By Jason Burt
Having last week declined an invitation to bid for Ronaldinho, Manchester City had cause to regret the absence of the Brazilian they did sign last summer, Elano. Still even without their creative fount, they still should have beaten a West Ham side desperately in need of the return of their own injured players.
It is testimony to the soundness of the body of work that Sven Goran Eriksson is creating at City that they shaded this encounter. It is testimony to the soundness of the business City are trying to do off the pitch that they have not responded to the overtures of Ronaldinho's camp.
The Barcelona No 10's days are numbered in Spain. And although a move to Milan remains most likely if Ronaldo returns to Brazil his advisers are keen to protect his 6m-a-year salary (net that is) and approached City, claiming their client was enthusiastic about a move having made a similar approach to Chelsea last August.
Not that City lack ambition. Bids are in for a number of high-profile and expensive players and at least two deals are close as they push on in what is turning out to be a thrilling season. It helps that Sven Goran Eriksson is taking this competition seriously, as is West Ham's Alan Curbishley. Both fielded the strongest line-ups available. "We are not playing in Europe, we were knocked out of the Carling Cup so we will do everything we can in the League and the FA Cup," Eriksson reasoned.
He handed a debut to the on-loan Nery Castillo and although the Mexican striker was lively enough, he wasn't quite at full capacity which served as an embodiment of this encounter.
Still Robert Green and Joe Hart had to be in sharp form, both goalkeepers making two neat saves apiece, while strong performances from Richard Dunne and Matthew Upson negated each side's attacks.
City should have had a penalty when the perennially impressive Martin Petrov so quick that Lucas Neill was withdrawn at half-time with the official line of a tight hamstring being met with some scepticism was felled by Anton Ferdinand.
But West Ham had an appeal of their own late on, claiming that Vedran Corluka had handled the ball. They will not relish next week's trip to Manchester but will go bolstered by the return of some of their injured players. It should be remembered that two years ago West Ham went to Eastlands and won on their way to the final. But City are a very different proposition now. Even without Ronaldinho.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill (Spector, h-t), Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney; Pantsil, Noble, Mullins (Bowyer, 75), Etherington (Reid, 69); Ashton, Cole. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Collins.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart; Onuoha, Dunne, Richards, Ball; Ireland (Etuhu, 66), Corluka, Hamann, Petrov; Castillo (Gelson, 72), Vassell (Bianchi, 79). Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Garrido.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: Man City Corluka.
Man of the match: Petrov.
Call from Capello?
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
A good day for English goalkeepers. Both Hart City's No 1 at 20 and Robert Green impressed with their saves and decision-making.Reuse content