Tuesday 16 December 2008


Hughes’ Blues in freefall after last-gasp Everton winner
Mark Hughes’ Manchester City remain out of the relegation zone on goal difference after Tim Cahill’s 93rd minute winner for Everton sent all three points to Merseyside.

It looked like the unattractive game of football would end with honours even, until Cahill out-jumped Micah Richards from a Leon Osman corner to head home the winner in stoppage time.

City hover dangerously close to the bottom of the Premier League table after another unconvincing display at home, with the visitors being short on strikers themselves.

The first half was a very open affair, with Everton having the first chance after just nine minutes. Mikel Arteta’s fierce 25-yard free kick hit the bar and Marouane Fellaini’s follow-up flew over the woodwork.

But City looked lively and creative, with Elano and Benjani linking up well, feeding Stephen Ireland, whose effort flew over the bar. Brazilians Robinho and Elano also forced saves from Tim Howard. At the other end, Arteta’s powerful effort produced a superb save from England under-21 goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Shaun Wright-Phillips nearly gave the home side the lead on 41 minutes but his stinging shot clipped the top of the bar and Hart was called into action again, doing well against a Fellaini effort from 12 yards out.

At the break, Hughes was forced into making a change, introducing substitute Jo who replaced the injured Benjani. Jo has been a regular fixture on the City bench of late and for all the impact he made, could have still been occupying that spot.

David Moyes’ side went close again on 58 minutes but Phil Neville’s cross was thwarted by Pablo Zabeleta. Ireland’s side-footed effort 15 minutes later was saved well by Howard.

The game looked to be being played out to a draw by both teams, until Richard Dunne conceded a corner late on. Osman delivered into the box, and Cahill sprung above Richards to head the ball past Hart deep into the net.

Both teams had gone close to taking the lead, but it was Mark Hughes kicking out in frustration at full time that spoke volumes. His inconsistent side lacked courage, spirit, endeavour and passion. Robinho was played despite an ankle injury, and had to be replaced by Darius Vassell in the second half. City fans are still yet to see anything that warrants the £19 million pounds that was spent on Brazilian ‘star’ Jo and Benjani is now confirmed as being absent from the Christmas fixtures due to a hamstring injury.

Where will City’s goals now come from? Valeri Bojinov is targeting a January comeback from injury, but that doesn’t help Hughes’ side over the festive period. Even more worrying is the lack of form from defensive pair Dunne and Richards, who are leaking goals and are both lacking in confidence. If Hart wouldn’t have been on top of his game, the score-line could have been a lot more different. Hughes has got a job well and truly on his hands now, with City travelling to Racing Santander in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, then a trip to the Hawthorns to take on fellow relegation strugglers West Bromwich Albion on Sunday

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