Clough does just enough for City

Football

SIMON O'HAGAN

Chelsea 1 Manchester City 1

It is the time of the season when needs must, and last night a Manchester City team barely recognisable as the under-achieving entertainers of recent matches knuckled down to the fight to avoid relegation and duly came away from Stamford Bridge with the draw that was no more and no less than they deserved. They thus moved up one place to fifth from bottom of the Premiership.

City can point to the moment in the 90th minute when Georgi Kinkladze nearly won the match with a 30-yard free kick that left the Chelsea crossbar vibrating, but on a night when the little Georgian was generally required to rein back a little as part of a six-man midfield intent on keeping a grip on proceedings, neither side ever established superiority over the other.

With the exception of a marvellous goal by Ruud Gullit, there was little inspiration from Chelsea, and if they are serious about qualifying for Europe, still more getting past Wimbledon in next week's FA Cup quarter- final reply, they will need to raise their game considerably. Apart from one volley beaten out by Eike Immel, Mark Hughes was almost anonymous.

A week after losing 3-1 at Arsenal, City returned to the capital in hard- headed mood. Even by this season's standards of experimentation, their formation, and deployment of personnel, was surprising. Occupying the central position in a three-man defence was Nigel Clough, while in the absence of the injured Niall Quinn, Uwe Rosler was left on his own up front where he squandered what few chances he had.

The first of these occurred after 22 minutes when Kinkladze split Chelsea's central defence of Michael Duberry and David Lee with a lovely through ball. As Rosler bore down on Kevin Hitchcock's goal, Duberry managed to get alongside him, but that did not entirely account for the German's woefully mis-hit shot.

From the goal-kick Chelsea worked their way forward and the ball fell to Gullit, hovering 30 yards from goal. He shifted left, shifted right, and unleashed a shot from 25 yards that tore past a static Immel.

Chelsea were guilty of sitting on a lead, and with City pushing up, the equaliser arrived two minutes from half-time. Steve Lomas crossed from the right and Clough arrived unnoticed to apply the decisive touch from 10 yards out.

Unfortunately for City he was less sure of what he was doing in the 62nd minute when he let the best chance of the night go to waste by heading Kinkladze's cross back to a non-existent team-mate instead of going for goal. The introduction of Giuseppe Mazarelli, a Swiss on loan at City from FC Zurich, failed to establish whether he is likely to prove a key figure in the remaining weeks.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Hitchcock; Duberry, Lee, Clark; Petrescu, Wise, Gullit, Peacock (Furlong, 76), Phelan; Spencer, Hughes. Substitutes not used: Spackman, Kharin (gk).

Manchester City (3-6-1): Immel; Symons, Clough, Kernaghan; Summerbee (Mazarelli, 70), Lomas, Flitcroft, Kinkladze, Brightwell, Frontzeck; Rosler. Substitutes not used: Creaney, Hiley.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

More reports, results, page 23

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