Hamburg 3 – 1 Man City
Manchester City face an uphill task if they are to progress further in the UEFA Cup, after a superb performance from German side Hamburg enabled a 3 – 1 victory for the hosts, leaving City down but not out. An early away goal, courtesy of Stephen Ireland, may prove crucial in the end, as the Blues now ‘only’ need to win 2 – 0 at the City of Manchester Stadium next Thursday to advance. The home side, led by the highly impressive Piotr Trochowski, netted three times through Joris Mathijsen, Jose Paolo Guerrero and the afore-mentioned German to take a commanding lead to Eastlands.
Truth be told, City were flattered by the scoreline as the continued heroics of Irish goalkeeper Shay Given kept the goals to a minumum. Without the January signing from Newcastle, Hamburg could, conceivably, have wracked up a cricket score, but thanks to Given, City now have a chance of reaching the semi-finals, where, in all probability, they would meet another German side, Werder Bremen, who defeated Italians Udinese by the same score as in this encounter. Although City will undoubtedly feel deflated after this match, the result for the Blues is certainly better than a 2 – 0 defeat, as the away goal, scored inside the first 30 seconds, offers the Citizens a glimmer of hope.
Martin Jol looks decidedly happier than Mark Hughes as the pair greet each other
Blues boss Mark Hughes took a couple of risks in his starting line-up with injury doubts Wayne Bridge and Stephen Ireland both being named in the starting eleven. The Bridge choice unfortunately backfired on City as, for the third game on the trot, the full-back had to be substituted with a twinge in his hamstring. With former Hamburg players Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong sidelined by injury and ineligibility respectively, Hughes named Pablo Zabaleta as the only defensive midfielder in an attack-minded formation, with Craig Bellamy on the wing and Danny Sturridge on his own up-front. On the bench, there was the customary place for Berti, still yet to play a minute of first team football, and he was joined by Martin Petrov, making a welcome return after a sustained period on the sidelines.
Hamburg were missing a number of key players including former Tottenham defender Timothée Atouba and Swiss international Guy Demel, along with inspirational midfielder Romeo ’And Juliet’ Castelan. Martin Jol partnered the two Croats up-front; Mladen Petric and Ivica Olic, thus restricting regular striker Guerrero to a place on the bench.
City Line-Up (4-1-4-1)
Richards Dunne Onuoha Bridge
Bellamy SWP Ireland Robinho
Subs: Hart, Garrido, Berti, Elano, Petrov, Fernandes, Benjani
Hughes was understandably not happy with what he saw
A fantastic atmosphere was brewing at the HSH Nordbank Arena before the game, as both sets of fans were expecting a close affair. But even the most die hard City aficionados could not have predicted the start that the Blues made. Almost straight from the kick-off, the ball found Danny Sturridge, whose miscontrol kindly fell to Stephen Ireland. The midfielder, doubtful before the game with an injury, proceeded to play the most delightful of passes, a pin-point 60 yard ball straight to the feet of Robinho on the wing. The Brazilian turned inside his defender and with Ireland bursting both his guts to get in the box, he laid a perfect pass into the oncoming stride of the midfielder, who, cool as a cucumber that has been in a freezer for a week, slotted home between post and ‘keeper. It was the dream start for City, but could it get any better?
Ireland celebrates his goal, firstly by himself, before he is joined by his dancing partner Robinho
Hamburg, shell-shocked by that early goal, started to show their credentials, piling on the pressure for City and for Given in particular. The Irish stopper made a number of superb saves inside the first five minutes, one of which, from Petric, was worth the entrance money alone. However, it seemed as if Hamburg were becoming more dangerous by the minute, and so it proved, when, following an inswinging corner by Trochowski, Dutch defender Jonas Mathijsen rose highest to guide his header between Given and Shaun Wright-Phillips at the far post. The hosts were level, and it was now imperative that City withheld for as long as possible.
Jonathan Pitriopa, who scored against City in a pre-season friendly, saw his looped header glance the crossbar, whilst City vaguely threatened at the other end, with Sturridge, Bellamy and Robinho all testing Frank Rost in the Hamburg net. A relative lull in the action followed, and the referee with quite possibly the best name in world football, Olegário Manuel Bartolo Faustino Benquerença, blew his whistle to signal the end of the first period of what had been an enthralling contest.
Hamburg play ‘Connect 4? as they celebrate Mathijsen’s (second from left) header
As the second-half began, City would have probably taken a 2 – 1 defeat back with them to Eastlands, but Hamburg clearly had their eyes on more as they started at a frantic (just for the benefit of I*T*P*L) pace, creating chance after chance, to which Given was more than a match for. For the third match in succession, the Blues had to withdraw left-back Wayne Bridge, courtesy of his hamstring injury, and replaced him with Spanish defender Javier ‘I’ve Got His Parents Autographs’ Garrido.
Hamburg looked increasingly threatening from set-pieces, and now were testing Given with the quality of their corners, something which SWP, Ireland and Elano should take note of. And it was from one of these corners that the second goal came about. After Trochowksi swung over yet another dangerous cross, the ball fell at the edge of the box to Mathijsen, whose spectacular overhead kick was clearly handled by Micah Richards, who, showing about as many brains as Wayne Rooney on University Challenge, had foolishly raised both his hands away from his body. The referee had no option other than to point to the spot and Trochowksi coolly slotted home, despite Given diving the right way.
Micah Richards concedes the penalty, before he is left helpless as Trochowski converts the spot-kick
Hamburg smelt blood, and they poured forward at every opportunity, not worried about the vast expanses of space for City to exploit. Benjani had replaced Sturridge for his first appearance since the defeat to West Brom in December and he nearly created a chance for the Blues, but he under-hit the final ball, allowing Hamburg the chance to break. And break they did! Trochowski stormed up the other end, waited for Micah Richards (moving even slower than Didi Hamann) to amble back, before teasing him, getting to the byline and swinging over a tantalising cross to the back stick, where substitute Guerrero had the fairly simple task of slotting home. Game and possibly tie over. 3 -1.
Guerrero slots home to round off a comfortable victory
Ivica Oli? ‘v’ Richard Dunne
Dunne, and the City defence in general, suffered a baptism of fire from the home side, with the movement, pace and trickery of Olic, Petric and Trochowski causing umpteen problems. Olic was a bundle of energy and probably just shades this battle, so the winner is Oli?.
José Paolo Guerrero ‘v’ Nedum Onuoha
Guerrero only came on as a second-half substitute, but he scored a well-taken goal, and looked lively as he flitted between the wing and a more central area. Onuoha struggled and he will need to be at the top of his game for the second leg. Overall, due to the brevity of Guerrero’s appearance, this battle is a Draw.
Joris Mathijsen ‘v’ Craig Bellamy
The Dutch defender scored with a header to set Hamburg on his way, and it was his audacious overhead effort that created the penalty. He was a rock all match, and although Bellamy looked sprightly on the wing, the winner of this contest is Mathijsen.
City captain Richard Dunne smiles for the camera
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