within 5 minutes, had it not been for some fine goalkeeping from Shay Given.

The persistent pressure proved too much for City to handle, though, as they were pegged back after 9 minutes from a corner. Suspect marking led to Mathijsen being given a free run at the near post and his glancing header found the back of the net, via the hand of the unfortunate Shay Given.

Hamburg began to take full control of the game from then on in, creating several good chances, with the best being a header from Pitroipa that looped over a stranded Given only to hit the bar and be cleared to safety.

City’s only other real chance of the half fell to Craig Bellamy, who was sent through at a tight angle, but his shot was straight at the home side’s goalkeeper. Had he looked up, though, he might have found Ireland, who was waiting for a simple tap in.

The second half started how the first half ended, with Hamburg becoming increasingly more dominant as the game went on. Trochowski was consistently getting the better of Richards down the left wing, providing dangerous crosses into the box.

And it was he who scored Hamburg’s second. A relatively poor corner was cleared to the edge of the box, where Richards charged down a shot with his arms spread wide and in the air. The referee had no choice and pointed to the spot, and Trochowski converted, leaving Given with no chance.

City were beginning to look tired and defeated, as they struggled to keep up with a Hamburg team looking to put the tie to bed in the first leg. And it was telling on 79 minutes, when substitute Paolo Guerrero added the third.

Richards lazily allowed Trochowski to get in a low cross that ran right across the City backline to Guerrero, who was waiting at the back post to tap it into the net, and make the score reflect the hosts’ dominance.

It could have been even worse for City, but Given was on hand to produce another fine save in injury time and keep City’s hopes of a semi-final tie alive after the home leg next Thursday.

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Aalborg 2 Manchester City 0 (3-4 on pens)

UEFA Cup Round of 16, Leg Two
Thursday 19 March 2009, 20:00 KO

City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge (Garrido 54), Zabaleta, Kompany (Elano 107), Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Robinho (Caicedo 96), Evans
Unused: Hart, Gelson, Etuhu, Berti
Goals:
Booked: Kompany, Wright-Phillips
City Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

City went into this game knowing that a goal would leave the home side needing four goals to win, and if they could keep the Danes down to one goal, they would progress to the last eight. But, just as it seemed trips to Denmark were becoming a regular thing, things just didn’t seem to want to happen as easily as that.

City started the game the brighter, seemingly able to put their foot on the ball and play it around much better than their hosts. Ireland had a first minute shot charged down, while an Evans cross just evaded Ireland and Robinho after 11 minutes.

Robinho then had a shot deflected with, before Dunne had to be alert to stop an Aalborg breakaway after a lucky bounce nearly set Risgaard in.

Evans could have created an excellent chance on 16 minutes, but a heavy touch after a superb turn let the ball run away from him and the home side were able to clear comfortably. Ireland then had a curling effort that was well over, before Richards had the chance to cross but failed to deliver.

After 31 minutes, Dunne broke from defence with the ball, through the midfield and into attack. He layed it off to Evans, who looked to play Ireland in, but the Irishman was a couple of yards offside.

On 42 minutes, Robinho was perhaps too selfish, after he shot from a narrow angle, trying to beat the keeper at his near post. He had done all the hard work, tricked his way into the box, but the square pass was the better option.

Just before half time, Zabaleta had a go from range, but his effort was about a yard wide. City had dominated the half, failed to take one of their many chances, but were still in control of the tie.

The second half couldn’t have been more in contrast. The hosts came out with a passion, knowing they needed two goals to force extra time.

The first action saw Risgaard go down in the box, but the referee wasn’t interested and he waved play on. This was something that would become something of a pattern for the half.

Evans had an effort deflected just over on 48 minutes, after a sharp turn set him up for a half volley with his left foot. A minute later, he was through on goal, but an unfortunate bobble as he swung his foot, saw the ball to head towards the corner flag and not the goal.

The hosts began to have more and more possession and they were a ball’s width away from a goal through Caca’s shot from the edge of the box, but it looked like Given had it covered had it been on target.

Just before the hour, Robinho broke and tried to square for Evans when through, but wide, on goal. Unfortunately for City, the ball was intercepted and cleared.

Garrido, who had replaced the injured and ill Bridge five minutes earlier, was lucky not to have conceded a penalty after an hour, when he dived in and looked to have got all of the man and none of the ball. But the referee waved play on, much to his relief, as Shelton shot wide.

Seven minutes later and the home fans wanted another penalty. A cross was whipped in from the left and Beauchamp threw himself to the ground under a challenge from Onuoha and the referee correctly booked him for diving.

Robinho then gave the ball away on the edge of his own box trying the tricks and, luckily for City, Dunne was able to get enough of a block on the following shot to send it for a corner. Aalborg fired another warning shot across City’s bows from it, as a header flashed straight across Given’s goal.

With ten minutes to go, a fantastic save from Given denied Shelton after he latched on to a blast out of the Aalborg defence.

Minutes later, City were back up the other end and, from a short corner, Ireland gave the ball to Robinho, who got into the box after a one-two, and fired a shot against the crossbar. Evans then had a golden chance to win it for the visitors, but his volley from inside the box bobbled into the Zaza’s hands.

With five minutes to go, Aalborg threw themselves a lifeline. The ball was crossed in from the right and Dunne slipped in challenging the original header. It was flicked to Luton Shelton, who took the ball down and volleyed past Given. Replays suggested he controlled it with his arm, but City should still have been able to get to full time with a 1-2 aggregate lead.

But as the game entered time added on, a flicked on corner hit Evans on the arm and, despite him not being able to see the ball and his arm being by his side, the referee pointed to the spot, with Jakobsen sending Given the wrong way.

And so it was extra time in Denmark again.

The chances in extra time were few and far between, with Richards making an excellent break down the right, but giving the ball straight to the defenders, and Wright-Phillips running straight into trouble in the box before Ireland’s shot from the edge of the area was blocked.

It was backs against the wall stuff from City, denying Aalborg any chances as extra time headed on, but the visitors were unable to get out of their own half.

Onuoha put in an excellent challenge with just three minutes to go to deny a one-on-one chance, before City took the sting out of the game with some possession in midfield as the game went to penalties.

Michael Jakobsen scored: 1-0
Ched Evans scored: 1-1
Andreas Johansson scored: 2-1
Elano scored: 2-2
Thomas Augustinussen missed: 2-2
Shaun Wright-Phillips scored: 2-3
Siyabonga Nomvethe scored: 3-3
Richard Dunne scored: 3-4
Luton Shelton missed: 3-4

Two saves from Shay Given sent City into the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup, after a tie that should have been over after the first leg. Nevertheless, City survive the scare and the lessons have been learnt, so we have to wait and see who the draw will bring on Friday.

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Manchester City 2 Aalborg 0

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)
Booked: Elano
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.

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Manchester City 2 FC København 1

UEFA Cup Round of 32, Leg Two
Thursday 26 February 2009, 19:45 KO

City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta (Elano 82), Kompany, Ireland, Robinho, Wright-Phillips, Bellamy
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Vassell, Evans, Berti, Caicedo
Goals: Bellamy (73, 80)
Booked:
City Man of the Match: Robinho

With two away goals from Denmark, City were in good shape to progress to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup. But, nevertheless, they needed to be on their toes because a København victory would still have seen the visitors go through.

And it was København who started the brighter, having a large amount of possession, but not especially troubling Shay Given. City were trying to hit the visitors on the break, but Bellamy was flagged offside twice in quick succession.

Some good defensive play by Dunne and build-up from Wright-Phillips and Robinho, left Bridge with the opportunity to cross on the overlap, on 15 minutes. But, he centre just missed both Bellamy and Ireland in the box.

A minute later, Zabaleta played the ball into Robinho’s feet and the Brazilian returned it immediately, giving the Argentinian the chance to shoot from a narrow angle. Zabaleta chose to go with the outside of his right foot and it was a comfortable save for Christiansen.

Bellamy then broke down the right and his deflected cross sat up for Robinho to head at goal. The Brazilian was all ready to celebrate, but Christiansen had other ideas, getting both hands up to claw it off the line.

Robinho then got a shot away with his left foot, after beating two players to get into the box. The ball appeared to strike the second on the arm, but it fell back to the Brazilian, whose shot was pushed wide by the København keeper.

It was then the away side’s turn to shout for a penalty, when N’Doye went down under a challenge from Richard Dunne, but the referee waved play on.

Zabaleta and Robinho both had shots from range that were easily swallowed up by Christiansen, before Robinho played Bellamy through on goal and the Welsh forward’s chip beat the keeper and looked to be on its way in. But it clipped the inside of the post and bounced clear.

København started the second half the stronger, with Almeida curling an effort just over Given’s crossbar after some neat build-up play, before Bellamy had a free kick from 20 yards comfortably saved by Christiansen.

Then, after Richard Dunne needed treatment after an accidental clash with Almeida, City should have taken the lead. Wright-Phillips found himself through on goal from a Robinho pass, but, instead of taking the shot the crowd wanted to see, the little winger chose to pass the ball to Ireland, who couldn’t quite stretch to slide the ball into the net.

But it didn’t matter in the end, as, with 73 minutes on the clock, City took the lead. Zabaleta dinked the ball over the top towards Bellamy and the striker’s pace allowed him to get around the defender, who couldn’t get enough on the ball to get it back to the keeper, and slot the ball into the net.

And soon after, Robinho set up the striker for his second of the night. Given played a quick ball downfield to Robinho, who managed to take the ball down and work his way into the box. He squared it and found Bellamy, who found the top corner with his left foot.

Bellamy was in the right place at the right time, soon after, clearing off the line, before Almeida shot wide from a Sionko cross.

Bellamy almost had his hat-trick with just minutes to go, when Robinho got into the box on the left, once again, and pull the ball all the way back to him, but the Welshman’s shot was charged down.

City could have had a third, when some neat interplay between Elano, Robinho and Ireland finished with Robinho with the ball at his feet in the six yard box. The Brazilian tried to tuck the ball inside the near post, but it clipped the outside of the goal and went behind for a goal kick.

With just seconds to go, City lost their clean sheet. Martin Vingaard found himself with time and space outside City’s box and drove a low, hard shot past Shay Given and into the corner of the goal. But with over two of the three added minutes played, it wasn’t enough for København.

City progress to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup, where they will face Aalborg and their third trip to Denmark in the competition. Results elsewhere meant also that City will be the only English team left in this year’s competition.

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FC København 2 Manchester City 2

UEFA Cup Round of 32, Leg One
Thursday 19 February 2009, 19:00 KO

City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta, Kompany, Ireland, Robinho (Caicedo 89), Wright-Phillips, Bellamy
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Weiss, Vassell, Elano, Evans
Goals: Onuoha (28), Ireland (61)
Booked: Bellamy, Richards
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland

City travelled to Denmark for the second time in their UEFA Cup campaign for the first leg of the Round of the Last 32. Mark Hughes named a strong side, with club captain Richard Dunne returning from suspension to take back the armband.

The first action came in City’s box, with Almeida going down after a challenge, but the shouts for a penalty came from the stands rather than the home side’s players and they were waved away by the referee.

Craig Bellamy was caught marginally offside three times, just before Shay Given slipped when collecting a corner and dropped the ball under no pressure. Fortunately for City, no København player was near and Zabaleta was on hand to thump the ball to safety.

Kvist headed the ball weakly towards goal for København, but Shay Given was able to catch and, immediately, at the other end, Wright-Phillips had a shot saved by Christiansen’s legs.

København looked to have cleared the danger from a cross on 29 minutes, but the ball was won back in midfield by Stephen Ireland. With one touch, he sent, of all people, Nedum Onuoha free in the box as the big centre back was strong to get past the defence. His shot was weak and straight at the keeper, but a howler from Christiansen saw it end up in the net, gifting City a vital away goal.

City could have doubled their lead on the half hour, but Ireland couldn’t quite get his toe on a deflected Craig Bellamy free kick.

Christiansen then punched a Bellamy cross out of the box, but it landed to the feet of Pablo Zabaleta. The Argentinian had a go with his wrong foot, but it didn’t have the power to curl around the keeper and, instead, fell nicely into his arms.

City were taking control of the tie, and should have doubled their lead, again, seconds before half time, as Pablo Zabaleta charged down a clearance and found himself through on goal. But with Bellamy square, he chose to shoot and his toe poke dribbled harmlessly wide.

But, shortly after half time, all of City’s hard work was undone with one moment of defensive slackness. A free header from a corner on 56 minutes resulted in a goal for Almeida and an equaliser for København.

City, however, weren’t on equal terms for much longer. København had a good spell of possession after their goal, but couldn’t force an opening and after five minutes they were behind again.

Wright-Phillips chased a lost cause on the right wing and fired in a low cross from just by the corner flag. Stephen Ireland, who found himself free in the box, didn’t need telling twice and he fired a low, hard shot first time past the goalkeeper, leaving Christiansen standing.

City were seemingly content with a 1-2 scoreline and began to allow København to have more possession, but were keeping it tight and looked dangerous on the break. København struggled to create any chances, with Bridge, Onuoha and Dunne all putting in vital challenges before the home side could get a shot away.

Robinho should have made it 1-3 when he was onside and through on goal with just the keeper to beat, but his shot was fired straight at Christiansen. Bellamy also found himself with just the keeper to beat, but in trying to dink the ball over him, he miss-hit it wide.

The keeper then made up for his first half error after a fine City move down the left wing, resulting in a Wright-Phillips drive for the near post from eight yards, Christiansen diving to put the ball behind for a corner.

But in the first of three added minutes, City were dealt another sucker punch. N’Doye crossed from the right and Richards had dropped off his man, leaving Martin Vingaard with a free header, which he planted into the corner, past Shay Given.

It was a disappointing end for City, in a match where they won’t just be asking how they have failed to come away from the game with a win, but also how they managed to leave Denmark without four or five away goals. Nevertheless, City were the better side and should be able to deliver the goods against København at the City of Manchester Stadium.

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Racing Santander 3 Manchester City 1

UEFA Cup Group Stage
Thursday 18 December 2008, 19:45 KO

City: Schmeichel, Garrido, Ben-Haim, Richards, Zabaleta, Hamann, Gelson, Elano (Kompany 60), Vassell, Robinho (Ireland 45), Evans (Caicedo 76)
Unused: Hart, Ball, Onuoha, Logan
Goals: Caicedo (90)
Booked: Ben-Haim, Hamann, Elano, Zabaleta, Kompany
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland

Already through to the round of the 32, Mark Hughes fielded a somewhat understrength side for the trip to Spain, with his mind clearly on the match with West Brom game on Sunday.

The referee was stamping his authority on the match immediately, booking Santander’s Marcano for hauling down Ched Evans as he ran towards goal on 11 minutes. Serrano then joined him in the referee’s notebook for blocking Garrido’s first free-kick from closer than 10 yards. The Spaniard’s second free-kick flew well over the bar.

Tal Ben-Haim earned a booking on 17 minutes for a needless foul midway into the City half and it was a costly free-kick to concede. From the quickly taken free-kick, Santander fired a low cross into the area, Schmeichel could only parry it and Pereira passed the ball into the unguarded goal.

City couldn’t get a foot on the ball and, mid-way into the first half, Santander doubled their lead. Serrano finished off a neat move from the home side, after he had exchanged passes with Pereira, slotting the ball past Schmeichel as City offered little resistance.

The home side continued to press, but didn’t cause Schmeichel too much trouble in the City goal. Tchite tried his luck from range, but it was straight at the City keeper.

Santander then wanted a penalty for a challenge by the City keeper, as he came out to the edge of his box to deal with a through ball. The referee gave a corner, adjudging Schmeichel to have touched the ball first. Just.

Tempers were bubbling over just into the second half, with Elano going in heavily on Navas and earning himself a booking, more for his reaction than the challenge. Elano himself then nearly pulled one back with an overhead kick, but the flag was up for an offside.

City were poor in defending a corner on 54 minutes and Valera took full advantage. After the first clearance, City didn’t deal with the second ball and a free header at the back post allowed Valera to slide the ball past Schmeichel from 2 yards out. It was less than an hour gone and game over.

Tchite could have made it more embarrassing for the away side on 64 minutes, when he rounded Schmeichel, but he sliced the ball wide, when facing an open goal.

Hamann hit one over the bar from outside the area, after substitute Caicedo knocked the ball to Vassell and his cross sat up nicely for the German.

City did, though, manage to grab themselves a consolation goal – but it was too late to change the outcome of the game. Zabaleta whipped a ball into the box and Caicedo swept the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.

It was a bad night for the blues, but news filtered through from Paris that FC Twente had been hammered 4-0 by PSG, meaning that City finished top of Group A. This should give them, arguably, the easiest possible draw for the next round.

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