Monday, October 25, 2004

and relax...

Kevin Keegan may no longer be manager at St James' Park, but his record in seven goal matches remains as it always was. For Collymore on that fateful night on Merseyside a few years ago, read Bellamy yesterday, as the little Welshman rounded off his week in fine style, and reminded Souness of his good points.

Nil-nil at half time, in what was a pretty scrappy encounter with only a Bellamy header over the bar and a Bowyer shot cleared off the line to show for it, this game looked like it needed a goal to really spark into life.

That goal was duly delivered from the boot of Laurent Robert, curling a free kick up and over the Man City wall, past a static David James. That the free kick came from a soft foul left Keegan fuming, but having seen the replay Bosvelt did make contact with Butt, even if little Nicky did then fall to the ground somewhat readily.

Minutes later, some excellent harrying from Shearer in particular gave Steven Carr the chance to burst into the Man City box, ride the tackle of Steve McManaman, and find himself one on one with the keeper. As Carr knocked the ball past the lunging David James and then went to ground a penalty was the only option open to the referee. Contact may have been minimal, but if James is going to go to ground and not get the ball he risks giving away a penalty every time it happens – a lesson I thought he would have learnt following Euro 2004. Keegan may have been fuming, but a penalty was probably a fair decision. Sure enough, Shearer put the ball in the opposite corner to the way James dived, and moved one goal closer to Milburn's record. At two nil up, Souness brought on Aaron Hughes for Stephen Carr, and I foolishly thought that we'd done enough…

However, good work from Shaun Wright-Phillips down the right gave him the space to crash the ball past Shay Given, and give City a lifeline into a match which they shouldn't have been allowed back in to. A foul by Nicky Butt on Robbie Fowler gave the scouser the chance to even things up from the spot, and he took the opportunity to bring things level only a few minutes after Shearer had looked to have put the result beyond doubt. Replays showed that Butt got the ball, and for all Keegan's post match bleating about the referee, he failed to mention how lucky they were to get the penalty which put them level – who says manager's only see one-side?

Having looked as though we were home and dry, to lose a two-goal lead was hardly the stuff dreams are made of, but back came Newcastle and following a Laurent Robert free-kick which he didn't blast at the goal/stand behind, but instead chipped towards the penalty spot, Robbie Elliott rose to flick the ball into the net, via the post, before embarking on his ecstatic chicken celebration.

The fact that we again let the smallest man on the pitch score a second goal, and pull City level again, is something that Souness will need to address, and quickly, if we are to begin to really show progress in any competition this season. Three-all then and things were looking decidedly dodgy at both ends of the pitch, as neither side appeared to possess a competent defender worthy of the name.

Man City could have got a fourth, if Flood had squared the ball to Fowler instead of going for glory, but it was to be Souness' boys who triumphed. Bernard beat Flood on the left hand-side before crossing into the box for Bellamy to flick up and volley into the corner, to give us all three points.

Keegan may be sick of losing to last minute goals, and feel aggrieved at the refereeing, but if you consider the fact that we were never behind in the match, and that they benefited from at least one terrible decision to let them back into it, he can't complain too much. I can't imagine either manager will feel happy with their defending – quite how Aaron Hughes will fare in his manager's eyes (we were 2-0 up when he came on) we shall have to wait and see, but at least Souness can take heart from the fact that we kept going to the end, and came back when all looked like being lost – something we repeatedly failed to do last season.

So a win to keep the unbeaten run going, and take us into the League Cup game against Norwich on Wednesday in good spirits. Hopefully we’ll take the one domestic trophy we've never won seriously enough to progress…


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