Newsletter #878

A shambolic display yesterday for what was our last ever FA Cup appearance at Maine Road as we bowed out 0-1 to a Murphy penalty for Liverpool. We could, and should, have beaten this very poor Liverpool side, but the players obviously decided they would rather be elsewhere – and a fair few Blues who forked out up to £30 for the game are now wishing they had stayed at home too.

Tonight we have a match report, thanks to Jonathan, opinion on the game, new strikers, TV coverage and a few requests for Blues’ meetings and tickets.

We now look to the visit of El Tel and Leeds on Saturday, who are currently below us by 1 point in the table.

Next game: Leeds United, home, 3pm Saturday 11 January 2003


A busy Christmas period of 5 games in 14 days appeared to take its toll on Manchester City in this FA Cup 3rd Round tie. Key players gave leaden-legged performances to hand Liverpool a passage into round 4 via the only goal of the game.

Ignore the controversial nature of the penalty award that lead to Danny Murphy’s coolly taken winner, City got what they deserved from this game – their passing was awry, running laborious and tackling powder puff. In football parlance, Liverpool wanted in more. The same could be said of the two teams’ supporters with the City crowd below par in both numbers and volume.

City had lost Richard Dunne and Steve Howey shortly before kick off, Dunne with a virus and Howey with an Achilles injury, and were replaced by Mettomo and Wiekens. Mettomo in particular looked below match fitness and was being beaten to every ball by the Liverpool forward and midfield.

The tone was set for the City performance in the first 90 seconds when Shaun Wright-Phillips, playing deeper than his strike partner rôle required throughout, swept the ball wide left to Benarbia, in acres of space. His weary cross struck the first defender.

Liverpool, in contrast, showed more purpose and in the next few minutes Diouf megged Distin on the right, only for his cross to be cut out, Smicer had a through ball strike him on the back when either side of him he was clean through and the Czech also had a low volley from a cleared corner brilliantly palmed wide by Schmeichel going the wrong way.

City simply could not keep possession so it came as no surprise when on 40 minutes Keegan replaced Mettomo with Berkovic and switched to 4-4-2. The Blues had had superfluous defenders against Liverpool’s lone central striker, 20-year-old Neil Mellor, released by Joe Royle 4 years previously. There was an almost immediate reward for the change when Berkovic released Anelka. However, from an acute angle, and with defenders quickly recovering, Kirkland was able to block for a corner.

It was a poor first half but Liverpool clearly had the better of it, including a penalty shout that could have gone either way. Gerrard was dominating midfield, City allowing him all the time and space he required to look good.

Their dominance paid off in the first minute of the second half when City, again giving the ball away whilst clearing their lines, conceded a harsh penalty. A Liverpool cross that struck Fo