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.

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