Tuesday 30 December 2008

Brazilian ace snatches last-gasp equaliser for City
Manchester City striker Robinho scored a vital goal deep into injury time as Mark Hughes’ side grasped a 2-2 draw with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

It was Sam Allardyce’s team who took the initiative, and the lead on the stroke of half time through Benni McCarthy. Jason Roberts gave Rovers a two-goal advantage with a strong header on 84 minutes.

But City never gave up hope and the introduction of youngster Daniel Sturridge paid dividends when he scored and then set up Robinho for the equaliser with almost the last kick of the game.

The late clinical strike saved Hughes’ blushes after returning to his former club for the first time since he began his career at City in the summer. The Welsh manager had been faced with chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ from his former fans but Robinho’s goal silenced the home contingency.

Coming back from two goals down, City demonstrated a passion, fight and desire that had been severely lacking of late. Apart from Nedum Onuoha replacing Micah Richards, Hughes had stuck with the same side that beat Hull City so majestically on Boxing Day and both teams started lively and vibrant.

It was the visitors that had the best of the early efforts, with in-form Felipe Caicedo and Robinho both guilty of missing superb chances to give City an early lead. Robinho could have had a penalty when Andrew Ouijer fouled him inside the box, but Howard Webb remained unconvinced and waved the sky blue protests away.

Rovers closed City down consistently and the visitors surrendered possession time and time again through sloppy and inaccurate passes and bad timing. Hughes’ flair players were being successfully marked out of the game and the home side looked dangerous on the break with Roberts and Brett Emerton looking hungry.

It was City’s inability to keep possession that led to Rovers taking the lead right on half-time. Emerton and Roberts linked up and it was McCarthy’s strike that gave Rovers the advantage and changed Hughes’ team-talk.

After the interval City created chances, with a Shaun Wright-Phillips’ header bouncing off the post from an Elano cross and chances from Stephen Ireland and Robinho proving to be opportunist. Hughes’ blues piled on the pressure and pushed forward. A double substitution from the under-pressure City manager saw the arrival of Darius Vassell and Sturridge to the game as City searched for an equaliser.

But with City pushing forward, Rovers struck again and increased their lead as striker Roberts headed a Christopher Samba cross over Joe Hart. It looked to be game over for City until Sturridge’s strike late on gave the blues hope. The Rovers defence looked shaky and it was Sturridge who set up Robinho, who calmly struck home to give City a much-needed point.

Rovers were well-organised and did a superb job of keeping City’s flair players at bay. But a player of Robinho’s calibre only needs one chance and the home side’s shaky defence late on made the mistake of gifting the Brazilian too much room on the left. With the Premier League being so close this season, the point for City was vital to avoid another embarrassing defeat.

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