Manchester city remain on course for cup success with a bitter sweet victory over close rivals Manchester United in a hard fought contest.
An epic encounter, producing controversy, fluidity, physical prowess and passion never failed to appease. The impressive comeback, led and completed from golden boy Carlos Tevez, cancelled out an early goal from Ryan Giggs.
All 95 minutes were evenly contested with the odd piece of brilliance from either side, creating an opening. Before hand, all eyes were on Carlos Tevez. The ex Manchester United forward continued to answer his critics with two goals that give City a lead heading into the second leg next Wednesday.
A hostile atmosphere amongst fierce rivals set the game up as a classic. Both teams had a Wembley final to aim for, greater motivation for us would be ½ of the revenge mission completed. 34 years without a trophy, the City faithful remained strong, enduring the nervy and the odd occasion of sheer class. Both sides hold the competition as there best chance of silverware this season, this was clearly illustrated by the strength of both squads.
A performance of true greats commenced at Eastlands, the nature of battle and prestige was no more epitomised than the performance of the industrious and destructive Nigel de Jong. Combined with the willingness and energy of Zabaleta, the awareness and composure of Kompany and the guile, craft and brilliance from Carlos Tevez, Manchester City were professional.
A difficult and laboured start from both sides was ominous. With the winners of this match only slightly more likely to enter the final it was a cagey affair. Tempers flared instantly with a foray of abrasive tackles. Neither side set a desirable tempo with possession gifted to both sides cheaply. Eastlands was roaring as the anticipation of a gladiator battle begun.
Ryan Giggs, 36 and current player of the year set the game alight with a goal early on. Slightly fortuitous, Valencia advanced with the ball and placed a dangerous cross into the city goalmouth. After a slight delay and scramble the ball fell to Giggs, 3 yards out and the goal gaping, he slotted home.
Unfazed, defiant and blood thirsty City began to assert their presence. Defensively pinned back United looked unsteady and apprehensive. Bellamy was creating confusion with repeated pressure and was finally rewarded for his perseverance with a controversial penalty. Rafael the guilty culprit was one of the few United players not to appeal to referee Mike Dean. Cue scenes of hysteria and elation. Carlos Tevez struck the penalty with precision and power into the roof of Van der Sar`s goal.
Half Time 1-1
Despite the contested affair equal at half-time, City looked resurgent and more likely to press for the second goal. The new found belief and determination from a City side proved pivotal as they clinched a momentous goal, proving to be the 1st leg winner. In form striker Carlos Tevez put the final nail in Alex Ferguson`s coffin, who failed to sign the striker last summer. The hit man was undoubtedly overjoyed with his second of the game as he headed home after persistence from Zabaleta and Kompany when United failed to deal with a Blues corner.
With time to spare, including 90 minutes at Old Trafford, the match burst into scenes of admirable attacking football. With chances equally falling to both sides it was Shaun Wright-Phillips who came closest, nearly extending the lead after another charge of brilliance from Bellamy.
For the majority of 80 minutes we were untroubled as United ran out of ideas and our defensive class prevailed. After both sides made their respective substitutions the pendulum swung into United`s favour. With the odd chance of an attacking break, City were persistently clearing danger from their goalmouth. Shay Given made numerous pleasant saves. On the odd occasion Given was beaten, his defence was on hand to prevent any danger.
Despite countless efforts and serious pressure City remained strong and jubilation rung around Eastland`s with a derby victory key to our cup surge.
The match lived up too the thoroughbred classic it was tipped to be. Both sides will feel the game is there too be won, but in our case its job “half” done.
“Fergie sign him up, Fergie Fergie sign him up”.
Full Time 2-1
Unfortunate with opposition goal after a fine reflex save. Made numerous saves to keep the tie in our favour.
‘Mr T’ Richards-7
After early confusion and glimpses of a repeat Giggs performance, Richards improved dramatically. Extremelly powerful and determined.
Young budding talent who has a very bright future. Prevented Wayne Rooney all evening and was unfortunate to be replaced.
Sheer class and awareness. A defensive stalwart in the making, bright future as he challenges himself to place his name amongst City greats.
Similar to Richards, offered Valencia too much space on occasions but repeatedly avenged for his mistake with strong tackling. Not a weak link.
De Jong- 10
This performance is becoming natural for De Jong. Defiant, destructive, strong, courageous and a perfect performance. Worked well with Barry and Zab and was pivotal to winning the tie.
Eased into the game. Good passes and strong tackling helped the City target.
Excellent defensive midfield performance from Zabaleta. His ability makes him a more natural midfielder as he lacks acceleration. 100% all game and never stopped running. Fought for the cause and tackled efficiently.
Sometimes off the pace and legs had gone by 60 minutes. Failed to test United as we know he can. Used to systematic fouling which hampered his much needed rhythm.
Speed, perseverance, creativity and brilliance. Had a part in both goals and was unfortunate not to create more. Tireless and fast becoming irreplaceable.
Fergie Sign him up. The onus was on Carlitos to repeat the remarkable form which has placed him amongst contenders for player of the season. Close battle for Man of the Match scoring a penalty under unbelievable pressure and netting the winner. Inspiration.
Unfortunate not to start. Came on worked well and kept it tight. Under repeated pressure and never buckled. Kompany’s ideal partner.
Offered no movement and failed to release pressure. Ran very little and unbelievably contrasting performance to Tevez.
Little time, well off the pace. Strange substitution.