Date: 28th April 2013 at 4:15pm
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It didn’t know whether to rain or be sunny as we approached the Etihad for what was once upon a time a regular end-of-season match between West Ham United and City.

Many of us will remember the final years at Maine Road where the outcome of this match would regularly send the loser through the relegation trapdoor, leaving the fans wishing each other “All the best” as they shook hands across the segregation netting.

Thankfully this season the Hammers are free of those shackles and City, of course, have different considerations at the opposite end of the table.

But the Blue Moon faithful didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as they prepare themselves for what is becoming a regular trip to Wembley, again looking at a league table that has seen the hard-earned Premier League title divest itself along Mancunian Way and out of the City of Manchester.

At home, of course, City are a different proposition to the side that capitulated in the capital last week. With Silva restored, although not fully fit, and Milner given a little more recovery time there was a majesty about their play.

With the relegation pressure off Big Sam’s boys, it was a day they could at least try to enjoy, but had it not, once again, been for City’s profligacy, they could have been staring down the same barrel as Newcastle would later in the day.

Just about everyone in the six ahead of the back four missed great goalscoring opportunities, and in amongst this, also, was Zabaleta, who last week was, for the first time in the history of the Ped Report, the subject of positional criticism.

From the off City meant business. Excellent free-flowing football masterminded by Silva, Nasri and Yaya, underpinned by the endeavour of the inevitable Tevez and the elusiveness of the dynamic Aguero.

But it was still left to Lescott to rob Jarvis ahead of him pulling the trigger in West Ham’s best early attack. Almost immediately City countered and Aguero should have opened the scoring finding himself clear on goal but hitting the post.

As the applause for Marc-Vivien Foe echoed around a stadium at which he was he was destined not to ply his trade, West Ham again came close forcing Hart into his first save. I have to say that in all the years I have looked in on this fixture there has always been a great respect between these two sets of fantastic fanatics and the way in which the entire stadium paid tribute to MVF, who, you may recall, played for both teams, was one of those sights to behold.

Then, just ahead of the half hour, a Barcelona-esque piece of genius by City.

Clichy back-heeled to Yaya who accelerated into space and exchanged passes with Nasri in the inside-left slot. Nasri then accelerated past the Irons defender, Collins, and squared inside to Aguero lurking as ever on the six yard line. This time he didn’t miss and the goal was simply awesome.

If you listened to the commentator on MOTD you would have laughed as he was about to criticise City for “trying to pass it into the net” before they did just that. Great goal from a great striker.

It now looked as though the floodgates would open as City found their shooting boots, but as has happened in the past, Jaaskelainen was in inspired form. Many will recall a match against Bolton when he made a dozen ridiculous saves to keep the score at 0-0, before Bolton scored with their only shot around 3 minutes into injury time. Aguero had already beaten him today, but he made superb saves from Nasri (twice) Zabaleta, Tevez and just about anyone else who dared to seek to put him to the sword.

O’Brien also helped out in blocking Tevez’s best effort of the match. Tevez was brilliant against one of his old clubs and deserved a goal.

By contrast, Nasri missed the most outrageous of “sitters” as a delightful low cross form Tevez went straight to his bootlaces but he didn’t trust his left foot, tried and missed with his right. Cue Mancini’s boxing gloves!

With seven minutes left, however, another magnificent piece of football down the right. Link-up play between Milner, Nasri and Yaya saw the later curl in a tremendous shot from the corner of the box to which, for once, Jussi had no answer.

City seemed to be easing towards the end of the match without any real trauma. Carroll had huffed and puffed a bit but was marshalled out by Lescott and Kompany, but then three minutes into stoppage time an innocuous looking cross from the right finally saw Carroll chest down and strike what looked like a routine shot for Hart. Clearly having learned nothing from the goal he let through his legs against Southampton, Hart did exactly the same thing here in embarrassing fashion to almost underwrite his benching for the FA Cup Final.

David Platt later said he had a “back spasm”. If he did, then he shouldn’t have been playing, if he didn’t, then it was simply lazy goalkeeping.

When Big Joe Corrigan once let in a similar goal, my old mum used to say “he couldn’t stop a pig in a passage”. That’s what it looked like for the more modern Joe.

City were “more like it” in this game. Some of the build-up football was exquisite and infuriated us in equal proportion with wayward striking, for most, the reason City can only finish runners-up at best this season.

There were good performances all around the field. Nasri once again laid down his marker for a final place, but his so-called finishing was awful. It’s Milner for me!

Yaya is clearly warming up. He was at his best for a long time today and his goal was brilliant.

The return of Silva shows that even at that level of fitness he is the true magician.

Until the blip at the end, the back line looked solid enough, with back to his top form, Kompany commanding and Lescott in no-nonsense mood.

Allardyce has changed the Hammers fortunes. I though Carroll put himself about well but as they were under the City cosh for much of this match there were good performances from Reid, Demel and Diame as well the evergreen Jussi.

Man of the match could have been most of City’s team, Hart excepted. Silva and Yaya looked good going forward, Barry did too in his “break and build” role, Aguero frightened Collins to death and scored, but the endeavour of Tevez was probably enough to persuade the sponsors, or TV that it should be him.

And finally…on the subject of TV I had to laugh at Alan Shearer last night pontificating that the FA is inconsistent in the way they deal with “trial by TV” decisions, saying that they should outlaw this and that and ban the perpretators. One of the worst ever cases of this was when he simply booted an opponent, was it Lennon?, in the head. Everyone in the world saw it, but the FA let him off because he threatened to retire from playing for England if he faced a long ban. How’s that for hypocrisy?

all times East Manchester

Sa 04 May 15h00 Swansea, The Liberty Stadium, PL
Tu 07 May 19h45 West Brom, The Etihad, PL
Sa 11 May 17h15 Wigan Athletic, Wembley, FACF
Tu 14 May 20h00 Reading, Madejski Stadium, PL
Su 19 May 16h00 Norwich City, The Etihad, PL


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