Monday, 22 August 2011

Blast from the Past: The Greatest Comeback?

On Wednesday the 4th February, 2004 City pulled of one the greatest comebacks of all time. It was an FA Cup tie, away at Spurs. The teams were pretty equal heading into the game, both on reasonable form in the league and it was expected to be a close game. I was 10 years old, sat in my living room with my Dad in anticipation of an exciting game. And boy did that live up to expectations.
City lined up as follows: Aarson, Jihai, Distin, Dunne, Tarnat, Wright Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Sinclair, Fowler, and leading goalscorer Nicolas Anelka.

Disastrous start, Ledley King put Spurs up inside 2 minutes, with I have to say, an excellent curling effort after a stray City clearance. City looked shell shocked, and on 19 minutes, Robbie Keane doubled Spurs lead with a striker's 'dink' over goalkeeper Arni Aarson. Taking it down with his right and finsihing with his left. City still yet to manage a shot on goal. 

Ziege free kick. 3-0 Spurs.
On 27 minutes, Nicolas Anelka hobbled off due to a groin injury and had to be substituted by Jon Macken, the blues now without their main goal threat and top scorer. Yes, Spurs added to the City misery right on half time. This time Ziege with a brilliant curling free kick from the edge of the area. City went in 3-0 down, and without star man Anelka.

Que Joey Barton. Hes good at making things a whole lot better, Barton received a second yellow card for dissent seconds after the half time whistle and City were down to 10.
Away from home, 3-0 down, 10 men, top goalscorer injured, we were out of the cup..surely?

City came out for the second half with the fans pretty much accepting the end of the their FA cup season was inevitable. Some fans had already left, the remaining were left bewildered at how the game could possibly get any worse. The answer is, it couldnt, and that's when it got better. 

City had nothing to lose. They came out the blocks at half time at full pace and Sylvain Distin pulled a goal back for City just 3 minutes after the restart, getting his head on a well worked Tarnat free kick, straight off the training ground. The blues managed to get another goal back through a huge slice of luck (it was about time!), Bosvelt got it, he fired in a shot that looked to be going wide before it took a huge deflection off Anthony Gardner and landed in the Spurs net. 3-2 and somehow, City's numerical disadvantage was out the window and we were in with a shout. Still 20 minutes to go!

City tails were up, they smelt blood and it took half that time, and then came the equaliser, Shaun Wright Phillips the man to latch onto a hopeful ball down the right channel, Shauny's blistering pace put him with only Keller to beat, before the little man delightfully chipped it over the American and into the net. City fans in the corner of the ground went crazy, and that wasn't the end of it. 

90 minutes, seconds to go. Jon Macken grabs a sensational winner, undoubtedly the most memorable moment of his career, he climbed above the Spurs defender and sent a terrific header looping over the goalkeeper before charging off to the corner flag to be molested by hundreds of blues . I did the same, only it being me and my dad in our living room. The game finished 4-3 to City. God pity those who left at half time. 

"They'll talk about this game long after we've all gone" - Kevin Keegan. Yes - every player and management staff to start that game, bar one Shaun Wright Phillips, has now left the club. And yes, every blue still talks about this epic 90 minutes like it was yesterday.

The game symbolises so much for City, the passion and grit we've shown for so many years. And as the song goes, "The boys in blue will never give in!"

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The City Career of...Elano

Brazilian playmaker Elano signed for City under Sven Goran Eriksson. It was the time of Thai owner Thaskin Shinawatra and City had begun to see a little bit of investment of late, Elano transferred to Eastlands along with Vedran Corluka, Javier Garrido, Martin Petrov, Geovanni and Rolando Bianchi. But the £8 million signing from Shaktar Donestk was the first to catch the eye of the City faithful. With impressive displays in the Premier League and FA Cup, we began to see a growing number of the crowd sporting the Elano 11 shirt.

His passing and set piece ability is unquestionable, he took a large number of City's penalties, and scored every one. Elano scored his first goal at home to Newcastle in the Premier League. A sensational free kick hitting what some like to call 'the postage stamp' of the goal. Unstoppable. He also scored in games against Boro, Bolton and Birmingham and his creative mind had cemented him a place in the heart of Sven's midfield. He finished the season with another goal...albeit the only 1 in a humiliating 8-1 defeat at the Riverside Stadium. However, City's mid-table finish saw Sven's position as manager but in doubt and he was later replaced by Mark Hughes on the 5th June 2008. 

Many believe this was the turning point in Elano's city career as he failed to impress the new boss and was rarely in his starting 11. Mixed appearances from the bench meant City fans were losing faith in his commitment to the club as he often looked like he really didnt want to be there. An appalling show in the 3-0 cup defeat to Nottingham Forest was the final nail in the coffin for the Brazilian. He was sold to Galatasaray in 2009.

Elano's final record stands at 14 goals in 62 appearances. He also has a respectable 48 caps for his national side so his talent is unquestionable. However despite a promising start City fans just got the feeling his heart was never at Eastlands and  City just wasnt the team for him. In my opinion I dont think he was even given a chance under Hughes, but he's one of those players, if they're happy with the manager, the fans, the stadium, the training ground, the kit, the kit man, the tiles in the showers, the weather, their car parking space in the training ground car park, then they will play well and excite people. Otherwise, a sulking uninterested figure begins to emerge.