Man City 0.v.3 Rovers
The City of Manchester Stadium
Saturday 20th January 2007. 17:15
It was another case of away day glee for Mark Hughes and his troops as Rovers overcame a sloppy City side clearly missing the influence of their star midfielder.
The game got underway in clear conditions and Rovers taking control early on.
Shabani Nonda had a great opportunity in the second minute but scuffed his effort. The chance came from a wickedly whipped ball into the box from the right by David Bentley. Man City`s 'keeper, Nicky Weaver came but only flapped at the ball and it proceeded to race through to Nonda but he couldn`t react quickly enough.
Rovers maintained a lot of the early possession, stroking the ball around calmly with Tugay, as ever, heavily involved. City seemed content to play a long ball game and, but the red Rovers kit, you`d have thought they were the away side.
However, despite Rovers` domination with the ball they couldn`t create any clear openings. Tugay was looking ominous with enthusiastic support out wide from Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Bentley.
Midway through the half the Man City defence was sliced open by an immaculate ball from Tugay. Benni McCarthy was the intended target but he was denied by a wonderful last ditch challenge from Micah Richards.
Richards, having affected the game at one end, almost turned the game at the other. From City`s second corner, Richards charged through the Rovers defence like an express train and thumped a header towards goal. Bentley was on hand to clear from the line but play was stopped when it became clear Andre Ooijer had suffered a bad injury.
Brett Emerton came on in the 35th minute to replace Ooijer who appears to have broken his ankle.
That effort on goal stirred the home support who had only mustered muted disapproval of their side`s performance so far.
It looked as though City were coming into the game more but with Tugay, Gamst and Bentley looking threatening Rovers still had options.
It was through the combination of two of them that Rovers crept ahead in the 43rd minute. Bentley nudged the ball beyond his marker and curled a deep cross into the centre of the goal, met emphatically by Gamst whose bullet header flew past Weaver.
The half ended with Rovers in control of a lacklustre game. Pearce needed to inspire his troops and with the addition of a cavalry comprising of the rapid Beasley and flowing haired Samaras, the onslaught began.
City rallied early in the second period forcing Rovers back. With the away troops firmly encamped in their territory it was the attackers of City who fashioned a number of openings.
Samaras arrowed a swirling drive from the edge of the area just wide but it was another Gamst sucker-punch that all but ended the game.
Gamst won a free-kick just outside the area but the angle favoured the right foot. Not to be deterred the Norwegian whipped a vicious drive around the wall and past Weaver to make it two nil.
A comeback looked futile, even more so after Friedel expertly denied City`s best player, Darius Vassell, twice, the first a wonderful reaction save from Vassell`s volley inside the six yard box.
With the game stretched and the clock ticking down substitute, Matt Derbyshire cheekily put the icing on the cake. A hoofed ball forward was chased down by the young Englishman and he evaded his man before sliding the ball through Weaver`s leg from just inside the by-line.
Rovers dominated the game from start to finish but City looked weary from their mid-week cup exploits. It wasn`t a great game but it was an accomplished away performance from Rovers who have now scored ten times in their last three away fixtures. If only we didn`t have to play Arsenal otherwise it would be seven straight wins.
I wanted to give it to someone else but the bloke is in red-hot form at the moment. Wonderful goals, link up play and effort.