Goliath City 3 David Burnley 3
City of Manchester Stadium (Eastlands)
Saturday 7th November 2009 @3pm Kick Off
This game was billed as the David & Goliath encounter of the season and the stark contrast in budgets and spending power on show as the players marched onto the pitch was plain for all to see. We were not expected to get anything from this game but we did after a high scoring superbly entertaining match that finished 3-3.
This of course was our first point on the road this season, in fact our first point away in the top flight since the last time we were there in the 1975-76 season. It has been long time waiting for this moment and I doubt if anybody can remember the 1-0 victory against Newcastle at St James Park in April 1976 when a Peter Noble goal gave the Clarets some cheer towards the end of a hard, torrid relegation season.
Still if you are going to get your first point away from home this season what better time is there to do it than against high-profile 'sheik-yer-money` Manchester City; a club hell bent on trying to pay their way into a Top 4 finish this season. Maybe that`s where we had the advantage you know. Our strength yesterday was clearly the fact that sometimes it can be an advantage to have a small squad that regularly play together. In other words a side that plays like hell for each other with high motivation. We played as a tight unit with everybody knowing each other`s style of play. City may have depth of squad but just yet they don`t seem to know each other`s strengths and weaknesses and play to them as a team. I think they knew they had just been humbled and might just be thinking now that you can bring a horse to water (multi-million pound players) but you can`t necessarily make it drink (gel as a team).
In the first half some of the Clarets play was breathtaking and we thoroughly deserved to go 2-0 up thanks to a goal from the spot by penalty king, Graham Alexander, and a well-taken goal by Fletcher following a sublime cross by Eagles. A bit of a fluky goal towards the end of the first half gave City some hope after Shaun Wright-Phillips`s drive took a wicked deflection giving Jensen no hope. Could the Clarets dare to dream again in the second half? The answer to that soon seemed to be 'no!' when two goals by Toure and Bellamy in a three minute spell looked to have turned the dream into a nightmare.
Dejected Clarets fans now feared the worst with visions of those awful tonkings by Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs coming back to haunt us. Some strange substitutions by Owen Coyle after 60-70 minutes did not appear to go down too well with Clarets fans standing around me and when Eagles, who appeared to be our best player on the pitch, was taken off, we couldn`t quite understand the logic. We need not have worried, the lads fought on bravely and rather than attempt to embark on a damage limitation exercise continued to attack and take the game to City.
We have seen it so often this season though when we have been caught out on the break and punished by the thunderous pace of some of these multi-million pound, top-quality players. For once, although there were a few scares, it didn`t happen this time and when with just three minutes to go we got the equaliser it capped a near-perfect day for all Clarets fans. A delightful cross by Nugent found the head of Fletcher and the ball dropped at the feet of sub, Kevin McDonald who made no mistake from five yards out sending the South Stand into a wild frenzy.
I say near-perfect day because for some it was very disappointing to have lost a 2-0 lead to find ourselves behind 3-2 but, come on, this was an amazing point in the end. Even some of our own fans in our Prediction League on Vital Burnley were forecasting 5-0, even 6-1 type defeats ahead of this match, although my heart had ruled my head again and I had plumped for 1-1.
Yes, this truly was David`s day with Goliath moping off to think again. Very proud to be a Claret today, well done lads!
The point sees the Clarets remain in 10th spot with 16 points. We are actually just five points behind Aston Villa in 5th, the club we play next when they come to Turf Moor after the international break which is now upon us.
Owen Coyle had an easy team choice for the game at Eastlands with no new injury worries or suspensions. Stephen Jordan had recovered from a mild knock to play against his former club and another former City man, Tyrone Mears also of course lined up in the spot he has made his own at right back.
As predicted Coyle made no changes to the eighteen that lost to Wigan but beat Hull in our last two consecutive matches at Turf Moor:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, Bikey, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher
Subs: Penny, Duff, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Guererro, Nugent, Thompson
As for City`s side, it was simply a procession of multi-million pound players. They even managed to find a starting role for last season`s top scorer, Stephen Ireland as he took the field alongside heavyweights such as Bridge, Lescott, Toure, Wright-Phillips, Barry, Adebayor, Tevez, Bellamy ...and breathe!
Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton) was in charge of this match; a young referee, who is apparently highly rated and being fast tracked for greater things. This was his first match featuring the Clarets and if truth be known he certainly seemed to lack experience and particularly upset Clarets fans when he reversed his decision for a free kick after first pointing in favour of the Clarets. We would probably have forgotten about it, were it not for the fact that City equalised indirectly from the free-kick to make it 2-2 at the time.
With the game underway, the Clarets got an indication of the potential threat posed by City as early as the first minute after a Shaun Wright-Phillips`s angled shot hit the roof of the net.
However it didn`t seem to affect the Clarets composure or confidence and they began to settle and take the game to City. A corner by Robbie Blake found Clarke Carlisle in space but he could only shoot wide. Blake then got on the end of a free-kick by Alexander only to fire just past the post.
The Clarets passing at this point was sublime and it was only a matter of time before we took the lead and we did so after just 19 minutes of play. Mears was looking a threat down the right wing and he picked up a ball from Eagles to cross into the danger area. Joleon Lescott though in jumping for the ball clearly got his hand in the way and the referee judged somewhat controversially that it was s a penalty.
Shay Given may have been the hero against Birmingham the previous week after saving a penalty but he was no match for our penalty king, Graham Alexander who gave all watching budding young footballers a lesson on how to take a penalty. It was 1-0 to the Clarets as the South Stand visibly shook from the bouncing noise generated by about 3000 ecstatic Clarets fans.
City now looked the worried team with the Clarets scenting more blood and playing some delightful football that had blokes behind me suggesting it was even better than seeing Brazil play (maybe a slight exaggeration but it was pretty flowing and exhilarating to watch)
City huffed and puffed and when Bellamy picked up a yellow card for a silly late challenge on Eagles after 32 minutes, you could sense we had them rattled big-time. We certainly had a few seconds later from the free kick when we found ourselves 2-0 up. Given first saved the free kick from Blake after it took a deflection but the ball fell nicely for Blake and he found the dangerous Eagles who charged into the danger area to cross perfectly to Fletcher for a simple tap in. 2-0 up at the City of Manchester Stadium? Pinch me, no it wasn`t a dream!
City nearly reduced the arrears on the half-hour mark after Bellamy came close before Jensen got his outstretched leg in the way to make a brilliant save.
I guess the Clarets euphoria was not allowed to last for much longer and with just three minutes of the first half remaining City reduced the arrears with a somewhat fluky goal after a Wright-Phillips shot on the edge of the penalty area took a wicked deflection off Jordan to give Jensen no chance 2-1 Clarets at half-time but could we hold on in the second half?
It was back to the wall time now for Clarets fans as City came storming out of the blocks at the start of the second half. Jensen was first equal to a tame free kick by Tevez and then Ireland tried his luck from about 20 yards, but his shot flew over the bar.
On 55 minutes City were level after a bizarre refereeing incident. Burnley appeared to be awarded a free kick but then referee, Attwell reversed his decision seemingly having made an error originally by pointing in the wrong direction and now penalising Alexander for a push. From the free-kick, Barry flighted the ball over to Lescott who pulled the ball back to find Toure who was well-placed to simply thump the ball home from close range. Drat 2-2 now and it soon got worse three minutes when City took the lead for the first time in the match.
Wright-Phillips got in a cross and there was Bellamy to score from ten yards out with his powerful shot whizzing past Jensen`s left hand to make it 3-2 City.
Clarets fans were now downcast but still tried to pick themselves up and outshout the City fans. In all honesty we now all thought we would get another tonking with visions of the final score being something like 6-2. Owen Coyle decided to change things around on the hour mark; Gudjonsson and McDonald came on to replace Bikey and Blake but at this stage City still seemed to have the upper hand and Jensen had to come to the rescue saving a low shot from Tevez. It was Tevez again who attempted to score from a dangerous looking cross from Bellamy but he thankfully wasn`t on target.
Coyle now made his final substitution bringing on Nugent for the impressive Eagles in an effort to secure a point but it would be Nugent`s defensive qualities that would come to our rescue first. A City corner took a deflection off Clarke Carlisle with the ball heading dangerously towards goal. Somehow Nugent on the line seemed to jump like a flea to head the ball away to safety.
We were holding on and at least it looked like we were not going to get that tonking after all. The Clarets stuck to their task and wouldn`t give in and for that they got their reward with three minutes of the game remaining
Fletcher headed the ball across goal after getting on the end of a superb cross from Nugent. Substitute Kevin McDonald in space in the six yard box then had the simple job of tapping home to score the equaliser and send the South Stand into meltdown
That was it we had done it, our first point on the road this season and David (not Dave) Burnley had inflicted a small wound or three as Goliath City sulked off the pitch to the sound of non-too happy home fans.
Manchester City: Given, Bridge, Zabaleta, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Barry, Lescott, Adebayor, Toure, Tevez (Petrov 73), Bellamy.
Subs Not Used: Richards, Johnson, Santa Cruz, de Jong, Weiss, Taylor.
Goals: Wright-Phillips (43), Toure (55), Bellamy (58 )
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Bikey (McDonald 62), Eagles (Nugent 71), Elliott, Blake (Gudjonsson 62), Fletcher.
Subs Not Used: Penny, Duff, Thompson, Guerrero.
Goals: Alexander (19 pen), Fletcher (32), McDonald (87)
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton)