It would be all to easy to blame Graham Poll for this derby day defeat. After all the man who Alex Ferguson asks to referee the big games managed to surpass himself in the first half of yesterday’s game. To book Thatcher for an innocuous early challenge on Ronaldo was bad enough but to follow it with just a ticking off for Rooney for the same offence just moments later was a pointer as to which way the major decisions would go. With Thatcher booked, Ronaldo was given license to do as he pleased on the right without fear of reprisal.
Poll had already blown for a foul from an early City corner, strangely for an offence only he could have seen. This was only made worse when he ignored Ferdinand’s attempts to decapitate Richards when the defender was through on goal. Poll obviously is aware of the offence of dangerously high feet, after all he penalised Vassell for it in the second half.
That said Poll’s was not the only poor performance on a day of derby misery. For some unexplicable reason City’s defence decided to become architects of their own downfall. All three rag goals came courtesy of defensive errors with only Thatcher not playing some part in them.
Both Distin and Dunne missed Ronaldo’s hopeful crossfield ball into the area on 6 minutes. Rooney didn’t need a second invitation and duly sidefooted past the stranded Weaver.
The rags failed to push on and dominate, so what Trabelsi was doing when he sold Dunne short on half time, only he knows. That said the cross should have been dealt with but Dunne left it for Weaver who was beaten to the ball by Saha and injured in the process. Not the best time to concede anywhere.
City were forced into changes at half time, Isaksson replacing the injured Weaver and Ireland replacing Reyna. Ireland’s introduction offered City a little more creativity in the middle and it was Ireland himself who forced a good early save from Van Der Sar.
The rags seemed content with what they had but always threatend on the counter attack. Much as I hate to say it, their pace in attack simply highlighted City’s shortcomings. Namely we have no pace, no creativity and a pair of forwards that will be lucky to muster 15 goals between them this season.
City did manage to get back into the game on 72 minutes after nice work on the right from Ireland set up Trabelsi to hit a fine first goal for the club. This unsettled the rags and City looked like they could get something from the game. Unfortunately a combination of City’s defence and the match officials contrived to give the rags there winner. The ball should have been cleared on the right edge of City’s penalty area but bounced to Rooney. His cross was optimistic at best aimed at Ronaldo standing in an offside position. The official failed to notice this and Dunne failed to notice the ball, instead kicking fresh air. Ronaldo finished and that was that, well nearly. There was just time for Corradi to make a fool of himself by diving in an attempt to win a late penalty. Poll got things right this time and the Italian was rightly given a second yellow card and dismissed. What I will say about it is that I saw a far more outrageous dive rewarded at Middlesboro last week and the player’s manager condone it. Some clubs just have no class.
All in all City performed reasonably well. They gave the rags problems and refused to be intimidated. However with our attacking shortcomings we simply cannot make three shocking defensive errors against the top sides. Dunne and Distin showed they are both still prone to lapses of concentration and the forward line was poor. The rags showed how to break at speed and cause our defence problems. It’s a lesson Pearce needs to take on board with the transfer window fast approaching.
Was 4-4-2 the right way to go here? I would have preferred a more cautious approach but that said the manager can’t compensate for the defence letting him down so badly. Pearce’s comments on Corradi were a breath of fresh air after listening to Ferguson defend Ronaldo last week. Cheating needs stamping out and the manager’s can play their part.
The rags are on form and defeat surprised very few blues. They didn’t convince against us as Chelsea did and they lack a little strength in depth. We could learn a thing or two about attacking though.