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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Sheffield United 0 - Manchester City 1

Bramall Lane

26/12/06 3pm

Attendance: 32591

Ireland Strikes for City

Stuart Pearce earned himself some breathing space as the blues came away from Sheffield with all three points in what was just their second away win of the season.

The significance of this game cannot be underestimated. Three straight defeats had thrown City onto the outskirts of the relegation fight and defeat here would have left them just 2 points clear of West Ham, City's next opponents. As it is City will now go into Saturday's game 5 points clear with a chance to put clear daylight between themselves and the bottom three. That is probably too simplistic a summation when talking of City but they deserve that chance on the back of a hard fought victory at Bramall Lane.

Despite Neil Warnock's post match bluster that City took a hammering this was a well earned victory at a ground where few points have things there own way. Pearce changed things around in terms of personnel and formation and got a response, albeit far from flowing, after the Bolton debacle.

Both teams had good shouts for penalties in the first half with United's Kozluk particularly fortunate to get away with his punched clearance off the line from a Richards header.

The football on show was far from vintage but City knuckled down and showed some fight, an aspect that was missing on Saturday. No score at half time was a fair reflection with both keepers making saves, Paddy Kenny getting fortunate when a Dabo shot bobbled and smacked him in the face. At least this smack won't have met with disapproval from his manager unlike a recent incident.

United dominated in terms of possession in the second half but it was City creating the better chances. Samaras missed the best chance when he fired wide for a throw in with the goal at his mercy. That perhaps sums up City's strikers this season and it came as no surprise that the goal, when it did come, came from a midfielder. The identity of the midfielder was a little more surprising. For once it wasn't Barton grabbing the plaudits, step forward instead Stevie Ireland with his first senior goal for the blues. Samaras did well to cushion the ball down for Ireland to shoot and the youngster delivered from the edge of the box. He had been threatening to score recently and this will do his confidence no harm.

United huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser but have striker problems of their own if this game is anything to go by. City were able to hang on without to much difficulty for a vital win.

All in all a vital win in a must win game. The pressure is off Pearce for a short while but he really needs his team to deliver in the next two games. There is an opportunity to escape the relegation scrap. City need to take it as they don't do relegation fights very well.

Star Player

Stevie Ireland .... Tireless in midfield and a great strike for his first senior goal.

Manager Rating

Changed the personnel and the formation and got a response. Will it be enough to keep him in the job? The next two games of a vital Xmas period will tell us more but a good three points all the same.

Opponent Rating

Warnock still speaks his usual drivel and got the result he deserved. His team didn't hammer City, they lost. Good job the referee got a vital shout wrong though Neil; you may have suffered more with just ten men.




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The journalist

Writer: Andy Leggott Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday December 27 2006

Time: 11:12AM

Your Comments

A precious victory for you, and a goal Ireland will remember for years to come!
sandgroanun
His hairline looks like it'll be gone long before he will be.
SeasideEssexXile
Cracking goal and deserved and needed win, especially after the blatant handball!
Tierney
 

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