Date:Sunday December 22 2013
The Blues came to town yesterday putting their poor away record, which includes 3 away wins in Europe once again on the line in their bid to climb the Barclays Premier League table. Despite their fearsome record on home shores at the Etihad, we all know that had City been able to emulate a single modicum of that form on their travels, everybody else in the Premier League would be playing for the minor places on the podium or in United`s case a place in the Europa League.
The shores of the country`s most famous river yielded some interesting weather conditions yesterday, with the wind resembling Benbecula much more than the nation`s capital city and this was to prove a challenge for the nation`s most important City.
Determined to treat away matches like home matches, City set off at their usual pace, urgently seeking an early response and, more importantly an early goal. Fielding his best available team give or take Kolarov for Clichy,and restoring the fans favourite City`s number one, Joe Hart, to guard the uprights, Pellegrini is at last throwing down the gauntlet rather than changing for changing`s sake. Aguero, destined to take the festive season off injured, gave way to the ever eager Dzeko, who promised we wouldn`t notice the difference. Prompted by the increasingly brilliant Silva, the much improved Nasri and the most beautiful of Beasts, Negredo, there was little excuse for him squandering a hat trick of acceptable chances in the first half, before City finally got the scoreboard moving.
Fulham for their part set up to frustrate City without a recognised out and out forward and try to press high up the field, Southampton style. But with Nosey Parker in midfield they are always likely to concede free kicks and therefore possession, especially as their back line is a bit pedestrian at the best of times. And City`s movement in and around that is always likely to produce dead ball situations in a true and honest way that is not echoed at the only football stadium in the Premier League that now embraces a diving board at its Stretford End. Maybe it is a form of sport diversification in a bid to generate more debt repayment from the increasing number of disgruntled rags taking Saturdays off these days.
Taraabt was given the thankless headless chicken role for Fulham. Never intended it seems to be a grafter, under new boss Meulensteen, he was detailed to put in a shift trying to defend from the front and help load up the midfield numbers once his team surrendered the football. Having said that the first major chance of the match fell to him, giving Hart early involvement in producing a worthy save to highlight his return to the starting eleven.
Next up, played in superbly by Dzeko who can graft when he can apply himself, Silva checked the woodwork for wet rot, leaving Stecklenberg for dead.
It actually took City 23 minutes today to register their first goal and when it came it was worth the wait. Sidwell has lost a lot of whatever speed of thought he may or may not have had and was forced by the neat and nimble Silva, in some ways his nemesis, to produce the foul in the edge of the box "D". Clearly he has not been watching the DVDs of Yaya and, more recently, Kolarov, both of which went into Prime Ministers Question Time around 20 yards out. Yaya got the vote and didn`t disappoint with his fourth such free kick of the season, once again bending it over the wide, wide of the net minder and into the so-called postage stamp, clipping the underside of the bar. Magnificent!
There was more urgency about City after this as they searched for the match-killing second goal, ahead of half time. When it came it was again from a free kick and from the unlikely source of Vincent Kompany, City loves him more than he will know!
Martin Demichelis seems to have mastered what the Pedmachine has mooted for many a year, in arriving for set pieces at the far post and late, undetected by the defence. Silva`s free kick missed all the front stick runners and hovered on high long enough for Demichelis timed run. His goalbound header was kept out by Stecklenberg, but Kompany poked in the rebound to make it 2-0. It was his first goal in an injury-plagued season. His second was to prove even more interesting later on.
City have a habit of scoring one or either side of half time and with this one in the 42nd minute another within 10 minutes of the restart would probably see off a match that was already seen off, wasn`t it?
Well someone didn`t give the Cottagers the script. Instead they took the view that, hey, this was only City away. Silva did have the chance to chalk up City`s third goal before a precise move of incision by Fulham, one of which City themselves would have been proud, lit the touch paper.
Taraabt took on Clichy after chasing a clearance, raced clear and delivered an excellent cross on to the toes of ex-Stretford Richardson, giving him the type of tap in that the Beast himself loves. The catalogue of ex-rags scoring or over-performing against the Blues continues to plague City. Surely, however it would spark city on to greater things wouldn`t it?
In fact no it didn`t as for the next 20 minutes City went into their away coma , becoming harassed, pressed and uncertain as they feared a Fulham equaliser. It was inevitable that it should arrive , but who could have quite predicted the manner?
Hart`s clearing had been difficult in the second half as they came back in the gusting wind, and with 20 minutes to go an innocuous cross from Riether, looked easy meat for Kompany even at a stretch. But Captain VK found the wind just as bad for him as it was for Juggling Joe as the ball ballooned high into the London sky and returned expertly over Hart`s head and into the back of City`s net to really put the cat among the pigeons and rule out City`s unassailable lead.
So now arrived the real test of City`s character. We have seen too many setbacks of this nature this season. Without them the title race would be finished, but now City needed to get on the front foot again without a lot of time to do it. Navas had already been introduced at the expense of Dzeko to add some speed to the Blues attack. It wasn`t quite working so for the last 15 minutes Pellegrini went to his most trusted of foot soldiers, Milner.
And the combination went to work. Three minutes later Silva was once again the catalyst feeling the ball down the right to Navas. The chance looked to have gone with Navas looking to have gone wide, but this resourceful Spaniard is full of invent at the time of the advent and he somehow fired an unstoppable shot through the gate and into the back of the net to restore City`s lead.
It was not a time to sit back now and the Blues once again took the game to the tiring Fulham. The Beast couldn`t get himself on the scoresheet today, but he did turn provider in one of the most outrageous pieces of skill we have seen from him. His cross precisely tailored cross with the outside of the foot, took out what remained of the Fulham backline and found Milner, just about unattended and lurking near the penalty spot. He attacked it in a flash, sending it past the Fulham keeper and neatly inside the post with a first-time shot.
Now City could safely see the game out as the big blue juggernaut now looks as though it is in tune. They survived everything else , even giving Fulham the opportunity of 10 minutes of Garcia in midfield having withdrawn the master magician.
Earlier on in the season the Blues might have waved the white flag at this one especially having surrendered a 2-goal lead again, but since the amazing comeback in the Allianz Arena they now look more confident and with just about everyone playing for their places and not wanting to be selected for the bench, there is a growing sens of spirit in this team that has recovered from whatever Mancini did and then undid.
Clichy did reasonably well as an emergency right back and Kompany looks to be back to majestic best despite his comic cut clearance that could have been the subject of much press generated embarrassment. The Fernadinho-Yaya axis is getting more and more mouthwatering and Silva is simply irreplaceable. If Dzeko doesn`t rise to the goalscoring challenge, I would look at putting Navas in there. He is quick, decisive and does know his way to the net. He also gives City better alternatives as he can go wide and allow Silva or Nasri to back up Negredo.
Pellegrini seems to have confirmed that he will continue with Hart for the visit of Liverpool on Boxing Day, a match which brings the incredible Suarez to the Etihad to present city with the type of challenge we have not seen at home so far this season, at least in the Barclays Premier League, as the league`s top two teams prepare for a square-up. This will beyond doubt be the hottest Christmas ticket for years as a series of season-defining matches now start to loom for those in the top four places.
Date:Sunday December 22 2013
Two Young Blues Get A Sleepover With The FA Cup (Friday March 7 2014)
We Must Not Let History Repeat Itself (Friday March 7 2014)
VIDEO: Cup Win Is Special - Kompany (Wednesday March 5 2014)
Edin Dzeko - Champion Or Passenger? (Tuesday March 4 2014)
The Ped Final Report City 3-1 Sunderland (Monday March 3 2014)
Stats: Manchester City FC v Sunderland AFC (Sunday March 2 2014)
League Cup Final: The Citizens vs The Black Cats (Friday February 28 2014)
City Fan Lives the Dream (Wednesday February 26 2014)
Into The Days Of Reckoning With One Eye On Summer (Wednesday February 26 2014)
The Ped Report City 1-0 Stoke City (Sunday February 23 2014)
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