Newsletter #1601

A much anticipated first leg of the Carling Cup semi final saw us emerge victorious thanks to that little Argentinian and some great work by Given. City now take a 2-1 advantage into the away leg next week. The game was marred by one or two security incidents off pitch and as usual with the derby a bit of petulance on the pitch but hey, we just love those derby atmospheres and bragging rights. We have a match report tonight thanks to Phil together with opinion on the game and a request for London Blues at the return leg.

Next up another cup game as we travel over to Lincolnshire for the 4th round FA Cup tie at Scunthorpe.

Next Game: Scunthorpe United, away, 4pm Sunday 24th January 2010 (FA Cup)


Carlos Tevez lit up an Electric Blue night at Eastlands with two goals to give us a slender advantage over United in this first semi-final for 29 years. His 16th and 17th goals were testament to what a good signing he is.

Mancini sprung some surprises: Dedryck Boyata started only his 2nd senior game, alongside fellow Belgian Vincent Kompany, at the heart of the City defence, with Micah Richards resuming at right back. Pablo Zabaleta began in an unfamiliar left-sided midfield rôle, with Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry filling their usual central berths. Shaun Wright-Phillips started his first game since his injury lay-off on the right wing, with Bellamy supporting Tevez in a central attacking rôle.

United clearly took the game seriously: they didn’t play Gary Neville. Indeed Ferguson selected his strongest eleven available, including Rooney, Giggs and Co. so any claims from Stretford or Essex etc. about it not being an important match to them really do not stand up. Furthermore, the cacophony of Rags in the lead up to the game, in particular the aforementioned Neville’s yackety-yack about Ferguson being right to sell Tevez, betrayed how much the game meant to them too, putting to bed another Rag myth.

The atmosphere was charged for this much awaited game: the Thunderbirds theme tune and Manfred Mann’s 5-4-3-2-1 were blaring out over the PA and the Blue Moon image was displayed on the Kippax. Two flares (which are banned) were let off in the United end to try to detract from the Blue Moon.

So to the game. City started slowly and gave United far too much respect. We needed to be up and at ’em, in their faces but started off playing at too slow a tempo and allowed a side that is a shadow of its former self, far too much time on the ball. The likes of Valencia, the mediocre Carrick, Fletcher, and Anderson should not strike fear into the hearts of our players but we looked edgy and uncertain for the first twenty minutes or so as the occasion seemed to get to us. United capitalised in the 16th minute when a long pass was floated out to United right winger Valencia who wriggled past Bellamy and his searching low cross was guided goalwards by Rooney. Given made a smart reaction save but two lucky deflections off City defenders saw the ball fall to Giggs who stabbed the ball in to give United a lead. Their goal seemed to further knock City’s confidence for a good few minutes. Like a boxer that had been landed with a haymaker clean on the jaw, City tottered around for a while, not knowing quite how to respond. United were retaining possession, passing the ball sideways and backwards without looking a threat. ‘City are back’ taunted the visitors from the Home Counties.

Suddenly our heads cleared. Mancini switched the left-footed Barry to the left of de Jong and Zabaleta to make it a central three. City’s midfield had a more balance and City upped the tempo. As a result, it was a very different game and we were winning the battles in midfield: something that we should have done from the start. De Jong was awesome, snapping into tackles and winning the ball time after time. Zaba and Barry were tireless too in support, as our superior midfield bossed the game and gave us the springboard to respond.

Bellamy and SWP playing either side of Tevez in a 4-3-3 formation and City created good chances: Richards headed wide and de Jong had a pile driver tipped over by van der Sar, after Tevez had miscued a header. The livewire Argentine striker soon made amends, though, expertly timing a pass to perfection behind Rafael to release Bellamy. The Welsh captain surged down the inside left channel, outpacing a United defender who was tugging his shirt. Referee Dean pointed to the spot. Whilst it might be said that it was lucky that the referee didn’t blow for a free kick rather than a penalty, as the first tugging offence was outside the box, and the second was inside the box, just 3 days earlier we were on the rough end of the same kind of decision, after Richards tugged Saha outside the box initially at Everton. It was more a case of our luck evening out.

Giggs led the protests to referee Dean as United did their best to prolong the wait, with van der Sar joining the argument, and wasting time with an impromptu drinks break. He was rightly booked but he still continued arrogantly pointing at the referee. Despite van der Sar’s gamesmanship on the line and Rooney whispering not-so-so sweet nothings in Tevez’s ears, the little striker coolly drove home the perfect penalty, high into the top right hand corner of the net. Tevez celebrated, making a talking hand gesture that suggested that Gary Neville’s comments had left a certain G Neville, looking rather stupid yet again in a Manchester derby. Neville’s response was of the basic variety (yes, he actually knew which finger to use). Some people just don’t learn do they? Some people also do not get punished properly by weak, spineless FAs.

‘Fergie, Fergie sign him up…’ reverberated round the stadium as the tourist contingent fell silent. Ferguson could not have failed to have heard his ‘noisy neighbours’ yet again. City were back, and this time it was for real.

United tried to retain possession at the start of the second half and Given was forced to smothered a Rooney close range effort but City dominated for a spell after that, forcing three corners in succession. From another set piece, the ball was cleared to Zabaleta who headed a diagonal ball into the right of the six yard box. Kompany hooked the ball back across goal invitingly and Tevez headed in to send Eastlands delirious with joy. Tevez made a bee-line for the United bench and cupped his ears and “Fergie, Fergie sign him up…” chimed again deafeningly around the ground. Alex Ferguson had no response. Unconfirmed reports suggest that there might have also been a high pitched whine that only dogs could hear from a certain G Neville.

City might have gone 3-1 up but SWP’s powerful goal-bound drive zipped off the turf, forcing van der Sar into a sharp save.

Ferguson rang the changes, bringing on Owen for Anderson and United started to attack with intent again. Onuoha was forced to clear the ex-England striker’s goal bound effort. In stoppage time Given was forced to make a super save from a Rooney drive as United piled on the pressure, but City held out.

Mancini and his players might wonder if he could have been more adventurous from the start. If we had been in the United players’ faces from the off, hassling them off their stride, we may have got the early first goal. Tevez should have stayed on the pitch, as he was a constant menace to United, as well as doing his share of defensive work. Who knows: he may have bagged a very sweet hat-trick. His replacement, Benjani, failed to hold the ball up and we kept surrendering possession every time the ball was played up to him.

Those last ten minutes particularly emphasised the scale of the task ahead of us next week in the second leg. City’s players showed great character to come from behind, take the lead and hold it. We will need to show at least the same character and will need to be solid but positive away next week in the return. Sitting back will only invite trouble and free kicks, which United will play for. I’d like to see 4-5-1 that becomes 4-3-3 in attack with Bellers and SWP on the flanks, either side of Tevez. Of course it will be very difficult but our players are very capable of at least getting a draw. Come on City.

Att: 46,067
Given: How crucial were those late saves? Another top drawer performance 8
Richards: Better positional play and shackled Giggs pretty well 7
Boyata: Clearly nervous at first but he settled, letting no one down 6
Kompany: Rock solid, good distribution 7
Garrido: Had his work cut out against Valencia, but was not disgraced 6
SWP: Not fully fit, but a threat who was unlucky not to score 6
De Jong: Won so many great tackles cleanly and with great power. Awesome 8
Barry: After a slow start, his industry became an important factor in this win 7
Zabaleta: Always fully committed wherever he plays but more effective when switched inside 7
Bellamy: Always running with intelligence and working hard for the team 7
Tevez: not only for his goals but his all action, non-stop running, hassling and harrying, not to mention craft. On one run he was fouled, but gained no free kick, so he chased down the United defenders and knocked them out of the way with his backside. Such character, such guts, skill and determination. What an awesome player 9
Onuoha: Important clearance off the line 7
Sylvinho: n/a
Benjani: Failed to make the ball stick and needs to show more desire 5

Refwatch: Mike Dean: We may have been slightly lucky with the penalty but he looked like many other referees, i.e. scared to upset Ferguson for fear of a character assassination. How else does one explain him not booking Rooney for repeated diving, unpunished, sly nudges in the back from United defenders? Failed to play an advantage after a City player had been fouled, which prevented a promising attack from developing 4

Best Oppo: Rooney: Despite the repeated diving, his intelligence and skill caused us problems 8

Two flares were smuggled into the ground by United fans and these were lit. The security services at this game also confiscated more flares, darts, golf balls and other weapons that United fans tried to bring to the match. Indeed, there were gaps in the away section where United fans had been prevented from entering. Not that it was all about their fans’ darker elements as Patrice Evra was hit by a cigarette lighter. In total 11 United fans, 6 City fans and a ‘neutral’ were arrested. One would hope, especially in the light of the incidents at Old Trafford earlier this season, that United security services also take the fans’ and players’ security seriously and that no one gets hurt. Maybe I’m being naïve here, but I have to ask the question: why would anyone want to go to a match with a weapon?

Phil Banerjee <philban6(at)>


No doubt that McV shall have some good reports on the victory over the Evil Empire, so I am just going to write something that really amused me during the game.

As the 90 minutes of play approached the commentator said “There will be 5 minutes of stoppage time…” Then the camera went onto Fergie and the commentator continued “… but he will want 10 minutes.”

Congratulations to all the players, and whilst we celebrate our victory we must not get too carried away for it is only half time.

Next week will be the time to celebrate, we go to the Swamp with a goal lead but we all know that it still will be a tough game, though with Wembley as the prize we all know that every City player will give 110%. City can do it, yes!

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <britcityblue(at)>


For all those London Blues who don’t have a ticket to the next leg of the Cup, let’s find a boozer to watch the game in London together.

Why spread ourselves around in a sea of United fans rather than club together to shout the Blues on?

River Bar at Tower Bridge had quite a few local Blues watching the game so that could be an option. Suggestions welcome!

Struan Malcolm <sm(at)>


20 January 2010

Arsenal              4 - 2  Bolton Wanderers     59,084
Liverpool            2 - 0  Tottenham Hotspur    42,016

League table to 20 January 2010 inclusive

                            HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L   F   A  GD Pts
 1 Arsenal         22  9  1  1 34 11  6  2  3 25 14 15  3  4  59  25  34  48
 2 Chelsea         21 10  1  0 34  8  5  2  3 18 10 15  3  3  52  18  34  48
 3 Manchester Utd  22  9  1  1 27  8  6  1  4 22 11 15  2  5  49  19  30  47
 4 Tottenham H.    22  7  1  3 26  8  4  4  3 16 16 11  5  6  42  24  18  38
 5 Manchester City 21  7  3  0 26 14  3  5  3 16 16 10  8  3  42  30  12  38
 6 Liverpool       22  7  2  2 28 11  4  2  5 12 15 11  4  7  40  26  14  37
 7 Aston Villa     21  6  3  2 17  7  4  3  3 12 11 10  6  5  29  18  11  36
 8 Birmingham City 21  5  4  2  9  6  4  2  4 12 13  9  6  6  21  19   2  33
 9 Fulham          21  6  2  2 15  6  1  4  6 11 18  7  6  8  26  24   2  27
10 Everton         21  4  5  2 16 15  2  3  5 14 19  6  8  7  30  34  -4  26
11 Stoke City      21  5  3  3 15 13  1  4  5  4 13  6  7  8  19  26  -7  25
12 Blackburn R.    22  5  4  2 15 11  1  2  8  8 28  6  6 10  23  39 -16  24
13 Sunderland      21  5  3  2 18 13  1  2  8 12 25  6  5 10  30  38  -8  23
14 Wigan Athletic  20  3  3  3 10 13  3  1  7 13 31  6  4 10  23  44 -21  22
15 Burnley         21  5  4  1 14  9  0  1 10  8 34  5  5 11  22  43 -21  20
16 West Ham United 21  3  3  4 18 20  1  4  6 10 17  4  7 10  28  37  -9  19
17 Wolves          21  3  2  6  9 17  2  2  6  8 21  5  4 12  17  38 -21  19
18 Hull City       21  4  3  3 13 16  0  4  7  7 26  4  7 10  20  42 -22  19
19 Bolton Wndrs    20  2  4  5 16 23  2  2  5 12 19  4  6 10  28  42 -14  18
20 Portsmouth      20  3  0  7 13 16  1  2  7  5 16  4  2 14  18  32 -14  14

With thanks to Football 365

[Valid3.2]Heidi Pickup,

Newsletter #1601