Monday, March 31, 2008

Reaction, stats & ratings: Birmingham 3 City 1

I think it was the 'Return of the City Slackers' for this one.

Little urgency from the kick-off and too much laughing on the pitch for my liking. The MEN claims Sven read them the riot act after this performance, though it sounds more like they were threatened with Thaksin's wallet. With Lukas Podolksi's agent, Kon Schramm, recently claiming that City bid £15.9m for the player in January, a summer clear-out is at least looking likely.

There were plenty of threads about unlucky purple jerseys on the talkboards after this game, but the fact that Rob Styles was referring was possibly the worst omen of all. According to Premiersoccerstats, City's record when Styles has refereed is now W2 D4 L12. Mark Lawrenson is not exactly City fans' favourite pundit, but his comment on MOTD that the Sun Jihai penalty was the worst decision ever made was no exaggeration. It's hard to say whether Styles has a bias against City, but his Wikipedia entry at least shows that it's not just us that fall victim to his baffling decisions.

The other mystery of the game was why Geovanni has not been playing more this season. Despite coming on with just 18mins he still earned the highest score for an outfield player in this week's ratings, and managed to get a shot on goal after just 15secs on the pitch.

Yet for most of this season you felt there was more chance of Sven playing Tord Grip on the right wing than Geovanni. As his absence has clearly not been down a lack of talent the problem presumably lies off the pitch. With Geovanni's contract expiring in the summer you have to fear that he will be the first casualty of any clearout.

~ Almost a shocker of an own goal by Sun Jihai, but judging from these clips at mancityfans it would have still fallen well short of the worst own goal ever.

~ As an antidote to last week's Beckham Mania, here's a video of him playing in LA Galaxy's 4-0 drubbing by Colorado on Sunday. Judging by the clip, Beckham's hapless teammates are now almost as lazy as he is.

~ Sven's post-match interview
~ Getty Images photos
~ Latest Premiership table.

Player ratings

Ratings come from (in order): MEN; Fidel Castro, bobadji, xavi6, irblinx (Mancityfans), goat boy, Humlannitton (Bluemoon), Kevin Parker (OSC), Sunday Telegraph Opta, Setanta, Sky and Sky Your Rating and the BBC.

Hart: 6.4 (MOTM)
(6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 7.5, 7, 5.7, 5.5)

Sun Jihai: 4.9
(5, 2, 6, 3, 5, 7, 4, 7, 6, 6, 5, 4.7, 4.6)

Dunne: 5.1
(5, 6, 4, 6, 5, 6, 5, 4, 5, 5.5, 5, 4.8, 5.4)

Onuoha: 5.0
(5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 6, 6, 5, 4.9, 4.8)

Garrido: 5.6
(4, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 6, 4, 7, 6, 5, 4.6, 4.6)

Vassell (Caicedo 59): 3.9
(5, 1, 2, 2, 3, 5, 4, 5, 4, 6.5, 5, 3.7, 4.6)

Gelson Fernandes: 5.8
(6, 6, 6, 5, 5, 7, 6, 6, 7, 6, 5, 5.4, 5.1)

Hamann (Geovanni 72): 5.4
(6, 5, 4, 5, 4, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5.6, 5.1)

Ireland: 4.5
(6, 4, 1, 5, 3, 6, 4, 2, 7, 6, 5, 4.3, 4.9)

Elano: 6.2
(6, 6, 7, 6, 7, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 4.8, 6.3)

Benjani (Mpenza 81): 5.2
(5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 4, 6.5, 6, 3.8, 5.2)


Caicedo (Vassell 59): 5.1
(6, 5, 6, 5, 4, - , - , 5, 5, 5, 6, 4.6, 4.4)

Geovanni (Hamann 72): 6.3
(6, 7, 7, 8, 7, -, -, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5.5, 5.3)

Mpenza(Benjani 81)

Subs not used:
Isaksson, Corluka

Birmingham: Taylor, Kelly, Jaidi, Queudrue, Murphy, Larsson, Muamba, Johnson, McSheffrey, Forssell (Parnaby 70) Zarate (O'Connor 90).
Subs not used: Doyle, Jerome, Nafti.

Match stats

Bit short of time this week so I'll have to direct you to the Daily Telegraph's excellent stats, while you can also find match details at the BBC and Setanta.

Match reports

Birmingham 3 City 1

Birmingham grateful to Zarate for mastering clash of Styles (Jim Foulerton)
Manchester City, it has to be said, were awful and Sven Goran Eriksson did not spare his players. "The referee got it completely wrong with their penalty, I've never seen anything like it but we cannot just blame him," he said. "We must blame ourselves because we gave the ball away so many times and if we want to play in Europe we have to do a lot better than that. We will talk on Monday but if we play like that next weekend against Chelsea it will be a very unpleasant day."

Zarate beats the Tevez prescription (Simon Burnton)
Styles seems to have quite an active subconscious because these things keep happening. This was the third successive league game in which he has sent a player off and gone on to award that player's team a controversial penalty - and he also found time to offend the manager of Ghana last week. But this decision must stand alone; adjectives simply do not exist to describe its absurdity.

Birmingham City win allays relegation fears (Colin Malam)
Appearing to respond to the taunts of the crowd, Styles then awarded 10-man Birmingham a laughable penalty as if to ensure they got the win they deserved. With Arsenal coming back from the dead at Bolton and Fulham drawing at Derby, Birmingham now have a four-point buffer.
While Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson agreed that Styles got Birmingham's penalty "completely wrong", he refused to blame the referee for the defeat.
"We must blame ourselves," he said. "If we want to speak about Europe we can't lose as many balls as we did today. We must be better than that with Chelsea coming to Manchester next."

Zarate kid fires for McLeish (Philip Dorward)
'The referee got it completely wrong and I've never seen a penalty like that. But before blaming the referee we should blame ourselves. If you concede two goals as we did today we will never win a Premier League game,' said Eriksson.
Contrasting Birmingham's busyness was Man City's dizziness. Benjani set the tone in the 10th minute when he rattled the post with the goal gaping. There then followed one-way traffic. Elano cleared Raidi Jaidi's header off the line. Two more Sebastian Larsson crosses caused Sun Jihai to shin over his own crossbar and Richard Dunne almost lob Joe Hart.

Mauro Zarate keeps Birmingham on survival course (Brian Doogan)
Birmingham were superior in almost every facet, though they might have fallen behind early on when an incisive pass by Elano, perfectly measured for Mwaruwari, yielded a quick chance for the City striker. Jaidi managed to apply just enough pressure to throw his aim, however, and his shot struck the post. Larsson’s crossing ability hauled Birmingham into the game and twice in rapid succession he panicked Richard Dunne into elementary errors.

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