City on higher ground
Sunday 26 November 1995
And if any one of them deserved to have his glass refilled all evening - in particular by Keith Curle, his captain - it was the little Georgian midfielder Georgi Kinkladze. Curle's first-half penalty miss was beginning to look as if it would be costly, but a brilliant goal by Kinkladze, six minutes from time, rendered it unimportant.
It was the 22-year-old's first for City, which seemed quite remarkable, given that his skills had illuminated the afternoon. Slipping past Steve Staunton to feed Niall Quinn in the penalty area, Kinkladze continued his run from the left to receive his colleague's back-heeled return and then curled a delicious shot beyond the left hand of Mark Bosnich.
Thus an afternoon that had begun in celebration, with Bert Trautmann, a foreign hero of old, opening the pounds 11m Kippax Stand, ended in similar vein, with cheers raised around the ground for a new continental favourite. Some 50 years younger than the German goalkeeper of local legend, Kinkladze may have years of adulation ahead of him.
"He is a player of immense talent," Ball said afterwards, in self-congratulatory mood. "But I've said that from day one. He has great technique, superb feet - he is the kind of player the chairman and I want to make this club great again.
"But you have to remember, he came here hardly able to speak any English, unaware of how he would need to play in English football. He needed time, but you've seen today the progress he is making."
Ball was rightly keen to sing the praises of others. "We were magnificent all the way through the team," he said. But the Georgian stood out. It was he who won, fortuitously perhaps, the 20th-minute penalty - fired embarrassingly wide by Curle - and he who created the first half's second- best chance, from which Paul McGrath somehow deflected Uwe Rosler's shot on to a post with Bosnich on the floor. It was he also who clipped the top of the crossbar with a dipping shot from 25 yards.
Villa, unbeaten in five matches before this and emerging as challengers at the top of the table, had their moments but, by and large, had Bosnich to thank for staying on level terms for so long. And Brian Little was candid enough to concede that the result from a pulsating contest was just. "We rode our luck with the penalty but they were probably just a little bit better than us today," the Villa manager said.
The match marked the completion of a year in charge for Little and he can reflect happily on it. When he took over from Ron Atkinson, Villa were fourth from bottom with an ageing team that appeared to have run its course. Regardless of this result, the future looks much brighter now.
Latest in Sport
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...