Monday, March 10, 2008

Reaction, stats & ratings: Reading 2 City 0

It's very hard to judge a performance when you're playing four full-backs and your wide positions have been given to a central midfielder and a forward, but right now our problems are looking as much psychological as anything else.

Reading, battling for Premiership survival, certainly appeared to want the win a lot more than we did. The same was true of Cardiff and Barnsley this weekend, which begs the question: if some Premiership players can't even gee themselves up when a semi-final is at stake, how do you motivate a team that is marooned in the mid-table comfort zone?

In August I wrote this piece about Sven's belief that a team needs at least three 'cultural architects' to influence less motivated players on the pitch. Once Dunne had limped out of the game on Saturday it was pretty clear that we were looking a team without any leaders.

I suppose we'll have to wait until this summer's transfer window before we can really address this problem, but until then I'd love to see some of Jim Cassell's youth team given a chance to inject some passion into this side.

~ A new City blog, The Lonesome Death of Roy Carroll, has just published its first post which is worth a read.

~ So many great footballing moments this weekend but my favourite has to be watching Fergie getting all squeaky-voiced following United's FA Cup exit (the clip is on p5 of the archive).
For the record, the ex-City players in quarter-final action were James & Distin (Portsmouth), Sinclair (Cardiff), Miller (West Brom), Anelka & Shaun Wright-Phillips (Chelsea).

~ One ex-City player making the headlines for all the wrong reasons this weekend was Bradley Wright-Phillips, exposed by the Sunday Mirror for taking part in this disgraceful incident.




~ Sven's Sky Sports post-match interview; BBC interview
~ Charlie Nicholas's view
~ Getty Images photos
~ Latest Premiership table

Coming up on Purelymancity

There's plenty of features lined up between now and the end of the season. I'll be publishing a story about City's history each week until May, starting tomorrow with a commemoration of a significant anniversary for us. A history section will also be added to the main site soon.

I'll also be running at least one feature a week on more topical matters. This week I'll be taking a closer look at City's finances, and in particular, our current wage bill.

Player ratings

Ratings come from (in order): Manchester Evening News; Grob (Mancityfans), Kevin Cummins (in the Observer), Sunday Times, Sunday Mirror, Sunday People, Sunday Telegraph Opta, Sky and the BBC.

Hart: 7, 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 5, 6.5, 8, 6.5 (av: 6.9 MOTM)
Couldn't be faulted in any department. Kicking was sound and handling when required top drawer. (MEN)
Exposed for the goals and had no chance but made a couple of great stops, especially the one for that Polish fella who played in their midfield. Can hold his head up high. (Grob)

Corluka: 6, 6, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 5.5, 5, 5.4 (av: 6.2)
Beaten in the air in the build up to the Reading goal but otherwise a sound enough display. (MEN)
Was having a solid game at full back but looked as if he had never met ball when he went to centre half. I wouldn't like to criticise him though, the circumstances weren't his fault.

Dunne (Jihai 29): 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, - , 6, 6, 6.5 (av: 6.2)
Was in the midst of another display of leading from the front when he suffered bad cut to shin. (MEN)
Was just getting into his groove when the injury struck. Things would have been different if he had stayed on. We lost our leader and our organiser.

Ball: 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 5.5, 5, 5.5 (av: 5.9)
Sullied an otherwise competent display of defending by not stopping Doyle for first goal. (MEN)
Out of position and it showed. Isn't a centre half in the slightest. Still, he tried his best.

Garrido: 5, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5.5 (av: 5.5)
First start in a long while for the Spaniard who was caught up field for second goal. (MEN)
A little harsh but the guy is a liability who cannot defend man to man. He's got to go in the summer. Nice on the ball, takes up good positions but just cannot defend and doesn't have the pace.

Elano: 5, 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6.0 (av: 5.7)
Slightly better but still not firing on even half the cylinders he showed earlier in season. (MEN)
Did a reasonable job on the right. A few nice balls, got stuck in but doesn't have the pace to play as a winger and if yesterday's formation was going to work, we needed some pace on the wings.

Gelson Fernandes: 6, 5, 7, 6, 5, 7, 7, 7, 4, 5.6 (av: 6.0)
Usual high octane stuff from the Swiss international but killer pass not there. (MEN)
Dilly dallied on the ball over and over again and basically did nothing of note but run around and look busy. I couldn't actually tell you what he was supposed to be doing.

Hamann (Castillo 67): 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 6, 5, 6.5, 5, 5.4 (av: 5.6)
Got booked for the tenth time this season and will now be banned. The best passer for Blues. (MEN)
Got booked early which quietened him down but did an amicable job trying to organise a midfield that was a long way below par.

Johnson: 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 6.5, 6, 5.6 (av: 5.8)
Got in trouble for diving when he should have had a penalty. Quieter than last week's return. (MEN)
Out of sync with his team-mates, created nothing and linked with no-one. Looks nothing like the saviour he was built up to be.

Vassell (Caicedo 59): 5, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 4, 5, 7, 5.5 (av: 5.7)
Not a natural on the left and struggled to make any inroads behind the Royals defence. (MEN)
Not good enough as we all know but was probably our biggest threat which shows how bad we really were yesterday. Stupid decision to take him off and lob Caicedo on the left.

Benjani: 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 5.7 (av: 5.7)
Didn't look like scoring as the Blues continue to fathom out a way to play to his strengths. (MEN)
Bullied by Bikey and it simply was not his day.

Subs:

Jihai (Dunne 29): 5, 5, 6, 6, 5, 6, 5, 5, 5, 4.8 (av: 5.3)
Goal came down his side. (MEN)
Simply not good enough. Patchy defending, cut inside everything he went forward and gave the ball away time and time again. Hopefully with his contract expiring he'll be out of the door this summer.

Caicedo (Vassell 59): 5, 5, 4, 6, 6, 6, 4, 6, 6, 4.7 (av: 5.3)
No real threat. (MEN)
Out of position and didn't get into the game bar a few nice touches. Tried to shoot a couple of times which was different for us.

Castillo (Hamann 67): 5, 5, 4, - , 6, 6, 4, 6, 4, 4.8 (av: 5.0)
Again played on the right. (MEN)
Another played out of position, as with Caicedo, never in the game but showed some nice touches.

Subs not used:
Schmeichel, Ireland

Match stats

The stats (below) are compiled from a live commentary. For more detailed stats, including a breakdown of each player’s passes and tackles click here (and trawl to the bottom of the page), while you can also find match details at the BBC, Sky and Setanta



Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster, Harper, Matejovsky (Cisse 79), Hunt, Doyle, Long (Kitson 82). Subs not used: Federici, Sonko, Kebe

Match reports


Reading 2 City 0


Kitson underlines return of better form at Reading (Jim Foulerton)
To make matters worse for the visitors, their captain, Richard Dunne, needed nine stitches in his shin after a first-half collision with the irrepressible Stephen Hunt. There was no malice on Hunt's part; if anything, Dunne put more into the tackle with his Ireland international team-mate.
City's manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, said it would be 10 days before the stitches were removed, but he will have to repair City's wounded pride quicker than that. After a bright opening to the season, Eriksson's team are heading in the wrong direction, with one win in eight League games.


Shane Long hauls Reading up Premier League (Clive White)
City must have wished they had a recognised striker on the end of an Elano cross after 25 minutes instead of full-back Vedran Corluka who ran the ball over the bar instead of running it into the net.
Worse was to follow when Michael Johnson got a booking for diving instead of a penalty for what looked like a foul on him by Ivar Ingimarsson. Eriksson, with the benefit of a television replay, commented: "You can't speak about yellow cards, you must give a penalty."


Joe Hart’s heroics not enough to deny Reading (Brian Glanville)
This was an enormously important and deserved victory for Reading against a Manchester City team that lost Richard Dunne to injury early and so expensively. Without the heroics of Joe Hart in goal, it could well have been worse for the visitors.


Kitson makes it lucky 13 for resurgent Royals (Will Buckley)
'It's a difficult and frustrating time,' said Sven-Göran Eriksson, his City counterpart. 'The last three games we have one point, we haven't scored, and we've conceded four easy goals.'


Lethal Long writes page in tall Irish story (Sachin Nakrani)
The significance of this result could be judged by the jovial nature of Reading's usually downbeat manager, Steve Coppell, after the final whistle signalled a second consecutive win and brought out the comedian in him.
On hearing that the Republic of Ireland's No2, Marco Tardelli, had been in attendance, Coppell reminisced about the time he faced the Italian in a Cup-Winners' Cup tie between Manchester United and Juventus. "Tardelli was the first player who ever man-marked me," Coppell said. "I still have his signature on my arse."

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