Verdict: Bolton Wanderers 3 Manchester City 3
Goals: Klasnic 11 and 53, Cahill 43 for Bolton. Tevez 28 and 77, Richards 45 for City.
City just about returned to their drawing ways after coming from behind three times and seeing Craig Bellamy controversially dismissed. The ten men nearly snatched a winner as Lescott and Robinho missed late chances, but that shouldn’t disguise a poor performance where Bolton created a host of chances.
A match report for the game at Old Trafford described how United started by dominating possession and Villa were unable to get out of their own half for the first 20 minutes. This is how the top teams play; imposing themselves on a game from the outset by utilising technically superior players to dominate possession.
It may not always result in goals, and wasn’t successful for United this time, but can set the tone for the game as opposing fans are more readily subdued when their team sees little of the ball.
In stark contrast were the tactics employed by City at the start of this game. The ball was repeatedly belted forward in the general direction of Adebayor who rarely looks enthused in playing the target man for a long ball side. With Bolton’s midfield pressing, we were conceding possession all over the pitch.
The home crowd and players sensed the opportunity and were invigorated. By failing to use our superior ability to control the early part of the game, we were once again involved in a ding-dong encounter against a side in poor form who we should be picking off.
The first Bolton goal resulted as much from our own poor play as it did from the failure of the linesman to spot Klasnic being offside.
We were enjoying decent possession, but a lack of movement up front left the midfield with no obvious options. Rather than retain the ball, it was passed back for Given to hoof it forward. Head tennis ensued between the Bolton defence and Kolo Toure, before the ball ended up with Kevin Davies to instigate the move for the goal.
It just isn’t the kind of football that a top side employs, and has been a recurring theme in our struggles against teams from lower down the league.
A Bolton crowd that prior to the match had been ready to bury Gary Megson, were now fully behind their side.
The departure of Shaun Wright-Phillips to injury proved a blessing as our formation had been looking to rigid. The arrival of Stevie Ireland, who kept coming in off the right flank and giving space to Micah Richards started to cause Bolton more problems.
The first Tevez equaliser came against the run of play, but seemed to settle City down. Tevez was roaming all over the field, inspiring the team to play football on the ground. At last we were looking like a decent side.
Then Bolton scored again. It was a fantastic finish by Cahill, but the way Ireland and Barry allowed themselves to be turned was very soft.
At least City continued to play football and Micah Richards capped off the best move of the match with a fine equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Bolton’s third arrived courtesy of more poor defending, this time from a throw-in. The ball initially travelled to a Bolton player on the edge of the penalty area.Ã‚Â By the time Ireland challenged, the ball was back out on the flank, and Ireland was the only one chasing across to prevent the cross. Inevitably he didn’t make it and once again we conceded after our failure to stop a cross.
From then on, the game became increasingly chaotic. Bellamy received a second booking for diving when he’d clearly been clipped by the defender. Bolton had chances to increase their lead which they would have taken with a bit more composure.
One such chance came from a City corner, when Sylvinho was the only player left behind to defend the City half. A kamikaze tactic we somehow survived after Bolton players surged forward on the break.
Tevez then conjured up another brilliant equaliser, firing a low shot across Jaaskelainen from outside the penalty area.
With Robinho on in place of Kompany, the ten men of City were now looking for the winner. This was a great effort by the players and almost had it’s reward as Lescott nearly connected with a chance and Robinho fired just wide in the closing minutes.
Ultimately a draw left both sides thinking of what might have been. City had gone to the Reebok looking for victory against a supposedly inferior side, but as was the case against Wigan and elsewhere, we found ourselves second best for large parts of the match.
“If we’re going to get to where we want to be, we’re going to have to tighten up. It’s something we’ll need to work on.
“When we go forward, we all tend to go and that leaves gaps at the back. Some of us have lost concentration at times today and maybe been too keen to get forward.”
We keep hearing talk of tightening up at the back, but it doesn’t happen, and once again we’re left wondering whether the management have the answers. It’s frustrating as the goals we scored showed just what a fine side this team can be.