Even a Worthington Cup second-round shock last night would be small beer compared to beating neighbours United 5-1 at Maine Road, but it would have been nice to bring a present to the ninth anniversary party. Sadly for them it was not to be.
Level 1-1 from the first leg, Second Division City rattled Derby, who are second in the Premiership, yet fell to the player who best illustrated the gulf between the teams, Paulo Wanchope. The winner, after 28 minutes, amply summed up City's recent history, a deflected shot.
It will not come as a surprise to anyone that City, who yesterday announced that they lost pounds 6.3m last season, made a contribution to their downfall. Wanchope is a player who can damage any team, so it was not the cleverest of defending to allow the Costa Rican striker to turn 25 yards out and progress into the right of the area.
When Tony Vaughan did finally make a challenge it was as Wanchope was shooting and the ball ballooned off the centre-back's foot, over his goalkeeper Tommy Wright, and landed as if it had been placed there by some malicious hand in the bottom far corner.
It was a fortunate goal but Manchester City would be deluding themselves if they believe they matched their elevated opponents. They huffed and puffed and Lee Bradbury even hit a post, but in terms of football they were outclassed. When Georgi Kinkladze wore a sky blue shirt they had no need to be awed by the likes of Wanchope and Francesco Baiano; now they have no one to match their skill and vision.
The first half was largely disappointing and was illuminated only by Wanchope's goal, a Wright save from Baiano that drew applause from the Italian and a sharp sleight of hand by Shaun Goater after 20 minutes that had the home support believing their team had taken the lead. Instead the striker received a yellow card.
At 1-0 down City still had hope that was almost extinguished after 53 minutes when Darryl Powell's 50-yard pass allowed Sturridge to elude Wright's charge. The Derby striker was still wide on the left and although he pushed the ball through Gerard Wiekens' legs the City defender could turn and clear.
City had escaped then and they almost made the most of it on the hour. Daniel Allsopp passed to Goater who flicked into the area and Bradbury's shot crashed against the post with such vigour that the rebound took the ball 20 yards away to safety.
Manchester City (3-5-2): Wright; Fenton, Wiekens, Vaughan; Edghill, Mason (Allsopp, h-t), Pollock, Whitley, Horlock; Bradbury (Dickov, 82), Goater. Substitutes not used: Brown, Crooks, Tiatto.
Derby County (3-5-2): Poom; Laursen, Prior, Delap; Kozluk, Eranio (Carsley, 71), Baiano, Powell, Schnoor; Sturridge, Wanchope (Harper, 83). Substitutes not used: Knight, Bohinen, Hunt.
Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).
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