Date: 19th December 2007 at 10:03am
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It’s not often you’ll find me agreeing with every Blue’s favourite pikey, Royston Vasey Keane. But watching the highlights of his Sunderland side’s denial of a blatant goal against Villa a few days ago, I was not alone in also questioning referee Steve Bennett’s eyesight.

Well, if Bennett was bad at The Stadium of Light, he was absolutely brutal at Eastlands last night. This was a pulsating, absorbing football match but the referee’s total inconsistency was glaring and risked descending the game into a farce.

Following Stephen Hunt of Reading’s recent scything attack on Gelson Fernandes warranting only a yellow, and then Stephen Ireland’s similarly stupid ‘tackle’ at Spurs copping for a red, we ran a poll recently on the site. We queried whether or not TV monitor assisted Cricket and Rugby style fourth officials should be introduced to Premier League football in order to ensure consistency. 70% of our site’s visitors agreed. We’d be looking at closer to 100% following Bennett’s performance last night…

In short, Zokora’s sending off was closer to warranting a yellow in the heat of a cup tie, but Bennett saw red. In my view, Spurs fans had a case there, but inexplicably, after setting that precedent, Bennett did not dismiss Malbranque, who eventually sealed City’s fate, for an appalling lunge. So Spurs would have been heading for playing with 10 men at any rate. Bennett followed that up with the refusal to grant us a stonewall penalty as White Hart Lane’s handball specialist Chimbonda hauled down Richard Dunne. Stunning.

But. Increasingly shambolic top flight refereeing aside, the City side were never at the races last night and got what they deserved. Nothing.
You got the impression early doors against Bolton and again last night, that the team seemed to be initially going through the motions. I suggest it is because a mentality had crept in behind the 100% home record and all it’s publicity, that they thought all they had to do was turn up and it would be a case of job done.

Well, a resurgent Spurs side, refocusing under Juande Ramos’s astute leadership exposed this young City side’s naiivety decisively. Berbatov was absolutely brilliant and Spurs will do well to repel Europe’s football giant’s inevitable approaches for the quicksilver striker.

Though downbeat this morning, there remains massive room for optimism at Manchester City. None of us are under any illusions. We never seriously expected silverware this season but you cannot deny that a golden opportunity has gone begging. It is still early days in The Sven Revolution. We have a young, exciting side who are still bonding together. They will certainly get better and reinforcements are already arriving.

City’s failure to breakdown a 10 man team at home has proved costly to our season’s amazing momentum and Svennis will certainly know it. The arrival of Mexico’s brilliant Nery ‘El Diablo’ Castillo is a statement of intent that he has seen enough from our existing pool of strikers. Don’t forget, we also have Valeri Bojinov champing at the bit for the second half of the season.

The likes of Hart, Richards and Johnson alongside our young international stars will have found defeat last night a chastening experience and they will learn from it. This City squad remains one of superb potential if they can get that little bit more streetwise.

It’s now all about how the side reacts to this disappointment as they did so well following our drubbing at Chelsea. Going to Villa gives us a real opportunity to bounce back and at the same time lose that away day failures tag. At least the statisticians will certainly back off now that our home record has gone!

So good luck to Spurs, but I can promise you this City side will be fighting you and other improving teams hard for those European places as the season progresses.

Keep the faith, Blues!


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