So after what seemed an eternity in scheduling this match, it finally kicked off on a warm summer’s evening in Manchester; a game that really had very little riding on it – a typical end of season game. Going into the game, I was quite optimistic of a point, with the Cup Final taking place the following Saturday, meaning that City could potentially be resting some of their bigger names.
The Albion team had four changes form the side that played Wigan on Saturday, with the retuning Craig Dawson being handed his first Premier League appearance of the season. Boaz Myhill was also handed an unusual starting appearance, with Gabriel Tamas and James Morrison being the other returning players. Mancini, as expected, made countless changes to the City team, eight in total, with only Joe Hart, Samir Nasri and James Milner being the survivors of the game against Swansea.
Being based in Manchester, this was one of the easiest games for me, but with high ticket prices and midweek kick off, I didn’t expect there to be a great gathering of the Albion faithful. However, it meant I didn’t have to queue for a nice half time beer! With the Albion team being led out by a friend’s son, we were all set for a game.
The First Half
Within the opening stages of the match, it was the Albion who had the first chances, Lukaku having three efforts: a shot at goal blocked by Hart, a shot from 25 yards out and a header that ended straight up in the hands of the England ‘keeper. City soon had an effort with Tevez firing wide, but the Baggies kept pressing and Markus Rosenberg was to have a good chance when he sent the ball past the far post. We were playing with a confident style; in this new look 3-5-2 formation, looking likely that we could grab a point.
After nearly 25 minutes of the game, Gabriel Tamas was soon taken off the pitch following a nasty collision with Aleksander Kolarov, with the Serb studding the Romanian in the back of the head. It was a very dangerous and high tackle; Kolarov showed no malice, but it did seem for a while that ref Phil Dowd may have been reaching to pull out his red card, in the end it was just a yellow much to the relief of the home support. If he had have been sent off, the game could have become a more attainable victory for us. With Tamas off the pitch, City had a great chance to score when Tevez shot over the bar from 20 yards, showing why he is still a player to be reckoned with. Soon after, with Tamas back on the pitch, Rosenberg was next to have a shot for the Baggies but this was fired straight at Joe Hart.
With the game nearing the half hour mark, the Albion fans were quite impressed with the performance thus far, but soon City showed exactly why they were second in the league with Milner having two great chances, one being pushed away by Myhill, the other being fired wide by the former Villa player, much to the delight of the travelling Baggies. Moments later, Tevez hit the bar and just as we thought we had weathered the storm, moments later it was to be the home fans who had the bigger smiles on their face when they took the lead through that man again, Edin Dzeko, the player who so cruelly denied us a point at The Hawthorns earlier on in the season.
Nasri managed to grab the ball from Mulumbu’s possession with Rodwell releasing Carlos Tevez to break free. It did look likely that Tevzez could have been offside, and checking TV replays days later, it was a close call, but either way that is now irrelevant. Dzeko, sitting 15 yards away from goal was coolly sent the ball and volleyed the ball past Boaz Myhill. Some City fans want Dzeko to leave and after this season, I can only agree that it would be beneficial for us to have him leave the Premier League following this and his very late winner at The Hawthorns earlier this season. City went on to have a couple more chances before the end of the half, with Rodwell taking two shots, the first being blocked by Tamas and the second being deflected by Dawson. Albion had two more chances before the end, with Morrison shooting straight at Hart and Lukaku being dispossessed as he was attempting to go round the ‘keeper.
Rodwell, was again to have another shot, the final of the half when he sent the ball high over the bar. Half-time, 1-0 down. Breathing a sigh of relief following the onslaught on the Albion goal before the end, we felt we could draw a lot of positives from the game, hopeful of snatching an equaliser pretty quickly.
The Second Half
Just minutes into the second half, it looked as if Rosenberg was finally to score when his free kick rattled the Manchester City post. With the ball in play, Billy Jones jumped up and headed the ball towards the goal, only for Hart to save it with one hand. Hart was again soon called into action when Morrison shot from what seemed 25 yards. The opening stage of the second half saw a rejuvenated Albion team, different from the team that ended the second half. Whatever Clarke had said at half time, it was working.
As the second half progressed, the game starting equalling out, similar to the way the first had gone, with City gradually picking up the pace and creating more and more chances. After the hour mark, Rodwell and Tevez both ended up having more chances, being blocked by Tamas and Jones, respectively. Milner was next to have another shot at goal, firing the ball straight at Myhill.
Markus Rosenberg was looking increasingly likely to score, having shots saved and blocked by City’s defence, however after 76 minutes he was replaced by Odemwingie, who got a hostile reception from the Baggies faithful.
Before the end of the game, Jones was unlucky to have a shot deflected by Kolo Toure and Long fired into the side netting. Despite chants of ‘we’re gonna score in Fergie time’, the game petered out into a City victory.
We were never expected to win at City, but many did fancy our chances. It was not a poor performance by any accounts, and for long spells of the game it looked like we could get something from the game. Markus Rosenberg looked the best he had all season, which considering the players he was playing against, was something very reassuring. He is looking a lot more comfortable and the crowd are now supporting him rather than the groans and moans he was getting earlier in the season.
Writing this before our trip to Norwich, I was very optimistic heading down to Carrow Road. However, after countless problems with my laptop, I am now penning the finishing touches to this report two days after the capitulation at Carrow Road. Enough said.
Next up? Manchester United. Let’s make sure we get the bragging rights for us Baggies who are based up here in Manchester, I’m sure that bloke Ferguson won’t have anything to say at all…
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