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