'Flawless' Barton finds redemption


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The Independent Football

Chris Kirkland, on loan to West Bromwich Albion from Liverpool, for whom he played only 45 games in four injury-hit years, made saves that ensured a possible victory did not turn into a defeat.

Joey Barton rejoined his Manchester City team-mates after treatment at Sporting Chance, Tony Adams' charity, and gave an almost flawless display in midfield. Barton was denied a goal by Kirkland's outstretched legs 12 minutes from the end.

The difficulties besetting Kirkland and Barton are not confined to football matters. Kirkland, who almost quit the game in frustration, concluded that his own problems were trivial in comparison to his father's battle against cancer.

Now in remission, Eddie Kirkland famously bet £100 at 100-1 that Chris would play for the England team before his 30th birthday. "It's flattering when people mention my name in connection with England," Kirkland said, "but my priority is to get in the West Brom side on a regular basis. At Liverpool, the gaffer made it clear he was going to sign another keeper, and I knew myself that my time there had come to an end because things were going a bit stale.I knew I needed a fresh start."

Barton is in need of a fresh life, given his misdemeanours off the pitch. While stressing that Barton's treatment would be ongoing, Stuart Pearce, the City manager, was pleased with the player's "mature" display. Barton owed him one. His vicious behaviour in Thailand led to Richard Dunne, absent on Saturday, damaging a foot.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Sommeil, Jordan, Thatcher; Sinclair (Croft, 85), Reyna, Barton, Musampa (Sibierski, 89); Cole, Vassell (Wright-Phillips, 70). Substitutes not used: Onuoha, Jihai.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kirkland; Albrechtsen, Gaardsoe, Clement, Robinson; Gera, Wallwork (Chaplow, 89), Inamoto, Greening (Watson, 80); Campbell, Kanu (Kamara, 60), Substitutes not used: Earnshaw, Kuszczak (gk).

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Manchester City Vassell, Mills; West Bromwich Albion Gaardsoe, Wallwork, Kamara.

Man of the match: Kirkland.

Attendance: 42,983.