Thursday, August 30, 2007

Reaction, stats and ratings: Bristol City 1 Man City 2

And the treble is still on.

Not only was this the first time we've made it to the Carling Cup third round for three seasons, but this was our first ever victory at Ashton Gate (our all-time record there was eight defeats and three draws).

Automatic promotion winners last season and currently seventh in the Championship, Bristol City were always going to be a tough test, so the fact we deserved this win after making eight changes to Saturday's team has to be a sure sign of progress.

The main positives for me were the brilliant touches shown by Bianchi and the promise of a dangerous strike partnership with Mpenza. Gelson Fernandes also looked a very useful prospect, though he needs a lot more experience and a bucketload of maximuscle before he'll shine in the Premiership, while 18-year-old Shaleum Logan was yet another academy product who showed composure beyond his years.

On the negative side, Geovanni got caught in possession far too much and makes me wonder if he's going to be more effective as a substitute this season. I'm also having persistent doubts about Corluka. He missed way too many headers yesterday and seems to be passed too easily at right-back, though to be fair it's probably still too early to judge him.

The other noteworthy feature of the game was the absence of Samaras, Vassell and Corradi from the starting squad, suggesting that they are the players currently in talks with other clubs that Sven referred to on Tuesday.

How much money is available for new signings is still unclear, with the MEN's Chris Bailey claiming on Monday that Sven 'will have to sell to buy' and on Tuesday revealing that Thaksin 'is ready to bust the City budget' by funding a £9m bid for Anelka.

But we'll know soon enough. Next week I'm going to be concentrating on City's finances, with a closer look at Thaksin's wealth and an examination how much he is actually putting into the club. I'll also be updating the five-year Premiership transfer spending table, which this time round will make much less depressing reading.

~ photos from Bristolcitynet; Getty Images

Match reports

Bristol City 1 Manchester City 2
City made their class count at Ashton Gate where goals from Emile Mpenza and Rolando Bianchi secured Carling Cup victory over Bristol City.
The Blues, who made eight changes to the side that lost to Arsenal, dominated the game but were given a scare when Bradley Orr equalised Mpenza's early strike.
However with just nine minutes remaining Bianchi, who had looked sharp all evening, blasted home an impressive winner.

Eriksson escapes upset as new boy Bianchi settles City's old-school tie (Graham Nickless)
Michael McIndoe, the Scottish winger who helped to knock the Blues out of the same competition two years ago in his Doncaster days, had the ball in the home net with a cheeky back-heel in time added on but the player had strayed a yard offside.
McIndoe, who also forced the visiting goalkeeper Joe Hart into a spectacular save with a swerving volley, conceded: "The linesman got it spot on. I was just offside, so fair play to him but it was heartbreaking to lose."

Eriksson’s irregulars do him proud (Russell Kempson)
Manchester City have surrendered meekly to the minnows, Chesterfield and Doncaster Rovers, in the Carling Cup during the past two seasons but, under Sven-Göran Eriksson, their new manager, they are made of sterner stuff. Despite a brief second-half lapse, goals from Emile Mpenza and Rolando Bianchi gave them a comfortable second-round victory against Bristol City at Ashton Gate last night.
Bristol City were torn apart by the crisp counter-thrust style of football. “It’s just like watching Brazil,” the Manchester City fans crowed. And, at times, they were not exaggerating.

Bristol City's honest efforts almost rewarded (Oliver Brown)
As Sven-Goran Eriksson dwelt darkly on the unfairness of cup football, and on Bristol City's impudent goal to reverse an hour of dominance by his team, Ronaldo Bianchi struck late to prove that life at this most mercurial club really has moved on under the Swede.
The tragi-comedy of Manchester City has, in recent years, found its natural theatre in the Carling Cup, with successive early-round exits to Doncaster and Chesterfield dulling the lustre of Stuart Pearce's management. Eriksson, though, has proved a wily successor - he may not have been relishing this return to knockout competition, and the prospect of the penalty misery that has come to define him, but the difference was that his side never even looked nervous.

Bianchi shows Manchester City fans tangible signs of progress (Mike Baker)
Manchester City fans are rightly cautious of celebrating any false dawn in their team's apparent transformation under Sven-Goran Eriksson, but at least now they have tangible evidence of progress. The Swede has taken them to the third round of the League Cup for the first time in three seasons but, while this competition may offer Eriksson one of his more realistic avenues for a trophy, he still took the opportunity to explore the depths of his squad and accepted the inherent potential for embarrassment.

The Bristol view:

City edged out by Sven's men (Bristol Evening Post)
The win was totally deserved and should have been achieved without the late fright Bradley Orr provided Eriksson with when he levelled Emile Mpenza's first-half opener.
But Bianchi's name figured prominently in a list of missed City chances, and a nervy ending would have been given a dramatic injury-time twist had Mark McIndoe's cheeky back-heel not correctly been ruled out for offside.

Match stats

The stats (below) are taken from a live commentary and can differ from Sky's match stats.

Player ratings

Ratings come from (in order): the MEN, Father Dougal MaGuire, Richard, kiwikiddy, The Woodster, bert38 (bluemoon) & andyblue (Blue Vibe).

Hart: 7, 8, 8, 7, 7.8, 8, 8 (av: 7.7)
One breathtaking second half stop and proved the Blues have two fine young keepers. (MEN)
Better than Kasper for me, Kasper hasn't been tested but Hart was tonight and was superb. (FDM)
World class save, looks confident. (bert38)
Not helped much by his defence but did extremely well when called upon. (andyblue)

Sun Jihai: 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 5 (av: 6.3)
Never lets anyone down whenever and wherever he is asked to perform. Steady game behind rookie Logan. (MEN)
Solid, didn't really do much but did his job, looks unfit which told when Trundle hit the side netting towards the end. (FDM)
Solid, quick feet. (bert38)
A very unconvincing performance.

Corluka: 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6 (av: 6.6)
First time he has played in the centre of defence for Sven and looked completely at home there. (MEN)
Solid. (FDM)
Struggled in the second half - should've done better for their goal. Still not fully fit. (bert38)
Fairly anonymous.

Onuoha: 7, 6, 7, 6, 7, 6, 6 (av: 6.4)
Blues skipper for the night was powerful in the air and strong enough on the floor. (MEN)
Solid, could of cost us a penalty but did ok. (FDM)
Very mature and captain! (bert38)
One slip when nearly giving away a penalty. Good to see him as captain.

Ball: 6, 7, 6, 6, 7, 7, 5 (av: 6.3)
Like Sun on the other side of the back four did his job without fuss and with utmost professionalism. (MEN)
We have two very good left backs, was impressed by him. (FDM)
Solid, two excellent left backs. (bert38)
Time may be up at City for his "run around a lot and hoof the ball upfield on sight" style of football.

Logan: 8, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7 (av: 7.1)
Sparkling in first half in which the debut maker tore into Bristol and gave them all sorts of trouble. (MEN)
Was great in the first half but was very quiet in the second half, looks a good prospect. (FDM)
Promising debut, excitable. (bert38)
Frisky in the first half when he used his pace very well to stretch Bristol City, subdued in the second.

Ireland: 7, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6 (av: 6.6)
Always looks so comfortable on the ball and had a boot in most of the chances made. (MEN)
Was never in the game until around the 70mins mark. (FDM)
Flitted in and out but can play the killer pass (as he did for the goal and Mpenza's chance first half). (bert38)
A frustrating game for him. Would have expected him to revel in our first half performance but things seemed to not quite come off for him. Needs a run of games in the first team, but Sven has lots of quality players to choose from...

Gelson Fernandes: 7, 6, 8, 7, 7.5, 8, 8 (av: 7.4)
A bundle of energy as the holding player. Not quite the calm elegance of a Hamann but did just. (MEN)
Did ok, looks another good prospect and will do well when Hamann is out. (FDM)
Perpetual motion, but needs to calm down a bit. (bert38)
An exceptionally fine first half performance but less involved in the second half.

Geovanni: (Dabo 82): 7, 6, 8, 6, 7, 7, 6 (av: 6.7)
Another whose runs created huge gaps in the home rearguard though he tired in second period. (MEN)
Thought he was poor tonight, maybe he is a good super sub? or possibly it was hard for him to play on the left. (FDM)
Great touch. Not fit. (bert38)
Mixed performance. Good in the first half when we were dominating. Hardly involved in the second half before being substituted.

Mpenza: 8, 6, 7, 6, 6.8, 7, 7 (av: 6.8)
Missed one great chance but took another with power and precision. He and Bianchi were the difference. (MEN)
Scored a good goal but was poor, constantly gave the ball away, looks unfit and overweight, he's a good backup but we do need another striker before Friday. (FDM)
Ran his butt off, great strike. (bert38)
Well-taken goal and linked well with Bianchi throughout the first half. Less involved in the second but still working hard.

Bianchi: (Dickov 88): 8, 8, 9, 7, 8.5, 9, 9 (av: 8.4 MOTM)
Couple of flicks in the first half were sublime and his winning goal was top class. (MEN)
Fantastic, great goal, great touch, great workrate, great player, £8.8m looks a bargain. (FDM)
Awesome performance. MOTM. (bert38)
Showed his true aspect with a stunning first half performance and a sensational goal in a second-half when he was much less involved. Not convinced he will be able to do much when played as a lone striker - needs someone nearby to play short passes to. But worth every penny of £8.8m on that first-half performance and can only improve.


Dabo: (Geovanni 82): 6
Managed to solidify things in middle. (MEN)

Dickov: (Bianchi 88)

Subs not used:
Laird, D Mills, Schmeichel

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