A win that keeps us still in the hunt for the Europa League on paper but in reality we’re going to finish the season still looking up at that dotted line.
The absence of Lennon and Palacios provoked another formation change from Harry with Modric taking the speedster’s place on the right and Robbie dropping to the left side of midfield. Luka as usual spent most of the game in the middle and Keane is no Ryan Giggs thus we were too narrow and any width we had came from the full backs. Assou-Ekotto found loads of space on the left but his crossing is remarkably rubbish for a player who generally looks like he knows what he’s doing when on the ball. He tends to be far better at threading passes through the eye of a needle than slinging crosses in. Corluka’s skill and reading of the game bought him loads of good positions in and around the City area, if only he had that extra bit of zip.
Despite the dodgy formation we started at a good tempo and played them off the park for most of the first half with Given making saves from Defoe, Pav, King and Keane. After half an hour we scored. With the inside of his heel Defoe deflected Huddlestone’s excellent cross close to the keeper but with enough power to be past him by the time he reacted. 1-0 and time to pack up and go home given our recent results at WHL. Or maybe not.
We never got going after half time as everything got a bit sloppy. The slipshod passing and general lack of technique from both sides meant the crowd had to entertain themselves. There was good singing for Palacios and Ledley King and the watching from corporate Liam Gallagher provided some alternative entertainment. Woodgate didn’t make it out for the second forty five being replaced by Hutton with Corluka moving into the middle. At one point an unwell Jenas chucked up near the sidelines, he wasn’t taken off though until after City had equalised. The away team had come into the game more but hadn’t given Gomes anything to do before Bojinov finished smartly following a powder puff challenge from Hutton.Â
Zokora replaced Jenas and the game returned to the humdrum, a spectacular and close range miss from Pavlyuchenko apart. He was offside but he didn’t know it. His sprint down the tunnel a few minutes later after being subbed for Campbell didn’t leave us with the best impression. His match winning performance against West Ham seems a long while ago.
With time running out the monobrow brother would’ve thought that he was going to have the last laugh but then Micah Richards was slightly harshly adjudged to have pulled down Campbell as he chased a Defoe cross he was never going to get to. I say ‘slightly harsh’ but Richards had spent all afternoon muscling players much smaller than him off the ball, (Modric, Defoe, Keane) and will have to get used to this sort of decision going against him if that’s his version of tackling. Robbie coolly tucked away the pen and then over celebrated in a rockin’ the baby type stylee. Cheeky of him given another nondescript display. I’m sure his head’s still a bit of a mess after the season he’s had; assuming he doesn’t discover another boyhood club (Celtic?) over the summer you’ve got to hope that the impending time off will allow him a fresh start next season. There was enough time left for Benjani to flick over a decent chance with an awesomely bad header and for Defoe to put one just wide of the post.
So slightly disappointing overall to be honest with the best performances coming yet again from the defence. King was excellent after his tough week but I thought Corluka and (crossing aside) Assou-Ekotto were outstanding. Huddlestone played a lot better than at Goodison and Modric on the ball is a cut above most of those around him. Defoe’s hunger for goals was again almost tangible and the prospect of him being fully fit and raring to go next season is exciting. Campbell provided much needed zest when all had gone limp. You can’t help but love his enthusiasm and wish him all the best for the future. For them, the much talked about Ireland over elaborated and looked a bit of a fanny merchant. Zabaleta was good when he came on.Â
So barring the combination of a disastrous effort at Anfield and an emphatic win by West Ham next weekend it looks like we’re destined for 8th which is an amazing effort and no wonder Redknapp was given an ovation at the end of the game. Fulham are going to get the poisoned chalice of the Europa League spot which is fair enough given that we didn’t beat them this season. Good luck to ’em.
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