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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Another mixed week for City; a turn of phrase Inoculated City has been using all too often recently. With no outright good or bad weeks recently, City kept up the trend with the abysmal performance against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday in the Europa League and then followed it up with a hard fought victory over Reading to book a trip to Wembley to face our noisy neighbours, Manchester United, in the FA Cup.

The game against Kiev was an unenthralling affair in which City rolled over and allowed Kiev to earn a deserved two-nil victory. City now have a tough challenge to overturn that deficit in the return leg in Manchester next week. Although I have every faith that City have three goals in them, I just cannot see it on this occasion.

Nevertheless, the game in Kiev was not a memorable one. The freezing conditions could offer some explanation for the humdrum performance, but it should be not used as an excuse. Kiev played with pace and desire and City were the opposite; sluggish and inefficient.

City’s defence was simply not good enough and was punished as a result. The first goal from Andriy Shevchenko could have been prevented. David Silva allowed the cross from Yarmolenko to be made far too easily and Aleks Kolarov was not alert to the movement of Shevchenko. Also, had Joe Hart not strayed from his line in attempt to intercept the cross he may well have blocked the inevitable shot.

In the second half City pressed more, but failed to create any clear cut chances. It was rather against the run of play when Kiev scored their second. On this occasion Oleh Gusev taking advantage of a free ball in the box to volley confidently past Hart. The game finished two-nil and to cap off an embarrassing night it emerged that Mario Balotelli suffered an allergic reaction to the grass. Rather strange and unfortunate for someone that plies their trade on that very surface.

So, City face a difficult challenge in the return leg in Manchester. In spite of this, City’s prospects in the FA Cup look somewhat brighter as they saw of the challenge of Reading. The game was a tense affair and City battled hard to earn a one-nil victory. Reading played well but barely created. City created plenty of chances and it would have been an emphatic victory has City been sharper in front of goal.

City, however, had to wait until 79th minute to break the deadlock: thanks a powerful Micah Richards header from a Silva corner. The relief was evident amongst the fans; the joy was clear to see for the players. Even Roberto Mancini showed more emotion than his usual reserved self by hugging Richards after his goal.

Richard's celebrates his goal against Reading

City face the challenge of United in the semi final at Wembley in April. It is exciting to think that if City were to win the game they should theoretically go onto win the trophy. Stoke or Bolton, the other semifinalists, you would think, should not beat City on such occasion. But you never know in football, especially with City. It would be typical for City to beat United in the semi final and lose the final.

Inoculated City is hopeful and confident that City can end their long wait for some silverware and taking down United on the way would make it even sweeter. Before I get accused of being obsessed with United, as per the accusation towards City fans, may I point out the 35 year banner hanging in Old Trafford to mark how many years it has been since City won a major trophy. Surely that is evidence that United fans are in fact obsessed with City? Make your own mind up but take that into account when you do.

Next week City attempt to make the up the deficit against Dynamo Kiev in the 2nd leg of the last 16 Europa League. Also, City travel to London to face Chelsea in a crucial game in the Premier League.

Words by Rob Toole

So, last week it was revealed that FIFA has banned the wearing of snoods with effect from 1st July 2011 on the grounds of health and safety. When this news broke I couldn’t help but wonder why the snood has been banned so quickly while the debate on goal line technology rumbles on.

The snood has become a popular fashion accessory in football and increasingly common in the Premier League this season with a number of high profile players, including Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure, wearing them, to the apparent disgust of many.

The snood in action

Numerous footballers, managers and pundits have made no bones about their dislike for them, and lambasted the ubiquitous snood. Alex Ferguson, Paul Ince, and Rio Ferdinand have publicity expressed their dislike of snoods all citing the “not in my day” kind of rant, except for Ferdinand of course who is still playing. In all fairness, they do have a point; wearing such a thing does seem a little pathetic in what is supposed a “macho” sport.

Yet, how can football be considered “macho” when most modern footballers dramatically roll around the floor after brushing their finger with the shirt of the opposition. A prime example, being Manchester United’s Nani, who was brought to tears after Jamie Carragher challenged him in the recent United Liverpool match. Carragher’s challenge was a bit more robust than a brushing of a shirt but still, dry your eyes mate, it’s not that bad. Therefore, to cite snoods as representing “softness” doesn’t really weigh up.

Also, England is a cold, sometimes freezing country. Lest we forgot the media insistence that the few weeks of snow in December was coined as “the big freeze” as opposed the more traditional term: winter. Taking this into account who can blame footballers, who hail from the tropics and the Mediterranean, for trying to keep their precious, over paid necks warm by wearing a snood?

Ultimately, why does anyone actually care whether footballers wear snoods? There seems little resistance to the idea of goal line technology from many involved in football, except for the very organisation that can introduce it, FIFA.

From an English perspective the issue reared its rather ugly head during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. England were playing Germany in the Second Round knockout stage, England were two-one down, when Frank Lampard, took a shot which clearly crossed the line after hitting the crossbar. The goal would have brought England to level terms. Yet the officials did not give the goal. England went onto lose the game emphatically as Germany were far superior, but there is an outside chance that they could have pulled out a result had they drew level. Had goal line technology been in place England would have as the video replays would have shown that England did in fact score.

Lampard's goal that never was

Now, I do not consider my self overtly passionate about international football as cited in my earlier blog, but I was heartbroken that England’s World Cup was ended partly due to such an avoidable referring error. Surely this moment should have been enough to make FIFA realise that goal line technology is the way forward. After all, it was a demonstration on the biggest stage of all, the World Cup. But no, instead it would appear that outlawing snoods take more of a priority. FIFA are snooding over the issue, if you like.

Throughout history, England – Germany matches have been remembered purely for unforgettable footballing moments. For example, England’s World Cup win of 1966, the 1990 World Cup Semi-Final penalty shootout, the last goal scored at the Old Wembley in 2000, Michael Owen’s hat-trick in the 5-1 thrashing in Munich in 2001. Yet the 2010 World Cup encounter will be remembered for only one thing, at least for England: the goal that never was. The moment in which FIFA should have woken up and finally put goal line technology into action but didn’t! FIFA beware, no longer can the cries of injustice be muffled or hidden by a snood so please come to your senses. How much longer can you hold out?

On a more serious note, Manchester City no longer sell City branded snoods as a result of the ban. Damn FIFA!

Words by Rob Toole

It was a fine week for City with two victories in the FA Cup and in the Premier League. Of course there was a bit of controversy thrown in, in typical City fashion, with the Kolo Toure positive drugs test being revealed on Thursday.

The first challenge of the week was Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. I suspected before the game that it would be a far tougher game than it was in reality. City simply strolled through the game at a leisurely pace and found net with relative ease and surefire class. Not to take anything away from City, but Villa fielded a weakened side leaving out the most obvious threats of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young. Darren Bent was ineligible due to being cup tied after his January move from Sunderland.

In spite of Villa’s weakened side City approached the game with pace and intent and this paid off after Yaya Toure found the net after five minutes. Toure capitalising on some sloppy defending from a City corner. The Ivorian’s shot threatened to bust the net such was the power. As Alan Partridge would say “he must have a foot like a traction engine”.

City were clearly in control of the game and it was one of those occasions in which you just knew City would definitely win. An occasion to savor as that it is not a scenario City find themselves very often!

City doubled their lead after twenty five minutes; Mario Balotelli justifying his nick name, ‘Super Mario’. Although he is super in a rather different way to his fictional, dungaree wearing, moustache bearing, computer game character namesake. Balotelli ran onto a lofted through ball from Yaya Toure to take the deftest of touches and float the ball into the top left of the corner of the goal. The finish was sublime especially considering the ball was on the rise as Balotelli struck it. A lesser striker could have easily blasted the ball into row Z.

Super Marios

A large part of the reason why Villa were nullified from the word go was David Silva. Silva is simply astounding and Inoculated City will not tire of singing his praises. The silky Spaniard has given City an extra dimension and the ability to calve open the sternest of defenses. Silva’s efforts were rewarded with a fine goal on the seventy minute mark as he drove a low shot from the edge of the penalty past Brad Friedel.

So, a fine three-nil victory against Villa has allowed City to dream of potential FA Cup semi final at Wembley. Although, City have to beat Reading first and when City are involved it is very rarely a foregone conclusion.

On Thursday it was revealed that Kolo Toure had tested positive for “banned substance” on a doping test taken on the day of the Manchester derby. As a consequence, he has been suspended indefinitely by the club until the legal investigation has been resolved. This is a major blow for City as they need all their players at this crucial stage of the season.

It has been suggested that Toure took his wife’s dietary supplement which Inoculated City would like to think would not result in a lengthy ban. It is a rather inconvenient turn of events for City and it was great to see Mancini dedicate the subsequent victory over Wigan to Toure who was only able to watch from the stands. Mancini has in effect shown a huge vote of confidence to Toure and this can only be good for him and the rest of the City squad.

The Wigan game on Saturday was not a pretty spectacle and bared very little resemblance to the performance against Villa. City had the better of the first half and David Silva enabled City took a lead into the second half. Silva’s rather tame strike should not have threatened but Wigan ‘keeper Ali Al Habsi was unable to collect the ball and let it slip through him to trickle over the line.

David Silva

The second half was a different kettle of fish and Wigan had a number of chances to equalize, the closest chance falling to Conor Sammon in the last seconds of the game. In the end City held on to claim the three points. City did not play well but managed to win. It is modern day footballing cliché that a sign of a great team is being able to get results even when playing badly. I noticed that in the post match scrutiny there was no mention of this cliché attributed to City. Although, I suspect that if Manchester United or Arsenal had won in this manner this cliché would be nauseatingly attributed to them without hesitation.

Nonetheless, this does not particularly matter, what matters is that City picked up three points and a good week was made even better by the fact that Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all dropped points. Inoculated City reckons a rather apt conclusion to the week can be found in the words of Alan Partridge: “the proof is in the pudding and the pudding in this case is a football”.

Next week City take on Dyname Kiev in Ukraine in the first leg the last 16 tie in the Europa League on Thursday. Also, on Sunday City welcome Reading to Manchester for the FA Cup Quarter Final, giving City the chance to take a trip to Wembley for the first time since the infamous Division 2 Play Off Final against Gillingham in 1999.

Words by Rob Toole

The week ended on a rather disappointing and sour note as City laboured towards a score draw with Fulham. This was immediately followed by a rather frosty handshake between Roberto Mancini and his predecessor, Mark Hughes, who is the current Fulham manager.

There was a slight reprieve from City’s humdrum league form earlier in the week as City comfortably booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League by beating Aris Salonika.

It was evident that City were in no mood for messing around against Aris as the team sheet, on paper, looked potentially lethal. Mancini opting to play Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Carlos as a forward three with David Silva tucked in behind.

Within fifteen minutes it seemed the team selection was proving to be lethal on the pitch, not just on paper: Edin Dzeko firing City into a two goal lead early on. The opportunity for the first goal was gifted to City as Aleks Kolarov pumped a long ball up to the Aris backline and Nikos Lazaridis completely miscued his clearance allowing Dzeko a clear sight of goal. Dzeko carried the ball forward and neatly slotted into the bottom corner of the goal to give City an early boost.

Dzeko celebrates against Aris

The second goal soon followed as Silva ran the ball down the left wing before laying the ball back to Tevez. Tevez picked out Dezko who was lurking on the edge of the eighteen yard box. Dzeko cut back inside to bring the ball onto his left foot and he cannoned a low shot into same corner as the first goal. This was a fine team goal which demonstrated the mouth watering potential of City’s forward line.

With City up to a two goal advantage early on, the game leveled off to a certain extent. You would have thought the two early City goals would have silenced the loud and passionate Aris fans yet they continued to sing. Although, they continued to sing the same rather monotonous song which seemed to act as a lullaby and send the players and a large proportion of the City faithful to sleep which could have been the reason why the game slowed down somewhat. Who knows?

The game livened up just before half time and Dzeko should have sealed his inaugural City hat-trick but fluffed a one-on-one chance with the Aris ’keeper, in rather similar fashion to the Notts County miss last week.

The second half was a bit of a non-event as City were seemingly comfortable to sit on their two goal advantage and Aris barely threatened. City threatened to make it three nil at times and Mario Balotelli came closest with a fine low effort from inside the penalty area that hit the post. Yaya Toure made sure of the victory not long after as he collected the ball from thirty yards out and fired a powerful shot towards goal. The shot took a deflection and nestled in the bottom corner of the net to leave the Aris’ keeper dumbfounded.

All in all it was a comfortable night for City as they brushed aside Aris Salonika to ensure a last 16 tie against Dynamo Kiev, who you would suspect would pose more of challenge to Mancini’s men. City were not so comfortable in the Premier League tie against a resilient Fulham side. City never really got going and stumbled and staggered to the final whistle to share the points. City took a first half lead thanks to superb strike from Balotelli from outside the penalty area. The goal silenced a few of his critics which he seems to have to do on a weekly basis these days. I would suggest ten goals in sixteen appearances offers the perfect answer to his critics.

Nonetheless, City, as a team never got going and Fulham got themselves back on level terms soon after the break courtesy of a Damien Duff goal. Duff firing past Joe Hart after a low Andrew Johnson cross. The game ended one all.

Mancini and Hughes handshake

However, the real spectacle of the tie came after the final whistle as both Mancini and Hughes exchanged a rather frosty post match hand shake. Mancini seemed unwilling to make eye contact with Hughes and Hughes took exception to this and pulled his hand away in disgust. I’m not too sure why Hughes was so disgusted but I felt Mancini defused the situation in rather comical fashion when asked what it was about he laughed it off and said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know what to say…I don’t understand’. So it was a frosty return to Eastlands for Mark Hughes but I’m sure he’ll have the last laugh as he has dented City’s top four aspirations slightly by taking a valuable two points off City.

In other news this week, it is expected that David Silva, who was absent for the Fulham tie, and Vincent Kompany should return to the City line ups at some point next week for the visits of Aston Villa in the FA Cup 5th Round and Wigan in the Premier League.

Words by Rob Toole

It was a good week for City all in all. With a break from Premier League action the Europa League knockout stage took precedence. City travelled to Greece on Tuesday to take on Aris Salonika in the last 32 First Leg tie and the week was brought to a close with the rather inconvenient FA Cup 4th Round replay against Notts County in Manchester on Sunday.

To Greece and City fielded a strong team that on paper threatened to take an away goal advantage into the second leg. However, the game itself was a dire, lethargic affair. Perhaps the best chance fell to Edin Dzeko who headed well from an Aleks Kolarov cross but the Aris ‘keeper managed to tip the ball over for a corner.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the cameraman felt the same sense of tedium as many of the viewers when there was a technical fault with the cameras with around ten minutes left of the game. Maybe there wasn’t a technical fault perhaps the cameraman just had enough. This break nonetheless allowed the tedium of the game to be replaced the tedium of Andy Townsend’s self-congratulatory on the spot punditry. Fortunately, this didn’t last for too long and we were allowed to witness the close of the game. The game ended a bore scoreless draw and I would like to think that City have enough in their basket to finish the job next week.

Going into the game against Notts County I couldn’t help but think that City may well slip up taking into consideration the manner in which County conducted themselves in the first leg. I thought my worse fears were coming true in the first twenty minutes as County piled the pressure onto City. This culminated with a fine long range curled effort from Karl Hawley which hit the post and bounced back across the face of the goal.

The only relief from this early pressure was a rather inarticulate gentleman who was sitting near me in the stadium who shouted murderer at Lee Hughes every time he touched the ball. Depending on your outlook this rather tongue in cheek provocation provided a certain air of comic relief to the early dominance of County.

After the Hawley effort City seemed to wake up and were able hold possession more comfortably and gradually exert pressure onto County. The pressure proved too much for County when Patrick Vieira headed in just before half time from a corner. After the break City added a second courtesy of another Vieira header from a corner. City, on both occasions, taking advantage of some sloppy defending.

Carlos Tevez was introduced into the game on the hour mark, which signalled the beginning of the end for County. Tevez added a third after he neatly rounded the ball past the keeper to inch the ball over the line. Close to the end, City ensured it was party time as Tevez neatly received a dinked through ball from Gareth Barry before providing a lofted cross for Dzeko to head into an open goal. Dzeko could have had a second goal in as many minutes but fluffed his chance as he was one-on-one with ‘keeper.

Nevertheless, in stoppage time Micah Richards powerfully half volleyed the ball into the top right hand corner of the net to put the icing on the cake. City take on Aston Villa in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup in Manchester on 2nd March.

County manager Paul Ince stated after the game that the score line did not reflect how well they played throughout the game. He may have a point but the self confessed ‘Guvnor’ was unable to govern his way through this game and Inoculated City felt sorry for him for approximately two seconds.

Next week City take on Aris Salonika in the Europa League Last 32 Second Leg in Manchester and return to Premier League action against Fulham at home, which is sure to be a tense affair with the return of Mark Hughes to Eastlands after his infamous dismissal in December 2009.

Words by Rob Toole