Football: City revert to type

Manchester City 0 Oxford United 2 Beauchamp 44, Cook 81 Attendan ce: 28,720
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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER CITY'S hopes of escaping the threat of relegation suffered another setback when they crashed at home to Oxford. They had looked to have turned the corner under the guidance of their new manager, Joe Royle, who had led them to successive victories and clear of the dreaded bottom three.

But yesterday they were brought firmly back to earth as Oxford outfought them for a thoroughly deserved win. It could have been very different if City had been able to turn their early pressure into goals, but they found the Oxford goalkeeper, Phil Whitehead, in determined mood.

He alone stood between City and the opening goal. First he had to deal superbly with a long-range shot from Peter Beardsley, turning the ball away just as it seemed certain to find the top corner. From the resulting corner he had to out-battle Uwe Rosler in a goalmouth scramble before he was able to clear again. After 25 minutes it was Whitehead again who saved magnificently to foil Beardsley, who had cut in from the left.

But, for all their huff and puff up front, City again looked vulnerable to break-aways and, after weathering all the early pressure, Oxford began to fashion their own opportunities. Joey Beauchamp was the main danger, using his superb pace to pose a constant threat to the City defence. He should have scored when he swept on to a long clearance only to shoot straight at the City goalkeeper, Tommy Wright, and then, four minutes before the half-time break, Beauchamp was again in the clear and Wright injured himself diving at his feet to save a certain goal.

But it was third time lucky for Beauchamp in first half injury time when Oxford's 6ft 7in striker, Kevin Francis, fed him from the left and this time he made no mistake, rifling home a left-foot shot past Wright's despairing dive.

In the second half City tried hard enough but it was left to the defender Kakhaber Tskhadadze to try and get them back in the game but he headed over the bar from a corner. Another chance fell to City's pounds 3m striker, Lee Bradbury, but he shot weakly at Whitehead when clear. It was Oxford who always looked the more dangerous particularly on the break and nine minutes from time they sealed their win when Jamie Cook scored despite the might of Wright.

Cook had broken clear only to see his first shot saved by the goalkeeper but he snapped up the loose ball off the toes of the City substitute Craig Russell and this time found the net in spite of Wright's gallant attempts to stop the inevitable.