1-0 (Chimbonda 44), 2-1 (Defoe 82)
1-1 (Bianchi 60)
- Match reports
- Sun 09 Dec 2007, 12:00AM
- Posted by Leon Collins
ESPN Classic lived up to it’s name on Saturday by showing highlights from the 4-3 FA Cup thriller here at the Lane, with Richard Dunne the only Blue in the starting line up from that night this time around. This game fell on the 40th anniversary of the ‘ballet on ice’ at Maine Road, but December 9th 2007 was chilly and damp rather than freezing and icy.
Three changes for the Blues – Darius Vassell replaced Samaras, Michael Johnson was back from a groin injury to replace the suspended Hamann and Kelvin Etuhu was in for that first Premier League start with Geovanni dropping to the bench.
The game opened quietly, with the biggest cheer of the first few minutes coming when the big screens flashed up the news that Arsenal were two down at Middlesbrough.
Bent had the first good chance of the day when latching onto a through ball, but Isaksson was out quickly to deny him with his legs.
The former Charlton man missed a better chance on 17 minutes after good work from Berbatov. The enigmatic Bulgarian somehow squeezed the ball through despite close attention from three City defenders, but Bent’s shot rolled across the face of goal and wide.
Kelvin Etuhu had shown no sign of any nerves on his first start of the Blues, and on 23 minutes he cut in from the right flank, checked and fired in a shot with his left that went into the sidenetting.
The home side were having more of the play but to their fans frustration the final ball was always lacking and Isaksson was not troubled.
The White Hart Lane faithful were incensed on 39 minutes when Bent went down after appearing to be clipped by Richards, but replays showed the City defender had not touched the Tottenham striker. Berbatov got away with a stern talking to just afterwards despite clearly rolling the ball back into play with his hand as he slid into touch.
But just as the City fans must have thought they would see the Blues go into the break level, the hosts went ahead on controversial circumstances. A free kick was taken short from the left to Berbatov in the area, and his shot hit Pascal Chimbonda to go into the net. Replays showed that the ball had hit the defender’s hand and that he looked offside. City’s keeper led the protests but Mark Halsey was unmoved.
Etuhu skinned Lee to get to the by line six minutes into the second half, and his cross found Vassell, but the striker was hustled off the ball by Kaboul from inside the area.
Fans favourite Rolando Bianchi replaced Etuhu on 57 minutes, the teenager getting a good ovation from the City supporters.
And what an impact the Italian made! Three minutes after he came on, Petrov swung in a corner from the left and the former Reggina man thumped in an unstoppable header that flew past Robinson to level the scores. Rolando ran to the corner to passionately celebrate with his fan club!
The goal lifted City, with Petrov rattling a shot just wide three minutes later, and Vassell just short of a Petrov cross shortly after.
The game opened up, and Jenas should have at least hit the target on 73 minutes, lifting a shot from the edge of the box just over the bar. Richard Dunne was harshly booked for a strong tackle on 75 minutes.
And then the game erupted with less than 10 minutes left. First of all, Stephen Ireland was sent off, shown straight red for a challenge on Lee. A minute later, Malbranque’s cross struck the post, and Jermaine Defoe drove the ball home from close range, the ball taking a deflection off Richards.
Isaksson made a fine double save just into stoppage time, pushing out a Defoe shot and then diving bravely on the follow up.
The Blues could not threaten Robinson’s goal in the rest of the time added on, and Mark Halsey blew the whistle on our first defeat since the visit to Stamford Bridge in October.
mcfc.co.uk Man of the Match - Darius Vassell was as tireless as ever and deserves a goal; Stephen Ireland did well and could have got the nod - until the challenge that saw him sent off.