1-1 (Vassell 16)
West Ham 1
0-1 (Cole 8)
- Match reports
- 20 January 2008 00:00
- Posted by Leon Collins
There was just one change to City’s starting eleven as we reconvened for City-West Ham IV – Rolando Bianchi came in for the unluckily injured Nery Castillo. Geovanni was on the bench, and the Hammers brought in Cole & Mullins for Ashton & Etherington.
The City of Manchester Stadium has had, to use a technical term, a right good soaking over the last few days but the pitch looked to be in good order. A win for the Blues would hoist them into fifth place following Everton’s 2-1 win at the JJB Stadium.
The stadium DJ’s sense of humour came to the fore with the strains of the Average White Band’s “Let’s go round again” playing as the crowd settled into their seats for the fourth game between the two teams this season.
A quiet opening spell came to life after eight minutes, but not in the way City had hoped. Richard Dunne gave the ball away to Noble on the edge of his own box, the West Ham midfielder feeding Ljungberg on the right immediately. The Swede crossed low to Carlton Cole, and with his back to goal the former Chelsea man flicked the ball up to himself to then put a spectacular overhead kick into the bottom corner of the net.
Bianchi dropped deep to feed Corluka five minutes later as City sought to get back on terms, but with the Italian racing into the area and pleading for the ball, the right back kept hold of it and was easily dispossessed, an opportunity missed.
But on 16 minutes the Blues were level, and once again a City goal came about thanks to Martin Petrov. The Bulgarian winger got the ball back from a corner on the right and immediately whipped it back across into the box. The Hammers’ defence dithered, Bianchi got enough on it to touch it to Darius Vassell, who placed the ball into the corner of the net from the edge of the six yard box. It was the hard-working striker’s third goal of the season.
Lucas Neill, no doubt fed up with the sight of Martin Petrov racing towards (and past) him with a ball at his feet this season, mowed him down on 27 minutes to earn the first booking of the day. Two minutes later Stephen Ireland drove the ball straight at Green from the edge of the box after Ferdinand had nodded a Vassell cross away from goal.
With four minutes left to the break, Bianchi raced downfield with Vassell sprinting into a great position in the middle, but the Italian’s ball towards his team mate was a poor one and went straight at a West Ham defender.
Carlton Cole looked to be threatening to retake the lead just seconds later as he moved into the Blues’ box, but Micah Richards expertly shepherded him away from the danger area.
Mark Noble had the second half’s first good chance, but from just inside the box he curled the ball well over Joe Hart’s bar. Of more concern to City was Darius Vassell needing treatment after taking a two-footed lunge from Luis Boa Morte, who saw yellow for his poor challenge. Thankfully City’s goal scorer was back on his feet and did not need the stretcher.
Joe Hart was called into action just ahead of the hour mark, getting down to his left to push Mullins’ first time shot around his left hand post.
As the rain returned with a vengeance, Bianchi took aim from range after Upson slipped, but the effort from the fans’ favourite was taken easily by Rob Green.
With 15 minutes left we had action at both ends, with Joe Hart spreading himself to make a superb save with his outstretched leg to deny Mark Noble. The Blues raced down to the other end, with Elano heading Corluka’s cross onto the roof of the net.
Referee Phil Dowd booked three players with five minutes to go, Geovanni & Lee Bowyer after the pair had tangled off the ball, and then Mark Noble after an excessive delay at his own free kick, possibly for backchat.
Freddie Ljungberg wasted a great chance as normal time wound down, electing to go for glory himself when a cross would have given Bowyer a golden opportunity, as the former Leeds man vehemently pointed out to his team mate.
West Ham could so nearly have grabbed the three points at the very end of stoppage time, but Carlton Cole’s header, which deflected off Micah Richards, was magnificently saved by Joe Hart. The end came just afterwards, with the two sides probably glad to see the last of each other for this season.
mcfc.co.uk man of the match: Joe Hart - good throughout, but a magnificent save late on to deny Cole secured a point. City fans were chanting 'England's number one', but he's certainly secured his place between the sticks for the Blues.