Manchester City v Millwall 2001/02

 millwall home 2001 to 02 prog


Nationwide Division One

30th January 2002

Attendance 30,238

Scorers Goater(78 & 87)

City Weaver, Pearce, Wiekens, Dunne, Wright-Phillips, Benarbia, Berkovic, Jensen, Horlock, Huckerby Goater – subs Dickov(90), Edghill(unused), Ritchie(unused), Nash(unused), Killen(unused)

Millwall Warner, Ward, Nethercott, Dyche, Ifill, Reid, Bircham, Cahill, Livermore, Naylor, Sadlier – subs Ryan(45), Lawrence(45), Bull(unused), Harris(70), Gueret(unused)


millwall home 2001 to 02 pearce penalty saved


JUST what do they put in those Southport crumpets?   Kevin Keegan took his men for elevenses on the coast as an  unusual preparation for this top-of-the-table crunch and the ten-man Blues ended up eating   Millwall for breakfast.
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In an astonishing reprise of the previous home encounter with Norwich, the First Division leaders were reduced in number by the referee before the paying customers were properly settled in their seats and yet went on to record a crushing victory. Stunning, sensational, astounding, prodigious, melodramatic, thrilling, exhausting, epic, pick any one or more of those descriptions you like and you would not be far away from defining what transpired at Maine Road last night, Even Keegan, who is well used to uncharted waters when it comes to pushing back the boundaries of entertainment, could hardly believe his eyes.
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Millwall were like so many startled rabbits caught in the blazing, screaming, blinding light of the Blues’ attacking verve. The sending-off of Algerian playmaker Ali Benarbia for a blatant raising of the elbow in the general direction of Marc Bircham was shrugged off with casual indifference by a home side brimming with confidence, self-belief, and spirit. City eschewed what will, for evermore, be known as the ‘Arsenal Defence’ to a red card, bleating that the pitch is too small, and instead simply rolled up their collective sleeves, swaggering and swaying their way through the serried ranks of a quivering Millwall defence that was pushed deeper and deeper by every thrust of the laser Blue onslaught.
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The rapier running of Darren Huckerby and Shaun Wright-Phillips had the Lions chasing their tails hopelessly all night. lf either man had possessed a finish to go with the approach work, City might have run up double figures on their way to an eighth win in nine games at Maine Road, a seventh victory in succession and a healthy six point lead at the summit of the Nationwide League.
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The Premiership is no longer standing there crooking a beckoning finger and winking suggestively at the Blues but standing open-armed, its heart in its hands, begging for Keegan’s entertainers to join the party And they will. No one inside the camp is willing to say so but the powers that be can order the Duraglit and dusters right now because the First Division trophy is heading for Moss Side. There might be some doubt if Keegan’s side were merely knocking over the First Division’s makeweights but in the last two home games they have beaten two of their closest rivals with almost nonchalant ease  using only the ten men.
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Credit must go to Keegan, for in neither game did he press the panic button and begin to make wholesale positional changes when his side suffered an early dismissal. Instead, he struck a double psychological blow by showing the opposition that he still had faith in his depleted side’s capabilities to win and at the same time empowered his players with additional self-reliance. Not that they needed much, for City could have been in the lead before Benarbia got first and exclusive use of the bath by earning the seventh red card of the season for the Blues. Wright-Phillips dragged a sixth-minute shot wide of the target after the magnificent Kevin Horlock has bust a gut to send him one-on-one with keeper Tony Warner. And that set the tone for the rest of an exhilarating but frustrating opening 45 minutes.
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Warner spread himself expertly to take the ball off Huckerby’s toes in the tenth minute and then the same City player’s radar went haywire as he employed his pace and trickery time after time only to fail with the final pass or shot. Wright-Phillips, too, endured a carbon-copy miss when he shot across goal in the 20th minute though he might have done better just after the half hour had he not been bundled to the floor by David Livermore as he chased Berkovic’s sumptuously scooped pass into the area. The award of a penalty was a foregone conclusion but Stuart Pearce’s well-struck effort was brilliantly turned aside by Warner Even then Millwall were too timid, or in awe, to throw caution to the wind and another length-of-the-pitch City move involving Wright-Phillips, Berkovic and Huckerby ended with the last-named’s shot jolting the advertis- ing boards and not the back of the net. Nick Weaver was a virtual spectator through all of the mayhem until the 44th minute when he showed sharp reflexes to push aside Richard Sadlier’s angled effort.    Millwall boss Mark McGhee reformed his bewildered troops at half- time from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 but it made little difference as Huckerby continued to carve them apart. Shaun Goater; until that moment a  study in perspiration rather inspiration, saw a 12-yard shot well saved by Warner and both Huckerby and Berkovic were wide with shots from the edge of the box.
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The breakthrough that seemed like it would never arrive duly did so 12 minutes from time when Wright-Phillip’s pace carried him into space and his cross-shot flew past Warner and against the base of the post where, lurking with great intent, was Goater who recorded the shortest conversion so far this season. Nine minutes later the Bermudian was on hand to add his second, and 28th of the campaign, after Huckerby finally exhausted of trying to score himself, rolled the perfect pass across the six yard box. There was still time enough for one more excellent Weaver stop and a smile-inducing cameo from substitute Paul Dickov before the standing ovation that was so richly deserved by all the men in Blue. Crumpets anyone? FROM MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS BY CHRIS BAILEY AND PAUL HINCE

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