Monday, 27 October 2008

Robinho Pots hat-trick as super City shine

Brazilian samba superstar Robinho scored his first hat-trick for Manchester City as the Blues swept aside Stoke in an enticing 3-0 victory at Eastlands.

City started the brightest and in the early exchanges a fierce shot by Robinho was pushed away by Stoke goalkeeper Sorensen. But the Brazilian was more clinical on 14 minutes after strong build-up play from Elano and Wright-Phillips, who linked well with Ched Evans. His pass fell to Robinho, who slotted home from 10 yards.

Despite City looking in control, Stoke did press forward and forced Joe Hart into making a couple of superb saves. It did look at one point like the visitors would sneak an equaliser before the break but City defended their lead resiliently.

After half time City came out determined and doubled their lead almost immediately after a great run from Daniel Sturridge, who replaced the injured Ched Evans, resulted in him setting up Robinho with a sublime accurate pass, who scored his second goal past Sorensen with ease.

From then on it was damage limitation as far as Stoke were concerned. City were passing with confidence and it was almost inevitable that Robinho would get his hat-trick. In fact, he had many chances to make his goal tally even higher, forcing Sorensen into making a save from point-blank range after Wright-Phillip cleverly set him up.

The £32.5 million man’s hat-trick was completed on 72 minutes after another assist from Sturridge resulted in Robinho calmly firing home. The remaining minutes were played out, with Stoke having a couple of half chances, and Stephen Ireland missing an absolute sitter in the final minute after Robinho threaded a fine ball through to the youngster. His effort was blasted over the bar with only Sorensen to beat.

The 3-0 victory was more than convincing, but with no disrespect to Stoke, these are the kind of games that City should be winning comfortably if we are to be taken seriously as contenders for European football, and to attract world-class players to join the hat-trick hero at Eastlands. City are so unpredictable at the best of times that, before kick off and no matter who the Blues are playing, you can never accurately predict a safe, sure victory.
Micah Richards once again played superbly in the right back role, providing a dangerous outlet down the right with Wright-Phillips and moving forward well. It was also great to see Daniel Sturridge put in an impressive performance, albeit at the expense of Ched Evans. Sturridge linked up sublimely with Robinho and will give Mark Hughes something to think about with his team selection from the next game, at Middlesbrough midweek.

But Robinho stole the headlines, and the show. He was at the heart of every City attack and Stoke were simply spellbound, offering no answers to the Brazilian magic he was weaving. In a rare post-match interview, Robinho admitted that he would like to reach a 30 goal tally for this season. At this rate, it is more than a realistic target, and with City being the highest scorers in the Premier League so far this season, there should be many more goals to come from Hughes’ samba-rific Blues.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Ireland’s equaliser spares captain Dunne’s blushes

A freakish volley into his own net from Richard Dunne almost handed a much-needed victory to Joe Kinnear’s determined Newcastle at St James Park.

Many Newcastle fans would have seen justice in City’s own goal after an early penalty decision by controversial referee Rob Styles went in the visitor’s favour. On 14 minutes, Shaun Wright-Phillips went on the offence and threaded a perfectly weighted ball through to Robinho. Newcastle defender Habib Beye appeared to make contact with the ball first before Robinho went down, but Styles, who was 20 yards away from the incident, gave a penalty and showed Beye the red card. Robinho wrong-footed Shay Given for the penalty and coolly converted to give City the lead.

However, the 10 men disadvantage seemed to suit Newcastle and, as City casually passed the ball about without creating many openings apart from long-distance efforts, Newcastle’s determination grew. The equaliser was inevitable and it came on 44 minutes, albeit with a large slice of luck. The ball pinged into the Newcastle area, pin-balled against two City defenders and Damien Duff, then fell to Shola Ameobi, who sliced his effort into the net off his right shin.
After the break, it was another huge element of luck that gifted Kinnear’s side the lead. A Geremi corner fell straight to City’s captain Dunne, whose spectacular volley flew into the roof of the net to give 10-man Newcastle a priceless advantage. City looked disjointed but nearly snatched a goal to level the game when Stephen Ireland’s low shot forced a superb save from Given.
But Kinnear’s men couldn’t hang on for the three points, and it was Ireland who equalised on 86 minutes with a low drive after a through ball from Robinho. In fact, the in-form City youngster almost stole victory from under Newcastle’s noses but his effort flew inches past the post.
Newcastle fans may see a draw as injustice due to the controversy surrounding the penalty, but I have seen penalties given for less before. I do however disagree with the red card. City were very unconvincing: how many own goals has Dunne scored now? Has anybody seen anything from Brazilian ‘star’ Jo to suggest he warrants the £19 million price tag? Is Hamann too old now?
The positives for me were Stephen Ireland and Micah Richards. Full of confidence following his player of the month award, Ireland has matured into a player who can produce match-winning performances and score vital goals. Playing at right back in the absence of Pablo Zabeleta who is serving a suspension, Richards produced a sublime performance that should have England manager Fabio Capello sitting up and taking notice. Linking up dangerously with Wright-Phillips on the right, Richards moved well between defence and attack before he was forced to be substituted with an ankle injury.
Realistically, this was a game where City should have taken advantage of having the extra man if they want to match the ambitions of their new Arabian owners. In truth it was a brave and tenacious display from Kinnear’s men who are desperate to get back to winning ways. City were average, and now need to look to the home game against Stoke as a must-win if they want to attract top quality team-mates for Robinho come January and progress higher in the Premier League standings.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


So much has been made of Robinho’s arrival to the Premier League and, more relevantly, to City. It has literally been a media and fan frenzy- at recent home games I have never seen the Citystore SO busy. Brazil shirts, scarves and Robinho on the back of shirts have been flying off the shelves- he has been a marketing sensation and the Pompey and Liverpool home games were both sold out. But what do we actually make of him?

Yes he is hugely skilful, there is no questioning that. We have already been treated to step-overs, dribbling, jinking, back-heels and the like...all things very worthy of featuring on showboat on Soccer AM but things that might not necessarily win City games. Don’t get me wrong, he is a huge talent, but the Wigan game just proved that the physical nature of the Premier League game sometimes just isn’t for him. Plus how long will it take for City to realise that hoofing the ball up to Robinho from defence and just hoping he will do something with it just isn’t working?! Not that I was complaining when his sublime free kick against Chelsea hit the back of the net (albeit with the help of Mr Lampard).

Another thing that really pisses me off about him is his ego. Okay, okay, so if you had just been purchased for the British transfer record fee of £32.5 million, and had the power to snub Chelsea for a team offering higher wages, perhaps you would feel a bit smug. But to have an interview in a popular red-top tabloid with the headline ‘City fans think I’m God’ and to miss the actual kick-off of a game because you are too busy milking the crowd’s applause (ahem, Wigan away)...well it’s just a bit much really. And very reminiscent of a certain Mr Anelka.

But when all is said and done, maybe Robinho is perfect for City. The Yin to City’s Yang. The extravagant, unpredictable player who is world-class one minute then misses an absolute sitter (vs. Liverpool) the next. So much has been made of his move to City, with Pele and the vast majority of critics and ‘pundits’ slating the transfer and Mark Hughes (surprisingly) praising it. I guess only time will tell whether the huge fee will pay dividends and if the samba dancing celebrations will continue.

A sneak peek of my new column featured in King of the Kippax, City's biggest fanzine. If you like what you read, the new issue featuring my full column, will be out in November.

Monday, 13 October 2008


City stunned by last-gasp Liverpool winner

Despite Liverpool being unbeaten so far this season, City fans were right to air on the side of optimism going into this game. A comfortable 2-1 victory against AC Omonia in the UEFA Cup boosted confidence at Eastlands after the drab defeat against Wigan, and a win against Rafa Benitez's Reds would push City further towards the European places in the Premier League.

The match started quite evenly, with City seizing the initiative, and the lead, on the 19th minute. In-form Shaun Wright-Phillips raced down the wing and passed to Robinho, whose ball was cleared by only to the feet of Stephen Ireland. His volley was blasted into the net to put City ahead.

Liverpool had a couple of half chances but it was the home side who doubled their lead four minutes from the break. A foul by former City player Albert Riera saw City awarded a free kick five yards outside the area. Spanish defender Javier Garrido stepped up- and curled his right-foot shot straight into the top corner of the net.

With a two-goal lead, City looked to be cruising to a prolific victory. But Benitez's half-time team talk saw Liverpool go on the offence immediately after the break, and a classic attack from Steven Gerrard resulted in Torres slotting home from six yards. The comeback looked set to be on- but it could have been game over just nine minutes later when Wright-Phillips ran the length of the pitch and passed the ball to Robinho- who then missed an open goal from just two yards out.

Perhaps City fans should have took that as a sign of what was to come, as two minutes later Pablo Zabaleta was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Xabi Alonso. Liverpool were full of confidence and the equaliser was inevitable. It came on 73 minutes when Torres headed home from a Gerrard corner with Joe Hart left fumbling after misjudging the ball. Torres was guilty of missing a sitter and a chance for his hat-trick after mis-queuing his shot from two yards out just a few minutes later.

A late injury to Martin Skrtel set up a grandstand finale, with both teams having 10 men due to Benitez's substitutions. There was definitely one goal left in the game, and with six minutes of injury time, substitute Dirk Kuyt scored to take all three points home for Liverpool.

It seemed harsh on City having been two goals ahead, but against the likes of Liverpool the lead should have been defended and record signing Robinho was guilty of missing the chance to put the Blues 3-1 ahead and effectively kill off the game. Lessons should be learned for Mark Hughes, and questions raised as to if he has the right defenders and the right quality to sabotage the top four sides in the Premier League.

Up next for City is a trip to the North East to face Joe Kinnear's troubled side, Newcastle United. It should be a perfect time for City to play the Magpies, but a result is never guaranteed when you are one of the most inconsistant sides in the League. Shaun Wright-Phillips is the man of the moment and, if his club form continues, it should make for a very interesting spectacle.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Can I have a word?
I must apologise for the lack of stories or features on the blogsite at the moment, I have restricted access to the internet so as soon as my situation is resolved I will inundate the site with new material!