Hughes not amused but Elano inspires City progress
Manchester City 2 Omonia Nicosia 1 (Manchester City win 4-2 on aggregate)
Friday 03 October 2008
It looked for a time last night as if this summer's most lavishly assembled side was going to be upstaged by a bunch of Cypriot fans with inflatable green bananas, sunglasses and a streaker. Fortunately, Brazilians know how to stop a party as well as start one.
Elano's sweet, first-time, right-foot shot, which dispatched to the net a ball Robinho had rolled across to him, finally allowed Mark Hughes to withdraw some of his superstars. But the City manager's stony face when the ball thundered in offered the most revealing commentary on what he had seen before then. He was so desperate to get at the Cypriots after half time that he told them to hurry up out of the tunnel.
"We just hadn't made best use of the width of the pitch we were trying to thread the ball through eyes of needles and needed to show more patience," Hughes said. He suggested earlier this week that Robinho was playing "in flashes" and the Brazilian certainly made some dubious choices in a first half when the final ball went begging so often. Twice the 26-year-old fired high and wide from the left with Stephen Ireland in attendance at the far post.
Shaun Wright-Phillips was by far the greater force and deposited his fourth goal six games after Elano's 48th-minute strike had settled things and the Cypriots looked like they might be washed away. The ball Wright-Phillips pushed past Efasathios Aloneftis on 55 minutes ricocheted off the player's legs, teeing up a comfortable close-range volley. An England recall ought to be his.
It would not be City without a madcap finale, though. Omonia, on a rare sortie into their opponents' half, pulled a goal back, Rasheed Alabi leaping above Tel Ben Haim to deposit Aloneftis's corner past Joe Hart. Memories of Brighton were in mind in injury time when the substitute Cafu ran into the box, Hart fumbled a corner and Ben Haim was booked in the mayhem. Hughes says his team are young and still learning in Europe. They will need to learn fast when the tournament resumes.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Hart; Zabaleta, Ben Haim, Richards, Garrido; Elano, Kompany (Hamann, 65), Ireland; Wright-Phillips, Jo (Evans, 65), Robinho (Petrov, 69). Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Ball, Fernandes, Sturridge.
Omonia Nicosia (4-2-3-1): Georgallides; Ndikumana, Pletsch, Wenzel, Charalambous; Zlogar, Kaiafas (Alabi, h-t) ; Christofi (Cafu, 82), Bangura (Clayton, 56), Aloneftis; Okkas. Substitutes not used: Asprogenis, Maris, Aguirre,Pantic.
Referee: S Ennjimi (France).
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