A mixed week for City, with some positive activity on the pitch and in the league table. This week also saw the passing of a City legend, Neil Young, who died at the age of sixty six.
The week started with the closure of January transfer window. There was no high drama in Manchester as the deadline approached on Monday night. Chelsea and Liverpool, however, flailed around vast piles of cash on the out of form Fernando Torres and the inexperienced, injured Andy Carroll respectively. A welcome rest bite from media scrutiny for City who, for once, did not grab the headlines with a big money buy at the close of the transfer window. Nonetheless, City youngsters Andrew Tutte and David Ball left the club. Tutte headed for Yeovil Town on loan until the end of the season and Ball joined up with Peterborough United on a permanent deal.
City’s first challenge of week fell in the mid-week clash away to Birmingham City. City started excellently after David Silva ran rings around the Birmingham defense before laying the ball off to Carlos Tevez inside the penalty area. Tevez took the ball wide of the goal and managed to squeeze the ball into the far corner of the goal with the aid of a slight deflection off Martin Jiranek. A great start inside four minutes which signaled a potentially great evening for City.
However, City threw away their advantage with some atrocious defending on what seemed to be a rather standard free kick routine from Birmingham. David Bentley’s free kick was crossed into the box and eluded a sea of bodies before the faintest of touches by Nikola Zigic fooled Joe Hart which allowed Birmingham a way back into the game. Birmingham, on this occasion, taking advantage of the seemingly increasing soft centre to City’s usually solid defence.
City fought their way back into the game after Aleksandar Kolarov sublimely converted a free kick on the edge on the penalty area. The powerful, curled effort left Birmingham ‘keeper Ben Foster with no chance of saving it. Yet, it was City who were left ruing their defensive shortcomings and lack of a killer instinct as Birmingham finished the game with a point. Patrick Vieira clumsily gave away a penalty which was confidently converted by Craig Gardner. Ultimately, the night ended in frustration as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all picked up three points in the Premier League clashes the night before whereas City left Birmingham with one point.
Come the weekend, City were looking for three points and perhaps more importantly, a clean sheet, against West Bromwich Albion in Manchester. Before the game the crowd gave a minute’s applause to pay tribute to Neil Young, the City legend, who passed away earlier in the week.
City started the game at a frenetic pace with Tevez hitting the post after a fine Kolarov cross. City were soon rewarded a goal after Kolarov was brought down inside the penalty area by Steven Reid. Tevez stepped up and confidently put the ‘keeper the wrong way. A relief for Tevez, I’m sure, as he missed his previous two spots kicks against Leicester City and Blackpool.
City continued the onslaught and found themselves two goals to the good after Silva played a neat one two with Tevez, who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net. In all honesty the game could have finished as a cricket score due to the ferocity and frequency of City’s attacking play. However, in the end City had to settle for only three goals, the third goal came from a second Tevez penalty which was rifled into the top of the net. A fine day for Tevez who completed a hat-trick on his twenty seventh birthday and a fine day for City who ended the day with three points and a clean sheet. At the end of the week City look in a more positive position in the league table after Manchester United lost to Wolves, Arsenal drew with Newcastle and Chelsea lost to Liverpool.
Next week: the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday which is sure to be a hotly contested game, as always. In the meantime be prepared for the onslaught on verbal diarrhea from the media as the excitement builds to the big day.
Words by Rob Toole