Dunne's gifted goal flatters Albion

Manchester City 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
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The Independent Football

For 85 minutes yesterday it looked as if West Bromwich Albion, down to 10 men after the early dismissal of Thomas Gaardsoe and trailing to a set-piece goal by Nicolas Anelka, would struggle to score at The Spectator. But Manchester City's capacity for calamity means opponents should never relinquish hope, as proved by the bizarre equaliser they gifted to the Premiership's bottom side.

For 85 minutes yesterday it looked as if West Bromwich Albion, down to 10 men after the early dismissal of Thomas Gaardsoe and trailing to a set-piece goal by Nicolas Anelka, would struggle to score at The Spectator. But Manchester City's capacity for calamity means opponents should never relinquish hope, as proved by the bizarre equaliser they gifted to the Premiership's bottom side.

Albion, who did not muster a single effort on target before or after they scored, looked certain to suffer a seventh defeat in eight matches under Bryan Robson when Paul Robinson punted a long ball into City's half. Richard Dunne was beneath it as it dropped, with the apparent formality of rolling a pass back to David James. The goalkeeper, however, had advanced towards the edge of the penalty area, leaving the net unguarded as Dunne shinned the ball clumsily over the line from 18 yards.

Robert Earnshaw, whose presence had perhaps distracted Dunne, slid in to try to claim Albion's first goal in four games. Given their luck of late, it was surprising that the Wales striker did not inadvertently clear the ball off the line. Robson looked on it as a possible "turning point", whereas his fellow former England captain, Kevin Keegan, bemoaned a "freak goal" while admitting that City had only themselves to blame.

Coming into the match on the back of heavy defeats by Birmingham and Liverpool respectively, Robson initially sought to frustrate City with two red-shirted barriers and only one forward. An already cautious strategy became a damage-limitation exercise once Gaardsoe was banished in the 17th minute for a professional foul on Robbie Fowler as he took Shaun Wright-Phillips's pass and ran at Russell Hoult.

Anelka sent the free-kick wastefully high. But when he received another opportunity in the 32nd minute, following a handling offence by Andy Johnson, the Frenchman curled a 20-yard shot over the defensive wall and into the right-hand corner of Hoult's goal for his seventh goal of the season. City's supporters sat back and waited for their side to boost their goal difference, only to find Hoult in agile and defiant form, beating aside goalbound shots from Wright-Phillips, Fowler and Antoine Sibierski.

The City right, where Wright-Phillips and Danny Mills marauded to considerable effect, looked the likeliest source of a second goal. When it failed to materialise, there still appeared scant prospect of Albion retaliating. The home fans felt comfortable enough to taunt the former Manchester United man in the away dug-out. "We want Robson out," they chanted, followed by the equally mischievous: "There's only one Gary Megson".

There was more than a hint of self-mockery about the cries of "Ole!" with which Albion's followers greeted every successfully completed pass as the contest drifted towards its seemingly inevitable conclusion. Robson, though, had clearly not given up on a point, belatedly sending on two attackers, Earnshaw and Rob Hulse. With unwitting assistance from Dunne and James, the ploy worked better than he can surely have expected.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Jordan (Onuoha, h-t); S Wright-Phillips, Bosvelt, Barton, Sibierski; Fowler, Anelka. Substitutes not used: Waterreus (gk), Macken, B Wright-Phillips, Flood.

West Bromwich Albion (4-5-1): Hoult; Scimeca (Albrechtsen, 63), Purse, Gaardsoe, Robinson; Gera (Hulse, 75), Johnson, Wallwork, Clement, Greening (Earnshaw, 81); Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Koumas.

Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).

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