CITY GIVEN A HELPING HAND
Sparkling debut for Shay as Bellamy gives Boro the Blues
Debutante goalkeeper Shay Given pulled off a string of saves to help guide Manchester City to a 1-0 victory over troubled side Middlesbrough.
The Irishman, signed from Newcastle United for £8 million, denied Afonso Alves four times to keep his first clean sheet for the Eastlands outfit.
Craig Bellamy fired the home side into the lead with a low 20 yard shot on 50 minutes after a spell of persistent and stubborn pressure from City.
The result leaves Gareth Southgate's side joint bottom of the Premier League with City moving to 9th position towards Europe.
The Blues started the brightest and Bellamy went close straight away following Stephen Ireland's through ball.
But the game lost any spark and energy during the first half hour with both sides surrendering possession far too easily and lacking in ideas and creativity.
Given was called into action on the half-hour mark, producing an impressive shot-stopping save from Alves from six yards out.
Bellamy went close again following a deflected pass from Shaun Wright-Phillips, but was denied by Boro goalkeeper Brad Jones.
At the other end Given notched up another fine save, reacting well to Alves' tricky 20 yard effort.
But City went closest in the first half to taking the lead. Wayne Bridge's cross into the area was met by Ireland, whose strong header beat Jones and smashed against the bar.
Despite Alves' efforts, City edged possession and on 50 minutes Bellamy's powerful shot was delivered deep into the bottom left corner of the net. Bellamy had always posed the biggest threat for City and was deserved of getting onto the score sheet.
Alves still had a say in the game, striking an effort that had Given at full stretch to deny the Brazilian yet again.
With Given in such fine form, Boro found it impossible to penetrate City's goal, despite the sloppy errors made by Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards. City recorded their third win in four games and pushed Southgate's side further into the relegation mire.
The game wasn't pretty and it was far from entertaining in huge spells, with Robinho going missing for the majority of the match, eventually being substituted for the lively Felipe Caicedo. But it is another three points towards safety for Mark Hughes' side, and potentially Europe judging by how close the Premier League table is this season. Three points have never been so vital, what with City facing a run of difficult and testing away days to Portsmouth, FC Copenhagen and Liverpool coming up.