In his one and only complete season in charge, Mark Hughes’s Manchester City could usually be relied upon to score goals, especially at home. Naturally – and somewhat surprisingly, given the Welshman’s turnaround at Stoke in the current campaign – the Blues couldn’t keep a clean sheet to save their lives. If there was one match that summed up their record in 2008-09, it was the home tie with West Bromwich Albion.
The fixture came three days after the club had given their all in a 2-1 victory – which became a 4-3 defeat over two legs – against Hamburg and it was imperative the team bounced back quickly if they didn’t want their season to fall apart. In the end, they’d miss out on European places largely due to the away form – but that wasn’t known in April 2009.
Ahead of the match, the Baggies were bottom of the table and City were in 10th, four points behind Tottenham in the place above. The away side’s manager Tony Mowbray would have been hoping to hit the Blues while they were down – and he very nearly did.
It started simply for the hosts. Eight minutes into the match, Stephen Ireland lofted a curled ball to the back post from the right flank, where top scorer Robinho was arriving ahead of the visiting defence. With a deft side-foot, the Brazilian volleyed into the bottom corner to give City the lead. It was another shining example of the partnership the two had struck up that campaign.
There was controversy about the goal that doubled City’s lead, however. After 21 minutes, Felipe Caicedo flicked Elano’s corner to the near post straight up into the air as he challenged for the ball, tempting goalkeeper Scott Carson off his line to come and claim. As he did, the Ecuadorian shoulder-charged him in the chest and knocked him backwards with nothing more than brute force – leaving Nedum Onuoha free to head home.
The goal probably shouldn’t have stood – but it did.
With City cruising and in full control, they took their foot off the gas and allowed the visitors back into the match. Eight minutes before the break, the ball fell to Chris Brunt on the edge of the area and he slid an effort into the bottom corner past Shay Given – via a deflection off Richard Dunne.
The Baggies’ comeback was complete less than 10 minutes after the restart. Brunt took a free kick from the right corner of the box. It missed everybody in the box, despite it being a low delivery, and left Given helpless as it nestled into the bottom corner. From a position of strength, the Blues were back at square one with the score at 2-2.
City were back in front less than a minute later, however. Elano broke into the box and continued carrying the ball across the face of goal where Jonas Olsson chopped him down. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot; Carson stood to one side to try and tempt the Brazilian into mind games, but he didn’t bite. The midfielder picked out the corner for 3-2.
As the Premier League’s basement side tried to rally and get themselves level again, the match became tight. In the end, it was second half substitute Daniel Sturridge who secured the win, as the home side broke in stoppage time. Ireland squared across the box to the youngster, who slotted into the empty net.
After the match, City boss Mark Hughes said:
“We showed great commitment and we dug in. We had to – West Brom are fighting for their lives and we knew they would throw everything they had at us. And we are pleased Robinho is back on the goal trail too. It is his first in 2009 and important for him – hopefully he will go on a run now.”
Post-match, West Brom manager Tony Mowbray said:
“We came here and we had a go. And we had enough chances to have won, the game even though the scoreline does not suggest that. Credit to my players, we came back into the game. Then we shot ourselves in the foot by giving away a penalty straight away. In our last five games we will try to stay positive. We will keep going and try to score goals and win matches.”
You can watch the highlights of the match here.
City: Given, Zabaleta, Onuoha, Dunne, Bridge, de Jong, Kompany, Ireland, Elano (Gelson 74), Caicedo (Sturridge 58), Robinho (Petrov 84).
Unused: Hart, Richards, Garrido, Evans
On this day, Calvin Harris was sitting pretty at number one in the UK chart with his hit I’m Not Alone. It was his second of two weeks at the top of the bill.
New on the cinema on this week was 17 Again, which featured teen heartthrob Zac Effron and former Friends star Matthew Perry in a time-travelling rom-com masterpiece. I think. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen it.
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Written by David Mooney.