v Spurs 2-3
December 23 2002 att. 34,563
the fightback at Charlton and good win at Sunderland hopes were high for this
home game with Spurs. The games with Spurs have always been full of good football
and incident. I remember the day we thumped them 6-2 in 1962 with Peter Dobing
scoring three, Jimmy Greaves scoring the two for Tottenham. It was a wonder display
by City I noted at the time. The same year Spurs won the cup beating Burnley 3-1
- one of the many Finals I have managed to see. First time I saw Spurs was way
back in 1947 Eric Westwood scoring the only goal for City from the left wing.
Notable names in the Tottenham team were Ted Ditchburn in goal , Dix who had guested
for Blackpool during the war years and Billy Nicholson who was later to become
their manager. Yes and I saw the escapade on ice and snow in Dec 1967 when City
won 4-1. But enough of this nostalgia what of this clash in 2002.
were unchanged and should have been ahead as early as the second minute when Berkovic
had a break down the right flank and tried to lob keeper Keller- left. The ball
went agonizingly wide!
continued to dominate with Keller kept pretty busy - below right he is saving
from Annelka. City were looking good with Berkovic constantly probing the Tottenham
lead lasted but 9 minutes. Spurs started to have more possession and won a corner
on the right. The left footed corner found Perry completely unmarked at the far
corner of the goal area and he was able to head home with ease -left. His marker
Foe was transfixed as was Tiatto on the goal line and why didn't Schmeichel come
for the corner. OK so it was fast but I have seen Peter S take these with ease.
Oh what a lack of concentration by the City defence.
City running the game and in full flow it just seemed a matter of time before
the first goal came.
Keller on the left saving from a corner
luck was not on City's side and when Freund blatantly checked Berkovic as the
Israeli was about to break through once more the referee only gave a free kick
and not a red card as Freund was already on a yellow! Justice was done as Horlock's
sweet left foot from the ensuing freekick found a leaping Howey and the gentlest
of glances sent the ball bouncing into the Spurs net. One nil and a deserved lead
for City after 29 minutes.
Schmeichel was earning his keep just before half time when Zeige latched onto
a rebound from a City defender and let fly. The City keeper made a great save
and at the break honours were even.
had barely time to return to our seats when Spurs struck again. Robbie Keane broke
down the left and despite the efforts of Dunne put over a great cross to the far
post where Welsh international Simon Davies lost his marker and headed home -
was to come. With just 6 minutes to go with Spurs on top substitute Poyet - on
the ground scored from a corner taken by Zeige.
could have been worse Schmeichel did a 'Weaver' and an uncharacteristic poor attempt
at clearing almost gave a goal away.
got himself sent off for a second stupid yellow card offence for kicking the ball
away - left
the ten men, Benarbia on as sub for a disappointing Sun, scored a last minute
second goal for City. By the this time I was trudging across the car park joining
many of the other disappointed fans streaming out of the ground - right
what went wrong ? After such a promising start City lost confidence against a
well organised Tottenham side. City's defence at corners lacked concentration.
For once Jihai Sun didn't have a good game and Goater looked lost up front. The
sooner City get a partner for Anelka the better. Will it be Klose I wonder ? Benarbia
looked back to his best form in the last 20 minutes. Too many half chances went
astray and against Premiership opposition you cannot afford such luxuries. With
the Villa game coming up on Boxing Day will Keegan make changes? Perhaps playing
both Benarbia and Berkovic and bringing in Huckerby for Goater. We will see.
:-Schmeichel 6: Dunne 6, Howey 6 , Distin 7: Sun 5, Berkovic 7, Foe 6, Horlock
6, Tiatto 6: Goater 5 Anelka 7
v Aston Villa 3-1
December 26th 2002 att. 33,991
the disappointment of the Spurs result I suppose we were expecting more than the
one change that City made for the game with Villa -Wright -Phillips taking over
from Jihai Sun who was not even on the subs bench - injured perhaps? Villas's
away record was poor so I was expecting a comfortable win.
nearly scored in the opening minutes when a back pass went stray and Goater and
Enckelman collided leaving the Villas prostrate for a minutes or so. He resumed
after attention. The ball went for a corner.
did not have much to offer early on and Schmeichel was able to deal with their
efforts. However his kicking left much to be desired and on a couple of occasions
miskicks went to City players rather than the opposition. I had memories of some
of Weavers efforts a season or so ago and after his narrow escape from an embarrassing
gaffe against Spurs I was beginning to wonder if age was telling.
the delight of the holiday crowd City took the lead after 15 minutes. A long ball
from Schmeichel found Anelka and Goater passed to Vivian Foe who scored with a
left foot shot as he was falling - right. One nil to City.
made further chance but like the previous Monday evening spurned them. Tiatto
was dumped by Ulises de la Cruz who was booked for the offence. Perhaps injured
in the tackle the Australian did not resume after half time his place being taken
before half time Villa began to pressurize the City defence and immediately after
Schmeichel had saved from Cruz , Dublin made no mistake after a cross from Samuel.
1-1 and was the unease of the City faithful being carried onto the field as Villa
ended the half strongly.
just 8 minutes to go a terrific move started at the half way line - Anelka taking
a long pass from Berkovic, held the ball up sufficiently for Benarbia to gallop
up to the six yard line it ended with a wonderful header by Ali Benarbia who threw
himself full length to head in from Anelka's bullet cross. 2-1 to City and Villa
were shell shocked and there was more to come ...
2 minutes later Ali was at it again as he delicately chipped a delightful ball
forward for Marc Vivian Foe to crash home for the third - right.
Foe has now
scored 5 goals in the last 4 games - not bad for a so called holding midfielder.
He certainly seems to be enjoying his new fold role as scorer!
If he had taken
an easy chance earlier he would have had a hat trick. It was the exquisite skill
and instinctive football brain of Benarbia that made it.
was turning into a scrappy game with neither side gaining the advantage. Clear
chances were few and far between so after 60 odd minutes Keegan decided to play
his ace - his secret weapon - Ali Benarbia ! and what a secret weapon. Within
minutes of his arrival on the pitch he had hit the bar with a beauty and delivered
several delicious passes cutting the Villa defence to ribbons. He took over from
Wright -Phillips who was not having the best of games. As soon as Huckerby replaced
Goater who looks less and less Premiership class as the season progresses, Anelka
livened up and City looked more dangerous.
-of-the-match was easily Ali Benarbia who has struck a wonderful vein of form
when he has come on as sub. After the summer break he had disappointed in the
early games but now can Keegan dare leave him out? A difficult decision as the
super sub may not have the legs at 34 to last a full game at Premier pace. In
addition if he is not in the starting lineup it is difficult for the opposition
to plan ahead too much to cope with his skill, so coming on with fresh legs at
some stage in the second half has its advantages. Villa could not cope with him
and time and time again he found time and space to cause havoc in the Villa defence.
:-Schmeichel 6: Dunne 6, Howey 6, Distin 7: Wright-Phillips 5 (Benarbia 10+) ,
Berkovic 8, Foe 8, Horlock 6, Tiatto 6 (Jensen 7): Goater 5 (Huckerby 7), Anelka