pre season excitement following the world cup and the return to the Premiership
was given a jolt by the result in the first game at Leeds. The somewhat disappointing
result of nil three with defensive lapses and missed chances being the main problem
was not the most ideal way to start the season. By all accounts City played reasonably
well in the first half and on another occasion might have been two up before Leeds
scored. Keegan's decision to play just Anelka up front and packing the midfield
was a bit of a surprise though I suspect this lineup will change for home games.
In retrospect I wish City had signed Robbie Keane instead of Macken or Vuoso.
He would have made an excellent partner to Anelka. With the transfer deadline
coming up soon and with City having problems with the 60 million loan plan with
US Investment Bank Bear Stearns I cannot see any more newcomers arriving in the
next week or so though the news that Nigerian defender West is training with City
to prove his fitness shows that Kevin K is not entirely happy with the defence
especially when both Dunne and Howey looked vulnerable against Leeds.
other talking point is the Roy Keane affair which beggars belief. I just hope
the FA take action immediately the book comes out and the suspension is similar
to that given Cantona a few years ago. In all the years I have been following
football it is the first time any player has actually come out and admitted his
foul was a deliberate act to injure a fellow professional player.
Aug 24 City v Newcastle U 1-0 --Aug 31 City v Everton 3-1
v Newcastle United 1-0
August 24th 2002
minutes silence for the two murdered girls Holly and Jessica in Soham,Cambridgeshire
was impeccably held by both Newcastle and City supporters.
There were several
debuts in City's home return to the Premier League. Peter Schmeichel made a surprise
debut in goal after an pre-season injury and he was given a warm welcome by the
City faithful despite his United past. There was a home debut for Distin against
his former club and the Newcastle fans greeted his every kick with loud boos which
were immediately drowned by City cheers. Marc Vivian Foe entered the fray as a
defensive midfielder and upfront Nicholas Anelka also made his home debut.
constant drizzle made the superb City surface a bit slippy and City took control
of the midfield their passing and running off the ball being of a high standard.
The Newcastle were stretched on many occasions - above a last ditch tackle
robbing Bernabia of a chance.
ten minutes a dangerous cross from Sun Jihai just misses the far post with Anelka
and Benarbia inches away from connecting after the Chinese international had intercepted
a Newcastle pass near the half way line. The Newcastle goal was under constant
pressure with Schmeichel having little to do.
Below, nine minutes later
the ball is cleared off the line by Dabizas from Huckerby with the busy Given
beaten for once.
half an hour had gone when City missed their best chance. Jensen returned a poor
Newcastle clearance into the box and Foe headed over the bar from an unmissable
position- or so we thought.
36 minutes the constant City pressure paid off. The move started on the right
with Sun passing forward to Anelka who held the ball up for a moment or so. His
cross was hit at goal first time by Jenson and above Given is saving the
shot, pushing the ball out. At this moment Huckerby looks to be in an offside
position but presumably deemed not interfering with play. The ball ran loose before
a rebound from Berkovic came to Huckerby who headed home from close range - below
celebrates with the City fans at the corner flag and it was a surprise that City
went into half time only one goal up, Foe in particular missing that header from
close range. Outstanding in the first half was Sun Jihai on the right side of
defence who linked up well with Wright Phillips and looked every inch a Premier
player. With the likes of Tiatto, Goater and Horlock on the bench the squad looks
very strong and the football stunning in every way.
few minutes later the City goal had an extraordinary escape. A rocket by Lua Lua
was well saved by Peter Schmeichel - above . The ball ran loose past defenders
Sun and Howey who had rushed back to cover .
Up ran Kieron Dyer who hit the
ball wide of an empty goal
Below he had his head on his hands as Peter Schmeichel
gives his thanks to Allah!
case any Newcastle fan visits this page I thought I would include a Newcastle
goal - although it was scored at half time against Moonchester!
an excellent display by City from front to back. They looked a better team than
Newcastle United and should have scored several more but I am sure Kevin K will
take the three points . The defence looked good in a fast paced game on a tricky
surface. All the newcomers did well in a fantastic team display.
In all the
years I have come to Maine Road I cannot remember such exquisite football and
that includes the Bell Lee era. Absolutely cracking City and there will be a full
house every home game at this rate and no worries about
a. staying up on this
form -top six ? - perhaps
b. filling the new stadium next season.
praise the Chairman and board enough for having the guts to bring Kevin Keegan
here despite the efforts of Joe Royle.
(9) : Sun (8) Howey (8) Distin (9) : Wright-Phillips (8), Foe (8), Benarbia (9),
Berkovic (8) Jensen (7.5) : Huckerby (8) Anelka (8) :
came on for Berkovic after 79 minutes.
v Everton 3-1
August 31st 2002
the poor City display at Villa in midweek the City faithful were hopeful of a
return to form as they took on Everton. Although a brighter weather day than he
last home match a gusty breeze caused several early mistakes as the game got off
to a bitty start with neither side being able to string many passes together.
So it was with some surprise that an unchanged City side took the lead in the
14th minute. Berkovic was fouled outside the area. Anelka took the free kick which
took a wicked deflection off the Everton wall and eluded the diving Simonsen - below
a couple of minutes City were two up and the vociferous Everton supporters were
silenced. Following a partially cleared corner Jenson made a magnificent recovery
to keep the ball in play and managed to get it to Huckerby whose cross was nodded
down by Howey to the ever alert Anelka who volleyed home from close range - above
. 2 up and City were playing nothing like their Newcastle form - whose complaining!
was of particular interest to me to see two Chinese players playing in the same
Premiership game - the first time I understand. As I spent two years being involved
in Honk Kong football many years ago I was able to see at first hand how their
skills have improved.
On this occasion City's Sun Jehai proved his worth and
played the full 90 minutes ( how this lad is improving ) whilst Tie Li of Everton
was substituted after 25 minutes. No doubt 50% of the live Chinese TV audience
Frank Soo of Stoke City was the first Chinese player to play
in the Football League - Div One prewar - I didn't see him play then - I hasten
Note below how Anelka is there in defence as this Everton corner is cleared
continued to press and first Huckerby -above left - had a shot cleared off the
line and above right Simonsen made a great save from a header
game took a dramatic twist just before the half hour. An overlapping Naysmith
dashed down the left wing and was brought down by Shawn Wright-Phillips in the
penalty area. It looked like a penalty but worse was to come. Referee Barry Knight
was of the opinion that Wright Phillips was the last defender so sent him off
decision sparked protests from the City players and the City supporters gave the
referee from Kent a lot of deserved stick. It was a rash decision to say the least
as 2 defenders were there to cover a cross. I like to think that referees make
honest mistakes but there are some who delight in the controversial incident to
make the headlines. The pompous Mr Knight falls into this category.
hope City appeal against the sending off which any sane person would agree was
inconsistent with the facts.
the great Peter Schmeichel could not stop the left foot shot from the spot by
Unsworth - below
the sending off the game changed its shape with City forced to work much harder
to keep possession. Everton got more chances especially in the second half and
Schmeichel made some great saves. City were reliant on the odd breakaway and keeping
both Huckerby and Anelka on despite being down to ten men meant that Everton had
to keep defenders back at times. The City goal had some narrow escapes - one of
them above when Kevin Campbell missed right infront of goal from a header
by Stubbs at a corner.
Below Schmeichel makes a point blank save from a Unsworth volley by punching the ball
66 minutes Berkovic was replaced by the more defensive Horlock but it was game
set and match with just five minutes to go when the ever industrious Anelka robbed
Naysmith in the Everton half and raced through to beat two defenders and Simonson
by placing his shot past the keepers right hand -above. Brilliant stuff
and a well deserved hat-trick for the Frenchman.
smiling Anelka celebrates with Vivian-Foe after clinching a 3-1 City victory .
was a great team display by City, forced to play with ten men for 60 minutes.
(9) : Sun (8), Howey (9), Distin (9), Jensen (8): Wright-Phillips (7), Benarba
(8), Bervovic (7), Jensen (8); Anelka (10), Huckerby (8).