Hull City 0 Manchester City 2: Some Thoughts
A picture paints 3007 words.
What a difference seven hours can make. From feeling the title campaign was slipping away to thinking we may be favourites. A wonderful, stressful day.
What made the Hull match so important for me was that it removed many of the doubts that have festered in the minds of many City fans this week. Doubts about mentality, about the manager, about the energy levels, form and much more. Fears that the season was melting away have disappeared for the time being.
The line-up was well-received, the decision to play one man upfront surely a no-brainer. Garcia’s inclusion would hopefully free Toure to be more destructive upfield.
But as I said after the Barcelona game, all I wanted was a win. Under three days after an energy-sapping game in the Camp Nou that had left Kompany and his troops’ tanks empty, nothing else really mattered. And how nice to be proved wrong about how tired City would be. If they were, they certainly didn’t show it, and created more chances at the end of the match than at its beginning.
The start wasn’t too promising, but the first major incident could be one that defines City’s whole season and perhaps bizarrely prove to be a positive. More on why that would be shortly. And so to yet another Manchester City red card, and the worse possible start to a vital game.
Despite the drivel that Shearer and Savage spouted on the Match of the Day sofa, or Neil Warnock on the pitch at half-time, it was a clear foul on Kompany by Jelavic. Kompany semi-trips himself up, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jelavic quite clearly rakes his foot down his leg and is clambering all over him. Why Lee Mason suddenly thought this was acceptable considering that a hand on a player’s shoulder was enough to concede free-kicks elsewhere during the match, as it always is, is a mystery. But this was just the second incompetent refereeing display of the week and little surprises anymore. The lucky City narrative was rubbish beforehand, now it seems utterly ridiculous, especially when you consider the yellow card handed out for a potential leg-breaker on David Silva later in the half, an incident by the way that Match of the Day <sigh> didn’t seem worthy of showing.
Having said all that, Kompany’s next action was really stupid. It is impulse of course, but surely it is better to let a player bear down on goal than get yourself sent off. Once play had been allowed to continue, there was only one outcome as soon as he tugged at Jelavic’s shirt. He also dwelled on the ball for too long, strengthening Michael Cox of Zonal Marking’s assertion that he always has a mistake in him, in contrast to his master-class in the Camp Nou.
At this precise moment, I had given up on the season, being the negative man I am. Everything had gone to pot, we had little chance of three points, the season was falling apart, Bluemoon was out of bounds until August. But the City team suddenly woke up and decided that this was not the end, but a rallying call. Silva’s response was immediate, a beautiful curling shot. His teammates responded too and City were superb thereafter – committed, organised and resilient. The response from the two teams was the exact opposite of what you may have expected.
With the lead gained so quickly after the red card, City did not have to take risks and they did not create many chances, but almost went ahead through Zabaleta. Only in the second half did they frustrate, namely through two huge misses from Fernandinho and Dzeko and the fear crept in that those misses would be rued. Thankfully Dzeko didn’t mess up second time round.
One man gets special praise and rightly so, but let’s put our hands together for the emergency defensive pairing of Demichelis and Garcia. They were both excellent, Robbie Savage pointing out that in the absence of Kompany, Demichelis stood up to be counted and marshalled the team superbly.
And one result of this was one of the best applications of the offside trap I have seen from City in many a year. Time after time the flag was raised, every decision correct.
The stats will show Hull to have had more shots on and off target and the majority of possession, but they threatened sporadically, Hart not having to make any spectacular saves.
We must of course talk about David Silva. This is rightly being lauded as one of the great performances in a City shirt, and when the team needed players to stand up and be counted, he was there, dictating play, always threatening, starting with a beautiful goal and finishing with an exquisite assist. He was mesmerising and this was the 20th time in succession that City won a game in which he scored.
And a note also about Joe Hart. I haven’t mentioned him in match reports for some time, which is a good thing as it means he hasn’t made any mistakes, but he deserves praise for a sustained period of consistent performances. He was strong against Hull, patrolling his area, mopping up where necessary and doing all that could be asked of him.
Speaking of which, it’s only fair that after Boyd dived to try and win a penalty then spat at Joe Hart that Hart should be booked. I mean, he shouldn’t have antagonized Boyd. Sections of the media will try and create a head-butt controversy now, naturally, but Hart was booked and that is that. Better luck next time guys. And just for the record, two players squaring up after a contentious moment is not the same as a manger head-butting a player on the touchline. It’s not difficult to understand the difference, if you have a functioning brain.
As for the spit, I am not convinced myself that it was a deliberate act, nor am I convinced it wasn’t. Slo-motion replays prove nothing and are utterly useless in such situations. Likewise, when deciding how bad a tackle is.
As for the other players, it was committed, and they gave their all, but with mixed results. As I have already said though, after the week they have had I can for once excuse any drop-off of performance. The result was everything. As an added bonus, Dzeko managed to score after 10 hours of trying.
I don’t expect us all to know all the rules and regulations of the modern game (i don’t), but I do expect football journalists to know that a “professional foul” carries a one-match ban, whilst only violent conduct carries a three-match penalty. Stu Brennan and the ever-neutral Mark Ogden were just two immediately reporting a three-match ban for City’s captain. For a brief moment, a selection of United fans were getting giddy at the thought of him missing the derby. Hard luck. He would have missed the match if he had been previously dismissed in the league this season, as it would have meant a two-match ban. As it is, he should be nice and fresh for the match, providing he didn’t break his foot destroying the Hull City tunnel.
BT Sport tried their best to create a controversy, bless them. Firstly Jake Humphrey tried to suggest an inappropriate gesture from Kompany as he left the pitch, Warnock having none of it, wisely mentioning that people would try and make an issue of it though, whilst after the match, the Joe Hart “head-butt” got the full treatment.
This was the first victory at Hull since 1909. Thanks must go to the wonderful Gary James for the link to the Daily Mail match report for that day, entitled: HULL CITY RUN UP AGAINST SOMETHING : A SALUTARY RESULT.
City are described as a strong and capable lot, and the report suggests Hull were a little excited at meeting a team with City’s history.
Oh the irony.
I wonder if elsewhere a columnist previously called the Citizens the whores of world football for paying Billy Meredith 3 pence a week?
(Meredith had defected to United by this time).
Don’t be rude. I said defected.
And then the bonus of a Chelsea defeat and the total breakdown of their discipline, a good day becoming one of those wonderful days where everything goes your way.
Another masterstroke from Mourinho. Obviously as the master of mind-games, where everything he does is pre-planned, the whole shambles at Aston Villa was pre-planned. The red cards and subsequent defeat takes the pressure off his team and puts it back on City, whilst by deliberately walking on the pitch he gets himself sent off, taking more pressure and focus off his team. Clever, very clever.
And now to support United. <SHUDDERS>. I think I’m going to be sick.