Manhester City v Chelsea 2008/09

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Barclays Premier League

13th September 2008

Attendance 47,331

Chelsea Carvalho(17), Lampard(58), Anelka(69)

referee Mark Halsey

City Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne, Ball, Hamann, Kompany, Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Ireland, Jo – Subs Sturridge(84), Fernandes(61), Schmeichel(unused), Ben Haim(unused), Elano(unused), Garrido(unused), Evans(unused)
Chelsea Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole, Mikel, J Cole, Deco, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka – Subs Belletti(71), Drogba(71), Alex(79), Hilario(unused), Ivanovic(unused), Bridge(unused), Kalou(unused)
The evening which saw a rare and wonderful talent introduced to the English game was also the evening which witnessed the captain of England fall miserably short of the standards he ought to represent.
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Robinho of Brazil, bought by Manchester City for £32.5million, scored a memorable goal and displayed the flair which has already endeared him to the blue battalions of Manchester.Terry, with Chelsea easing to a convincing victory, tripped Robinho’s compatriot Jo in the 77th minute as the forward ran on goal. He was then at the finger-jabbing fore of an extended argument as he contested the decision with referee Mark Halsey.It made for a distasteful end to what had been a captivating occasion. And it will be fascinating to see how the Football Association reacts to the captain’s antics. The City fans seemed uncertain about the turn events had taken. Before the match, they strolled in the evening sunshine and wondered what to expect.
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There were a good many ‘sheikhs’, tea-towels around their heads but looking faintly embarrassed. The rest seemed slightly bewildered, like Lottery winners who are pleased with their fortune but reluctant to give up their day jobs.
Inevitably, there was some provocation from the Chelsea followers, for whom wad-waving has long been a way of life. It came down to sheikh versus oligarch, billions against trillions.
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Chelsea could point out that their man owns Francis Bacon’s Triptych, a Boeing 767, a country estate in several countries, a fleet of ocean-going yachts and more toys than Hamleys. But City could trump those boasts by commending their new patron, who owns the Al Jazeera network, five per cent of Ferrari and an awful lot of oil. Time was when a Manchester City chairman might take pride in owning a Chrysler.This chap owns the Chrysler Building. It all seemed somehow misplaced in an English football ground, with the real world outside dreading the onset of a deep depression. But the outside world rarely intrudes into football, and this occasion continued that tradition.
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City’s manager Mark Hughes had struggled to express his feelings about his new acquisition. ‘Whenever Robinho gets the ball, you feel that something will happen,’ he said. True enough, but £32.5m tends to promote such expectations. What was genuinely surprising was the fact that the young man did not disappoint.
The omens were not encouraging, since he had played in two World Cup qualifiers this week and arrived in Manchester in the early hours of Friday morning. Moreover, after walking out to a clamorous reception, he kissed the City badge. He may well be a terrific player, but clearly he needs to work on his sense of irony. Yet soon, only the magic seemed important. His first pass was intercepted but after that, he scarcely wasted a ball.
Control at a touch, pass in an instant, moving into new and damaging space. The old managers used to say it would be an easy game, if only the players wouldn’t complicate it. This player is blissfully uncomplicated. And then, in the 12th minute, he raised simplicity to a new level. Ricardo Carvalho came sweeping across to challenge Jo, 20 yards out and in the centre of the field. The free-kick may have been harsh, and certainly it was long disputed. But the execution was extraordinary
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With scarcely a stride, Robinho chipped the ball over the wall, a brush off a defender’s shoulder leaving Petr Cech minimally three yards adrift. It was that killing simplicity which separates the extraordinary players from the rest, and the roar told it all. Blue Moon was bellowed, prayers were muttered and euphoria reigned for all of four minutes.
Then City remembered their oldest habits when a Frank Lampard corner was met by Carvalho. Joe Cole squeezed a rebound and Carvalho struck the scoring volley. And so it was that they attacked like Brazil, but defended like Manchester City. Slowly, inevitably, Chelsea started to dictate terms, driven vigorously from midfield by Lampard.
City continued to defend with misplaced generosity and Florent Malouda almost punished their lapses with two strong headers, the first of which bounced off the bar. At half-time, Deco and Robinho swapped shirts as they departed, and we suspected that the Brazilian’s day was done. But he returned, full of running, as Chelsea went about wrapping up the result.
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 In 52 minutes, they broke out in numbers when a City attack broke down to leave them short at the back. John Obi Mikel began the advance, Joe Cole and Lampard carried it on, and Lampard moved into space for a successful swing of his left foot.
In 69 minutes, with Chelsea in total control, Joe Cole played a short, incisive ball through the square defence and Nicolas Anelka scored comfortably against his old colleagues.
There was time for City to fight, and time for Terry to take the gloss off his own side’s victory. Terry was given a straight red by referee Mark Halsey for pulling down striker Jo just inside the Chelsea half, with fellow defender Carvalho closing in.
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‘I have never seen a man get sent off before for a professional foul where there were two players behind him,’ said Lampard. ‘I saw one this morning in the Liverpool-Manchester United game that only got a yellow card.’
Victory this time to the oligarch. But, in time, the sheikh of Manchester may have things to say.
‘We have started the season very well and we will get better,’ said Lampard. ‘It is great to have people like Didier Drogba fit again because he is the best striker in the world to me.’
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