Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Thursday September 22 2011
City easily progressed to the next round of the Carling Cup by disposing of the holders without breaking sweat.
It was a great day for football last February when the two worlds of Arsenal's centre back and goalkeeper collided to allow Birmingham their cup winning goal and send Arsenal on a landslide to oblivion. The win didn't do Birmingham much good either as they slid towards relegation. Both teams ended up losing key players to the extent that far from being Champions League challengers this season, the Gooners are in pole position for the Premier League trap door!
So it rather apt this week that the Carling Cup reports will revolve around a word rather dear to Stretford's Finest....Owen (well it's not far from 'Owing' is it?).
First of all the brown-nosing red tops did their cartwheels at the fact that the revelation that is Michael Owen scored twice against Leeds.
Then there was the add-on that Owen Hargreaves, making his debut in a sky blue shirt scored a very creditable opening goal.
City lined up in very odd fashion indeed. Was there really 4 full backs out there?
The left flank was occupied by Kolarov and Bridge and the right flank by Zabaleta and Onuoha, both favourites in Block 111.
The match started in training ground mode with neither team really going for it. Both have bigger fish to try it seems.
City played their precise possessive football without the magician to open the channels. Hargeaves seemed to be at the pivot, showing effortlessly to take control of the ball and move it quickly to his new colleagues. Progress was more side to side than back to front so in the 17th minutes he decided to take the bull by the horns. A quick change of pace and an attempted one-two with Balotelli which ended up as a one-two with a Birminghan defender ended with a stunning shot which arrowed into the top corner leaving Doyle and the modest 25000 crowd speechless. Did Hargreaves enjoy that one!
Twenty minutes later, City worked the ball from first time started Razak in the centre along the left via Bridge and on to Kolarov. His low cross behind the line of the defence found Balotelli twelve yards out and he disdainfully slotted the ball into the bottom corner. An achievement against a goalkeeper who must have been nearly two metres in height.
And that was effectively that, bring on the final whistle.
Birmingham did get one chance of note when debutant Pantilimon came out for a routine cross but elected to drop it. Davies lifted the ball towards the empty net but returning Kolo Toure hoofed it clear.
Toue would have loved to have scored and did get a chance but his goalbound header was lifted over the bar, not by a Birmingham defender but by Carlos Tevez, himself so desperate to get on the scoresheet.
After the break Birmingham did try to get in the game, but Savic, who did impress me, kept the door closed.
On the hour it was time for Hargeaves to leave the field, not injured this time, but withdrawn to make way for Milner.
City simply strode through the motions to the final whistle without any serious scrapes but with Tevez missing the type of chance that he would have netted last season. He neatly turned the central defender, drew the keeper, opened his body, but didn't strike the ball cleanly enough to beat Doyle who made a creditable save.
Mancini would have been pleased to give those out of the loop valuable match time and to save his real assets for more testing times over the next 6 days. Nobody really put much of a foot wrong but if Tevez really is to comman a £50m transfer fee and Balotelli really wants first team football then tonight was the night to lay down the claims. Tevez for probably the first time in his career didn't look too interested, although he did want to score, Balotelli was nonchalant and didn't even celebrate his goal - well it is his job isn't it? I don't see either of them displacing Dzeko and Aguero.
Savic in the centre looks the ticket. Not massive in size he is reasonably robust and very quick around the box. He covers well, times his tackles to perfection and looks as though he can do for City what Vidic does for United ...without the jersey pulling.
Razak ran his socks off clearly intent on catching Mancini's eye. He too is a big strong lad who sat in front of the back four making life very awkward for Birmingham. Hargreaves took on the quarterback's role. Always available to receive the ball and to move it on and around quickly. He genuinely looks a useful addition to the squad and I hope he stays clear of injury and shows us what he can do.
Kolo and the full back four, really had nothing to worry about.
All in all a simple night's work, no injuries, no cards. Move on.
Everton at weekend, a team I detest and a ghost that needs to be put to rest. I note they have got most of their 'choppers' back now, but at least Arteta has moved on. Drenthe could be an interesting challenge, he's not a bad lad.
Then we're off to the Oktoberfest which has already started. Oh and there's an important football match in there too.
We've had our letter from the Munchen Kops giving us our behaviour expectations. Lets hope we behave better than those disgusting creatures inhabiting Elland Road on Tuesday (both ends).
Date:Thursday September 22 2011
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