FA Barclaycard Premiership
9th November 2002
City Anelka(5), Goater(26 & 50)
Of all the games being played in the stadium’s final season, the last Maine Road derby match of all time was the one the fans needed to go well. City were the underdogs – the Blues had only been promoted the previous April and had been embarrassed in the League Cup only days before the match – but comments by Gary Neville and Sir Alex Ferguson aimed at playing down the importance of the game actually backfired. Ferguson made comments about a lack of atmosphere at Maine Road and claimed the Liverpool game was always a more passionate affair. He has made this comment before several Manchester derbies but interestingly, to date, his side has always lost when he’s made this comment in public.
The pre-match atmosphere was incredible, helped by the fact that City’s public address system failed shortly before kick-off. At similar ‘big’ games the loudness of the PA system had made it extremely difficult for fans to compete, but this time the singing continued without a break. Five minutes into the match, Nicolas Anelka caught onto a stray pass from Phil Neville, sprinted away from Rio Ferdinand, passed the ball to Goater, whose shot was parried into the path of Anelka who made it 1-0. This was exactly what the old stadium needed, but within three minutes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer equalised.
For the next 20 minutes the Reds challenged and gave City fans several nervous moments, but there was a feeling around the ground that no matter what was thrown at the Blues this was going to be City’s day and so it proved.
City made it 2-1 in the 25th minute. Much has been made of Gary Neville’s dithering, but this goal owes more to the persistence of cult hero Goater. Neville appeared to be letting the ball go out of play, but the City star was continually behind him, pressuring him. Whether Neville panicked or not isn’t clear, but he then appeared to try to pass back to Fabien Barthez. Goater simply took the ball from Neville’s feet, and followed up by netting his 99th goal for City. Five minutes into the second half Goater scored his second goal of the match and 100th in his City career. Deservedly, Maine Road’s final derby became the season’s greatest game. From Gary James Season Tracker City Programme 24th November 2007
Lucien Mettomo and Gerard Wiekens replaced Distin and Steve Howey who were both absent, and we started as underdogs.
I had studied United and knew that if I scored against them it would be best not too get over excited because they had a habit of coming back. To remain calm until we were certain of victory was the best approach.
It felt good to be on the stage in front of our supporters; this was the opportunity I had been waiting for.
I was upset that David Beckham and Roy Keane were out because if we beat them I wanted us to beat them al, and United not to be able to make up excuses.
This gamme for me showed the true quality of Gerard Wiekens. Whenever he was called upon to do a job he did it superbly, in fact whenever he marked me in training I always had a difficult time. On this day he marked Ruud Van Nistelrooy as well as I have ever seen anyone do. Gerard was not the quickest, but he read the game well and that day he did not allow Ruud a sniff.
…I was very relaxed as we kicked off. Anelka scored an early goal to put us 1-0 up but Paul Scholes soon made it 1-1.
It was a fast, exciting game, but when Marc Vivien Foe played a long ball up front he miscued it and it was heading out for a goal kick. As the ball rolled towards the line I thought “I could make this bad ball into a good ball”. Gary Neville seemed to be trying to shepherd the ball out as I chased him down, and I could see the ball was going out. I expected him to shield it as I challenged him, but he then decided to play it back to Fabien Barthez. I anticipated his next move and out in a block tackle and the ball stayed in play. I edged him out of the way, took the ball in towards goal, but ther was nobody for me to square the ball to. I was on my own so I went along the goal-line and tried to angle back in a little before hitting the ball low past Barthez and into the net.
While the fans went hysterical, I stuck to my guns and avoided getting too excited because United had plenty more left and were not about to rollover. I had seen enough teams fall into the trap of thinking the game was won and end up losing.
We were playing well and I was feeling good, all the time thinking “Now they’re going to see the real shaun Goater.” I was up against Laurent Blance and Rio Ferdinand and I found the game very easy. I was spinning off them, laying balls out wide or into Eyal and then letting him take over.
We went in 2-1 up, at which point I heard “Feed The Goat!” at it’s loudest ever. The fans had also come up with a new song “Who let the Goat out” and I thought “I’m having that one! I liked the tune and it reminded me of Summer in Bermuda so I was very happy with the City fans’ latest release!”
Early in the second half Eyal picked up the ball in the middle, and as I ran infield I saw a gap behind the defenders and began to sprint into it, knowing Eyal would find me. He played a perfectly weighted pass into my stride, I had to hold off two defenders, but delayed my shot until I drew closer and closer to goal. Choosing the right moment to pull the trigger would be key, and having studied United I knew Barthez’s habits as a sharp and agile keeper. If you hit the ball in low he had the ability to make some fantastic saves. Knowing that his strength lay in low shots I had always thought that if I ever was one on one with him, I’d dink it over him.
As I held off the defenders the ball bounced in front of me, allowing me to make a gentle half volley over Barthez, who had gambled on a low shot. The ball gently bounced into the back of the net. That was 3-1 and also turned out to be my 100th goal for the club, although I didn’t know it at the time.
I ran off to the United fans saying “Ssshhh! I can’t hear you anymore!” I celebrated that goal a bit more than the first one but I still wanted to remain cautiousm there still being quite a lot of time left.
I had waited so long for this moment against United, who represented a yardstick in English football as far as I was concerned.
…We held out comfortably to win 3-1 and I walked off to an incredible rendition of “Feed the Goat” followed by “Who let the Goat out” what an amazing way to end a fantastic day. This was the first time City had beaten United in 13 years.