Match Report

Manchester City 4 West Brom 2

CITY could not confirm their nervy victory over the plucky backmarkers until added time, and it was something of a relief as much as anything for the fans who had arrived in such upbeat mood after their European treat on Thursday night.

   If Albion are planning another great escape like the one they conjured under former England skipper Bryan Robson, they are leaving it a bit late, but although they've been in the bottom three since the start of November and kicked off nine points adrift of fourth-bottom Blackburn, Baggies gave a grand account of themselves.

  Fortunately for City, they showed the resolve and commitment they needed when West Brom bounced back to 2-2 and looked likely to take home a point.

 Robinho was caught offside in the first two minutes. His enthusiasm was under scrutiny after his fine performance, along with Brazilian compatriot Elano, against Hamburg, but it is Albion's Marc-Antoine Fortune who gets the first effort in on goal, wide of Shay Given's right-hand post.

 West Brom have won praise for their football this season if not the points they need to survive, and Graham Dorrans signalled their attacking intent with a skewed effort before James Morrison curled one wide of the far post. It was not the start the fans demanded after that UEFA Cup exit.

Robi delivered soon enough, with the aid of a brilliant pass from man of the season Stevie Ireland. West Brom's defence could do nothing as the midfielder's inch-perfect ball from the right was met with a delightful left-footed, side-foot volley from the boy from Brazil that gave Scott Carson no chance.

 That eighth-minute opener should have been wiped out by big West Brom defender Abdoulaye Meite, but the former Bolton centre-half somehow managed to knock the ball wide in front of goal as City failed to defend a tenth-minute corner.

 Felipe Caicedo, who hit a lovely goal against Hamburg, was off target with one speculative effort then failed to make the most of a fine pass by felow South American Robi, prodding a weak effort wide with Carson unconcerned.

 Elano's canary yellow boots were hardly making his passes sing so far, but Meite had to be alert to cut out one good attempt to play in Caicedo after 19 minutes, and from the Brazilian's corner City took a 2-0 lead, albeit controversial as Nedum Onuoha headed home with Carson claiming he had been illegally balked by Caicedo. The England keeper was booked for his vehement protest before play restarted.

 It was difficult to recall ther last time the Blues had scored from a flag kick, and the crowd was enjoying what was turning out to be a productive afternoon. 

Albion were not about to give up, but their season has lacked a finisher and so it continued as Fortune headed hopelessly wide with a decent chance at the far post.

 Caicedo then had to head off the line from a header by Robert Koren as Albion players threw their arms up in frustration. A goal then after half and hour might have been a lifeline for the Baggies, and they knew it.

 Morrison was next when he connected with a cross from Paul Robinson but luckily for the Blues defence, the shot was not meaty enough to bother Given unduly.

 However, Albion's enterprise was eventually rewarded after 36 minutes when Fortune laid the ball back for Northern Ireland winger Chris Brunt to apply a clinical finish from 12 yards and open up the game again.

It was no more than lively West Brom deserved. They had hardly looked like a team anchored at the foot of the table and Brunt's strike gave the visitors fresh heart with pelnty of time at their disposal.

 But it was City who finished the half on the attack, and Carson had to make a fine reaction save from Caicedo after an Elano-orchestrated break caught out Albion.

City had a shaky start to the second half. Robinho lost possession on the edge of his own area, and from one of three ensuing Albion corners the visitors had a vociferous handball appeal against Onuoha turned down.

 The 40,000 crowd tried to lift the Blues, but Robi's attempt to make up for his earlier gaffe came to nothing as he launched a curling shot that failed to curl and just drifted well wide of Carson's left-hand post.

 Instead it was West Brom who scored after 53 minutes, Brunt sneaking a free kick through a crowd of players and Given possibly unsighted as two Albion players elected to let the ball go on its way to squeezing past the keeper.

 But they were on level terms only a minute before Elano was sent tumbling in the penalty area by Jonas Olsson and got up to direct a sure spot kick to his right as Carson chose to go left. 

Danny Sturridge came on for Caicedo after 57 minutes and with his first real involvement almost snatched a fourth for City, but Carson made a good reaction save with his foot from the youngster.

 Morrison was booked for dissent just a few seconds before making way, rather grumpily, for Youssuf Mulumba, and West Brom's frustration was apparent as they worked hard for the point they felt they deserved.

 Ireland made a crucial tackle in the area on Greening, and Albion's appeals as their skipper went down were waved away by referee Jones.

 Elano came off after 74 minutes to be replaced by Gelson Fernandes. The Brazilian was given a standing ovation from admirers who included Mark Hughes, but the manager's decision was booed even though Elano had needed  treatment after limping to the touchline earlier.

Robinho also received warm applause when he came off for popular Martin Petrov after 83 minutes, but what appeared to be the clincher for City from Vincent Kompany when Petrov fired in a free kick was disallowed for pushing.

 City finally sealed a nervous three points seconds from the end of time added on when Petrov sent Ireland clear and the midfielder evaded Robinson's desperate challenge before crossing for unmarked Sturridge to knock the ball home.

Peter Ferguson

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