I’ll admit that I approached this fixture as doom merchant. I was adamant Man City would put at least five past us – or even more. But I’m always happy to be proved wrong and as was the case last night: we didn’t win, but we came away from the Etihad Stadium far from disgraced and embarrassed; in fact we exited the competition which we did so well in last year with our heads held high.
We held on fifteen minutes before City eventually broke the deadlock, and with more accurate and astute defending I’d say we could have prevented the ball falling to Owen Hargreaves to score on his debut. I’m not sure where people get the impression from of Hargreaves being a poor player. His injury list is nothing short of disastrous and would put most clubs off the idea of having ‘sicknote’ in their team but, and I’m sure most Manchester United fans would agree, he is a very good player, and a goal of such quality last night adds weight to this argument.
Even with eleven changes City managed to field Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Kolo Toure; something we can only dream of being able to do, but this second string had control of the first half and doubled their advantage before half time, this time everybody’s favourite live-wire Balotelli finishing off a lovely move to give City more than an edge in the game.
It could have all gone downhill from here and the floodgates could have well and truly been opened, but all credit to Blues as they fought back second half, having spells of possession and chances on goal. Jean Beausejour, Guirane N’Daw, Chris Burke and David Murphy, amongst others, all had chances to make a game of it. But it stayed at 2-0 and we can consider it a moral victory, and definitely take positives out of the game.
The first positive obviously being that we didn’t lie down and take a beating. We fought, and because of that we didn’t disgrace ourselves nor did we look like we couldn’t be bothered. Although we don’t really need to progress in the Carling Cup – not only have we been there, done that won the trophy, but we already have a minimum of 55 fixtures to fulfill this season - it is true that every game you play in you should want to win. And the players last night showed real intent to get something out the game, and very nearly did.
Another positive from the game was the return of Nikola Zigic, who will prove to be a real asset in the Championship especially with his height which is bound to cause problems. This has now bolstered our attack meaning we now have Chris Wood, Adam Rooney and Marlon King – as well as youngster Akwasi Asante – all vying for a starting place.
We can draw on another positive after Colin Doyle’s performance between the sticks, namely after his double save to deny first Tevez and then Toure after the rebound. Curtis Davies is another player who deserves the plaudits, after another expert defensive display which even saw him add his name to the score sheet for the second time this season, after his first-half overhead kick was saved on the line.
So 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium isn’t too bad considering the circumstances, especially as a lot of Premier League teams this season will leave Manchester after a much heavier deafer than what we witnessed last night. Credit to the team for doing well, and another positive we can take is that we can now concentrate on the league and of course the Europa League.
The memories of the Carling Cup last season were never going to be repeated, but they’ll last us a lifetime anyway.
Full Time: Manchester City 2-0 BLUES
Goal Scorers: Hargreaves (17) Balotelli (38)
Star Man: Curtis Davies
Next Up: Barnsley at home - Championship