Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reaction, stats & ratings: Sunderland 1 City 2

Another game overshadowed by events off the pitch, following Joe Lovejoy's story in The Times which claims that Thaksin has threatened Sven with the sack if results don't improve.

Lovejoy is a seasoned journalist, who has written a decent biography of Sven, but the fact that the story doesn't cite any sources is unusual. Two hours after it was published, The Observer ran a similar story that made these claims:

According to a source familiar with City's politics, Thaksin upbraided Eriksson over his part in an internal club dispute. The source said: 'Thaksin rang Sven to reprimand him, telling him he would be sacked at the end of the season if results did not improve.'
It is further understood that agents attempting to negotiate deals with City in recent weeks have been told not to factor Eriksson into their equations because the club does not necessarily expect the manager they appointed last summer to be present for a second season at there.


The club quickly moved to quash the rumours, with denials published in the MEN and Independent, but what is most noticable is that none of the four stories contained any new quotes from Thaksin or any of his representatives.

The fact is, the only person who would know whether Sven has a long-term future at City is Thaksin himself, and being the politician he is, I imagine he's keeping all his options open right now.

But I like this take on events by Tommy Gun at BlueVibe:

'A higher profile & more money will in future allow us to make a complete arse of ourselves on a global rather than a regional level'.


Considering that last summer we were looking at the relative merits of Chris Coleman and Gary Megson, the fact that we're now discussing Sven v Scolari does at least represent significant progress.

~ The wait for the updated Official Fair Play Table continues, though Wednesday's Daily Mirror claims we've increased our lead over the rivals, while the latest Uefa Fair Play Table shows that Norway have just overtaken England at the top. The country that finishes top of the Fair Play league gains an automatic Uefa Cup spot, while any country that finishes on 8pts or higher will go into a draw, from which two Uefa Cup places will be awarded.
~ I came across a new site called Journalisted which is worth a visit. It allows you to type in a journalist's name into a search box and see what stories they've written on any given subject since Oct 2007.

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

Is this the best rant of the season?

This was posted by Puskas at BlueVibe over the weekend:

"I despair at City fans after yesterday, I really ****ing do. We are, without doubt, the mongiest bunch of whining ****s in the league (all four divisions). The fact that players of the calibre of Elano get the boo boy treatment just proves it.

We played away with an injury-ravaged team against a bunch of long ball cloggers with a five man defence whose mission from the start was to hospitalise our midfield, and our response was to play attractive passing football throughout.

I read the match thread on the Blue Moon forum after the game and the vitriol of some of the City 'fans' on there for our team would shame a Rag. They want us to fail because that's the only thing that makes them happy. Every one of them, to a man, showering Elano with ****, then once he scored and set up the winner refusing to admit he's any good and going on about how **** Ireland is.

I wish they'd all **** off and support Rochdale, the bitter little depressing small time MONGS."

Coming up on Purely Man City

I've just been reading a fascinating autobiography by Len Davies, a former scout at City, which charts the decline and rise of our youth set-up.

The book has plenty of surprises (including the fact that we passed up the chance of signing a 20-year-old Kevin Reeves for £50,000), so in light of the game on Wednesday I'm going to be running a piece on the history of City's youth policy.

Player ratings

Ratings come from (in order): Manchester Evening News; Fidel Castro, pears12, bluemoon, The Original Special One, xavi6, Svensational, LookMumI'mOnMCF.net, teenage time killer, Green & Blue, King Kev, (Mancityfans); The Oracle, Benarbia, svennis pennis, goat boy, quiet_riot, leighton, zandvoort blue, Father Dougal MaGuire, Corky (Bluemoon); Kevin Cummins (in Observer); Sky, Sky Your Rating and the BBC.

Hart: av: 7.8 (MOTM)
(7, 8, 9, 8, 8, 9, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 8, 8, 8, 7, 8, 7, 6, 8, 7, 7, 6.6, 7.2)

Sun Jihai: 6.4
(6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 6, 8, 7, 7, 5, 7, 7, 7, 8, 6, 6, 6.1, 5.8)

Corluka: 6.0
(6, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 5, 7, 7, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 7, 6, 8, 4, 6, 5.9, 6.3)

Dunne: 7.2
(8, 7, 7, 6, 9, 7, 7, 8, 6, 7.5, 6, 9, 8, 6, 8, 8, 7, 7, 7, 4, 7, 7, 8, 7.2, 7.1)

Ball: 6.6
(7, 8, 8, 6, 7, 7, 8, 7, 5, 6.5, 7, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 5, 6, - , 6, 7, 6, 6, 5.5, 5.8)

Gelson Fernandes: 6.1
(6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 7, 5, 7, 5, 5, 5.6, 6.0)

Ireland (Sturridge 58 - Vassell 82): 4.8
(6, 6, 5, 4, 5, 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 3, 5, 3, 6, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 4, 5, 4.9, 5.2)

Johnson: 6.0
(6, 5, 6, 5, 6, 6, 7, 6, 5, 6, 7, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 7, 5.9, 6.3)

Elano (Hamann 89): 6.9
(7, 8, 7.5, 7, 7, 8, 9, 8, 6, 7, 8, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 7, 6, 7, 5, 6, 5.6, 6.8)

Petrov: 6.1
(6, 4, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 7, 6, 6.5, 6, 5, 7, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6.4, 6.7)

Benjani: 5.2
(6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, - , 5, 4, 6, 7, 5, 4, 6, 4.5, 4.5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 5.2, 5.7)

Subs:

Sturridge (Ireland 58): 6.0
(6, - , - , 6, - , 6, 6, 6, 5, 6, 7, - , - , - , - , - , 6, - , - , 6, 8, 5, 5, 5.3, 6.4)

Vassell (Sturridge 82): 6.6
(6, 7, 7, 6, 7, - , 7, 7, 6, - , 7, 7, - , - , 6, - , 6, 6, - , 7, 7, - , - , - , 6.4)

Hamann(Elano 89)

Subs not used:
Isaksson, Geovanni


Match stats

I'm going to discontinue the table of match stats as I really don't think it adds much to what's available elsewhere. However, if enough people think it's worth keeping (which I doubt) I will bring it back.

For a detailed interactive graphic, 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 and Sky.

Match reports


Sunderland 1 City 2


Darius Vassell foils Sunderland (John Aizlewood)
And if the infectious joy that characterised Benjani Mwaruwari’s game at Fratton Park has been mysteriously extinguished since his move north, it was not hard to see why. Ploughing an unhappy lone furrow against Nyron Nosworthy and Jonny Evans, he repeatedly looked for support. He invariably found none.
Worse still, City’s aesthetically pleasing passing game had lost its rhythm. Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson and Elano, hitherto exemplary practitioners of the incisive through ball, found their radar malfunctioning and their aim skew-whiff. No wonder Mwaruwari looked so disconsolate.


Keane stays calm as fortune favours City (John Wardle)
Nothing that had gone before prepared the crowd for what occurred in the final 11 minutes of this match. Indeed, many of them had already departed the ground after witnessing a featureless encounter between two teams who seemed to assume they can coast through the final weeks of the season.


Vassell gives Keane cause for concern (Michael Walker)
A dreadful first half had been followed by a slightly improved second – due to Sunderland's increased urgency – but an afternoon that was high on expectation was petering out towards what seemed like an inevitable goalless draw.
Then on 79 minutes the teenage City substitute Daniel Sturridge surged into the Sunderland area from the left. Sturridge had come on 20 minutes earlier and this was his first contribution. He cut inside Evans and was running away from Nyron Nosworthy when he went down as if he had been clipped from behind.
Referee Mike Riley clearly thought so and pointed to the spot but the naked eye was confused. Nosworthy did not look close enough to make contact with Sturridge and television replays appeared to show the teenager tripping over his own feet. Sturridge needed treatment and Nosworthy did not complain when booked by Riley, to add to the confusion.


Vassell's late winner frustrates Sunderland (Martin Hardy)
Darius Vassell amassed 22 caps when Sven-Goran Eriksson was England manager; now he cannot get a game under him at Manchester City. Yesterday, however, Vassell turned into an unlikely saviour, affording some sort of payback with an even more unlikely winner.
The round-shouldered forward, an 82nd-minute substitute, rarely inspires confidence in front of goal, thus when the Brazilian Elano slipped him through with three minutes left, his weak shot struggled for power and accuracy.
Somehow, perhaps unknown to either the player or his manager, the shot apologetically limped into the bottom corner of Craig Gordon's goal and City had their first victory in four, and maintain faint hopes of European qualification.


Roy Keane still sensitive to dip in standards
City have been sleepwalking, but a fourth win in 17 matches allowed Sven-Göran Eriksson to “keep dreaming about Europe next season”, albeit via the Intertoto Cup. They, like this match, were mediocre, but having forced his squad to squirm through videos of recent matches, the Swede was given a response. “We had to get the fighting spirit back,” he said.
Sunderland were sympathetic opponents. A dreadful first half gave City impetus, further assisted by an awful penalty decision in the 78th minute, allowing Elano to grasp the lead. Dean Whitehead’s superb volley restored parity briefly before Darius Vassell’s ugly finish. “It was the luckiest goal of my career,” he said.


City back Eriksson as Scolari haunts him again (David Hopps)
Vassell, curiously, was a regular in Eriksson's England, with six goals in 22 games, but his move to City has done little to reignite his career. His winning goal with three minutes of normal time remaining had nothing to commend it other than the outcome, a scuffed shot which dribbled in at Gordon's right-hand post.
City's bench celebrated some tactical triumph which to the casual observer passed unnoticed, Eriksson not as much punching the air as moving his fist through it with infinite politeness. Elano should have added a third but thumped a volley high from seven yards. City's win maintains their hopes of European qualification, as well as their first top-10 finish in the Premier League, but it was no renaissance. Eriksson has achieved about as much as one could have expected.

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