New Delhi: Just as it seemed Manchester City were to be punished for their inability to translate their dominance into goals, Craig Bellamy stepped up with two second half strikes in seven minutes to send the Citizens into the last 16.
A rain-drenched City of Manchester Stadium hosted the first post-Christmas European home game for Manchester in 30 years. A place in the last 16 was up for grabs and Mark Hughes’ side looked like they were determined to get it on the evidence of the first half action.
Both sides struggled initially with the difficult conditions and it was FC Copenhagen that had the first opportunity, a lively Ozcar Wendt floated in a beautiful cross from the left flank towards forward Dame N’Doye but his header was poor and was cleared comfortably.
It was all Manchester City after this point will Craig Bellamy flirting with the Danish offside trap. In the seventh minute Stephen Ireland did well to win possession in the middle of the park and slotted a ball through the line for Bellamy. The Welshmen was furious to be flagged offside and vented his frustrations at the Turkish linesman.
A minute later Robinho ran into traffic from the left following neat build up play from Sean Wright-Phillips on the right. His ball in field found Bellamy who held the ball up well before releasing the Brazilian into aches of space. Robinho wasted the opportunity and didn’t even get a shot off at goal.
The Citizens were growing in confidence with Wright-Phillips and Micah Richards showing lovely footwork in the middle. Ireland then played Bellamy in down the right, the Welshmen drove into the box and cut towards the by-line. His dinked cross found Robinho at the back post but keeper Jesper Christiansen managed the palm the ball away after the Brazilian hit the crossbar.
Robinho was relishing the possession Manchester City were enjoying and he caused all kind of problems for Copenhagen in the 20th minute. Dancing around two defenders effortlessly before being denied by a sprightly Christiansen who did well to get off his line quickly.
City continued to dominate possession throughout the half but the tempo fell slightly and they struggled to create many chances from this point. Atiba Hutchinson provided a warning shot from Copenhagen in the 37th minute when his long-range effort was deflected wide.
The Citizens seemed to respond to this and created their best chance with the last kick of the half. Bellamy exchanged passes with Robinho on the edge of the box, the one-two saw the Welshmen break through the back line and chipped the approaching keeper, his effort his the inside of the post and rebounded out. City were unfortunate not to be ahead.
The second half saw FC Copenhagen nearly sting the Citizens, Ailton Jose Almeida found himself inside the box with his back to goal, he did brilliantly to turn Dunne and his effort just wide of the right-hand post. Shay Given was stranded.
Robinho continued were he left off in the first half with a scintillating display, in the 49th minute he marauded infield, looking dangerous, and drew the foul. The resulting free-kick was taken by Bellamy and it was dealt with easily by the keeper.
The 53rd minute saw the Brazilian driving into the space from the middle on the counter, he slotted the ball through for Wright-Phillips who elected to thread Ireland in at the back post rather than take the shot on himself. It was the wrong decision as the Englishman put too much on the pass and the sliding Ireland couldn’t quite reach it.
The Robinho show continued in the 63rd minute with a piece of world class control followed by some mesmerising footwork in the box before releasing Pablo Zabaleta who wasted the opportunity.
When Manchester City opened the scoring the only surprise was Robinho wasn’t involved. Ireland launched a rather hopeful ball down the left channel with Bellamy pursuing the defender. Mikael Antonsson slipped and his mistake let in Bellamy who didn’t return the favour, smashing the ball into the bottom right corner.
The 77th minute saw Robinho unlucky not to grab the goal he deserved for an excellent performance. The Brazilian started the move on the left wing and fed the ball to Bellamy, he continued his run into the box and though a little fortunate to see the ball return to him his quick feet engineered the chance. Ghosting past the last defender before side-footing the ball onto the outside of the right-hand post. Christiansen was in no-man’s-land.
The Citizens extended their lead two minutes later and Robinho was the architect, sailing down the English channel before passing his defender on the port side. He cut the ball back into the middle where a grateful Bellamy duly rifled home into the top corner.
For City’s dominance they had a couple of scares towards the end. The 87th minute saw William Kvist cross from the right, Given could only touch it into the path of Almeida who really should have pulled one back for the visitors.
The Citizens were lucky he didn’t as substitute Martin Vingard repeated his cameo appearance from the previous tie scoring in the 92nd minute. Lack City defending saw a gap open up to shoot from 20yards and Vingard coolly slotted the ball into the bottom left hand corner past Given.
Manchester City deserved their slice of fortune though, as they dominated the game. Robinho was fantastic and Bellamy worked tirelessly for the team. The result sees Mark Hughes’ side progress to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup to face another Danish side, Aalborg.
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