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Archived News from July 2003

19th July 2003 21:42


Kevin Keegan handed his two summer signings their City debuts in the pre-season opener at Mansfield with the home side running out 2-1 winners.
David Seaman and Michael Tarnat were included in the starting eleven for City's first match of the new season, the pre-season friendly against Mansfield.

Up front Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler were the first choice strikers in a strong team, which included Danny Tiatto playing his first competitive match for the senior side since last December.

The Stags are managed by former Blues defender, Keith Curle and included former City youngster, Rhys Day in their rearguard.

City threatened as early as the third minute with skipper Ali Benarbia setting Nicolas Anelka up on the edge of the area, but the Frenchman's right footed strike cannoned off defender, John-Baptiste.

A quick fire break down the left flank by Sylvain Distin in the eighth minute brought the Blues their first corner of the game, but it was comfortably cleared by the home defence.

The Blues continued to dominate putting the home defence under sustained pressure with a neat move between Jihia Sun and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right almost providing the Blues with the breakthrough on the quarter hour mark.

But a minute later a lapse in the City defence almost handed the Stags the lead. David Seaman was forced to race off his line and outside the area.

The keeper played the ball off his chest but the clearing kick fell to Larkin before Shaun Wright-Phillips cleared the danger.

In the twentieth minute Nicolas Anelka, having been put through in the area by Ali Benarbia, saw his first shot rebound of the legs of the Mansfield keeper and, at the second attempt, was denied with a goal line clearance by John-Baptiste.

At the other end David Seaman spilled a close range shot from Lee Williamson before gathering at the second attempt as Colin Larkin pounced on the rebound.

But in the thirty second minute the City keeper was beaten for the first time when Colin Larkin fired home from close range on the left to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

The Stags had been given too much room on the right flank with Christie providing the telling cross from the right hand corner.

City equalised seven minutes later with Nicolas Anelka stroking home a penalty, awarded after Robbie Fowler was fouled in the area by Hassell.

Further chances fell to the Blues with Robbie Fowler denied a close range effort while on the half time whistle Danny Tiatto saw his low drive deflected off target.

Kevin Keegan put out a different eleven for the second half with Paulo Wanchope starting his first competitive game for the senior side for seventeen months.

The Costa Rican hitman was paired with Shaun Goater with Jon Macken playing off the front two.

And seven minutes into the second half Paulo Wanchope forced a great save from the Mansfield keeper with a forceful drive from eight yards out.

But it was the home side that took the lead, for the second time in the match, in the fifty-seventh minute.

Chris Shuker was adjudged to have handled a drive by Dave Artell and Wayne Corden converted for the home side to make it 2-1.

Eyal Berkovic was making an impression in midfield and finding his range with his passing, but the Blues were being denied by some excellent goalkeeping.

And in the seventieth minute Kevin Ellegaard pulled off a magnificent save for the Blues after Mitchell pounced on a defensive error by Gerard Wiekens.

Jon Macken, Shaun Goater and Paulo Wanchope combined well with the Costa Rican's pace taking him clear of the home defence, but his final shot was scrambled clear.

City were then forced into a late substitution with Paulo Wabchope replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips after the Costa Rican appeared to be having problems with his knee.

Mansfield: Pilkington, Hassell, Clarke, Curtis, Day, John-Baptiste, Lawrence, Mendes, Larkin, Christie, Williamson

Subs: Corden, White, MacKenzie, Beardsley, Mitchell, Disley, Artell

City(first half): Seaman, Sun, Sommeil, Distin, Tarnat, Wright-Phillips, Barton, Tiatto, Benarbia, Anelka, Fowler

City(second half) Ellegard, Dunne, Wiekens, Jordan, Horlock, Negouai, Berkovic, Shuker, Macken, Goater, Wanchope

Attendance 6,653
Report from Talkin' City
First friendly Mansfield 2-1 City
- Report from The Dude
You can tell the football season's about to kick off. We're in the middle of the Open Championship, still got a test series to play, the kids have just broken up and the temperature is more Namibia than Nottinghamshire.

Plenty of Blues there today, with the away stand full and a few revellers in what passes for Mansfields family stand.

Kev chose the Eriksson approach to friendlies and decided to play not just two totally different teams each half, but also toyed with the formation a bit. First half's team was 4-4-2

Sun (rb)
Tarnat (lb)
Sommeil (cb)
Distin (cb)
SWP (rm)
Tiatto (lm)
Barton (cm)
Ali (cm)
Anelka and Fowler (minus a number!) up front.

City started brightly, Anelka had an early shot blocked from a lovely Ali through-ball, and Distin played left-winger a few minutes later with a poerful run and cross that was eventually cleared. SWP and Sun were combining well down the right - almost carving out an opening after 15, but SWP looked for the pass instead of giving it a crack (the first of many similar occasions in this game) and the ball was cleared.

Although dominating the early stages, City (Tiatto and Tarnat apart) looked listless and not really up for it, friendly syndrome I suppose, but as the half went on and Mansfield started to get about us a bit, the pattern of the match changed. Seaman (with a tan Fat Ron would be proud of) almost gifted thyem a goal on 18 minutes when he was forced to chest a ball away, but only as far as an on-rushing mansfield forward who took it round him but saw his shot blocked by SWP. City should have scored from the next break as Tiatto and Ali combined to put Anelka through on goal. Whatever Nic's been doing over the summer, it wasn't practicing his one-on-ones as his effort was deflected off the keeper, back to him and his second effort was weak enough for a Mansfield defender to get back and clear. Seaman was not having the best of debuts when he spilled a fairly tame effort right in front of Mansfields Larkin (who looked a handful) only to scramble it away in the insuing melee.

The Stags were getting on top without creating much (although we were doing our best to help) but they probably deserved to take the lead when, in a mix up between Distin and Tarnat, the Mansfield right winger swung in a beauty of a cross and Larkin, stood all on his lonesome on the left hand side of the 8 yard box, volleyed home. 1-0 mansfield. City stepped it up a bit at this point and both Anelka and Fowler had good chances to equalise, but Pilkington, Mansfield's keeper pulled off a couple of good saves. Mansfield went close when Ali was dispossessed halfway and the resulting punt was headed by Distin straight to Larkin again, who this time volleyed over. Just when it looked like City had totally lost interest, they equalised. Tiatto hit a 40 yard ball to Fowler on the left edge of the Mansfield box and with a nice piece of skill wrong footed the Mansfield right back and got hacked down for his trouble. Penalty. Up stepped Anelka. 1-1. That was about it for first half action and it was a pretty lame display. Off I went in search of a pie. 1st half performances.

Seaman: 6 Not the best start - spilled a couple of straightforward shots and nearly cost us a goal. The actual goal wasn't his fault and truth told didn't have a lot to do.
Sun: 6 Ok when defending and linked nicely with SWP early on, but was missing for their goal when a right-back might have been handy. A couple of crunching tackles in front of the dug-out must have made Keith Curle smile.
Tarnat: 6 Got stuck in and looks steady enough but not the quickest of players. Linked with Tiatto well. Partly at fault for the Mansfield goal.
Sommeil: 6 Took a knock halfway through the first half and lacked a bit of mobility, but was sound enough. Got beaten in the air alarmingly often, though.
Distin: 6 The poorest game I've seen him play. had a great run early on and looked his normal, classy self for much of the time, but needs to work on the relationship with Tarnat - Mansfield had a lot of joy down our left.
SWP: 6 Quite lively and delivered a couple of decent crosses, also linked well with Sun, but I wish he'd shoot now and again, had a couple of chances to crack it and was always looking to lay it off.
Tiatto: 7 Our best player in the first half, lively, linked well with Tarnat, covered a lot of the pitch and set up the penalty with a fantastic ball. Spent a lot of time covering for Barton.
Barton: 5 Started well but wilted, one of the reasons Mansfield got stronger as the half went on was because he went missing. He'll learn from it though.
Ali: 6 Some nice linking play with both Fowler and Anelka and one or two lovely through balls. Visibly wilted at the end of the half though, as Mansfield took control of midfield.
Anelka: 5 Didn't look up for it at all, couple of half-chances and a glaring miss. Came deep looking for the ball until about mid-way through the half.
Fowler: 6 Tried hard, made some good runs and looked a fair bit more mobile than he did at the end of last season, but the understanding with Anelka hasn't come yet. Nice bit of skill to earn the penalty.

Second Half Kev obviously decided to go for it with a 4-3-3 formation. Team was.

Dunne (rb)
Horlock (lb)
Weikens (cb)
Jordan (cb)
Negouai (cm)
Berkovic (cm)
Shuker (cm, but played almost exclusively down the left)
Macken (off the front two)
Wanchope & Goater.

City started the second half full of invention. Shuker and Berkovic combined to put through Goater who knocked it just wide, and the same players put through Wanchope who should have scored on about eight minutes. further chances fell yo Berkovic, Wanchope and Macken during the first 15 minutes, but Pilkington, and poor finishing prevented the goal from coming. Wanchope in particular was a delight, full of flicks, twists and invention. He took a crack to the right knee half way through the second half but seemed mobile enough until he was subbed, probably a precaution. That, and he looked knackered. Berkovic was also full of deft balls and tricks, and carried a lot more threat than Ali did.

This spell of City pressure was ended by a Mansfield goal. From one of their few second-half attacks, an innocuous ball was fed into the city box from our left and Shuker allegedly handled it. Didn't see much of the incident but it was harsh on Shuker as until that point he'd very good. Mansfield scored from the Penalty. Mansfield 2 City 1. To be honest, city wilted at this point, though the flow of the game was spoiled by about 7 Mansfield substitutions during the rest of the second half. Macked, Shuker and Goater combined down the left for Wanchope to hit a half-volley that somehow stayed out (by combination of keeper, full-back and luck) but the game then dribbled out as Mansfield were happy to play keep-ball. SWP appeared about 5 minutes from the end for Wanchope (as I said, he looked mobile enough, I'm not too worried). It finished 2-1 to Mansfield. 2nd half performances.

Ellegaard: 6 Didn't have much to do except pick the ball out of the net. Made one very good save.
Dunne: 6 Again, barely troubled. Pushed forward a bit towards the end but to little effect.
Horlock: 5 Got stuck in (lucky not to be booked) but his distribution wasn't good and he was caught up-field a bit too much.
Weikens: 6 Looked OK, calm, efficient and only once really pressured. Probably the best of the 4 centre-halves we played today.
Jordan: 6 Did enough to be worth another look.
Negouai: 6 Nothing special, but broke up play well and his passing is improving a bit.
Berkovic: 7 If he is off, we need a replacement - easily the most threatening City player, but went missing a bit towards the end.
Shuker: 7 Unlucky with the penalty, was a mirror image of Tiatto from the first half, covered every blade of grass and put in some decent crosses from the left. During our best spell, made a real contribution.
Macken: 6 Holds the ball up and looks good with it at his feet, but looked short of fitness. Linked quite well with Wnchope and Berko.
Goater: 6 Couple of good chances, was a handful, but never really looked like scoring.
Wanchope: 7 Our best forward today, confident, tricky, looked lively and was a real handful. Wilted towards the end, but a constant threat. Good to see him back.

gate 6600, 1800 Blues made the trip.

So what does Kev take from this? Well, it's too early to draw any conclusions, the squad as a whole looked short of match fitness (A mansfield fan on the way out said this was their third friendly, and it showed). Wanchope back is good. If Eyals off, we'll need a replacement because he was our best player again today. In essence, this was the equivalent of a Sunday morning kick-about and we treated it as such, which is why we were beaten. If we play this listlessly at Lincoln, I'm going to be laughed at for the next three months.


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