Home comforts bring best out of Robinho
Manchester City 1 Bolton Wanderers 0
Monday 25 May 2009
So this is what unlimited wealth brings: mid-table mediocrity. Traditionally Manchester City enter the last day with their supporters turning a sickly sky blue over whether they are going to be promoted or relegated. Yesterday the prize was whether they finished some where between ninth and 11th. Whoopee.
As it happens they finished on a high note, securing their 13th home win of the season, but you did not need to be a City follower to sense the overwhelming feeling of anti-climax. Last autumn, fuelled by the arrival of Abu Dhabi riches, the talk was of titles. This week manager Mark Hughes was suggesting sixth place next season will be a triumph. At least, no-one could accuse him of unrealistic expectation.
The City manager could argue he is halfway there to creating a decent team because their tally of home victories was bettered by only Manchester United. This one included an outstanding goal converted by Felipe Caicedo and was memorable for the parts played by Stephen Ireland and Micah Richards.
The match also had moments of outstanding football from Robinho, who yesterday, in a rare day of hot sunshine, looked like a £32m player. Pity he can also look over-priced and under-motivated when he is appearing away from Eastlands.
The goal was an exquisite one after eight minutes. Ireland chipped over Bolton's defence, Richards sent over an overhead kick and Caicedo prodded in from six yards.
Bolton had every reason to feel dizzy, and they were still reeling when Robinho hit their post with a drive from 12 yards. They restored some equilibrium eventually and Gary Cahill's 36th minute half-volley from 20 yards was denied only by a goal-line clearance from Richards.
On such flickers of encouragement Bolton often build plenty and they began the second half the better team. With Robinho in impish good form normal service was restored, however, and Jussi Jaaskelainen had to spring to the corners of his goal to save from the Brazilian and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Thanks to the Bolton goalkeeper, no further goals arrived but even Jaaskelainen's reflexes could not disguise that the season has dribbled to a dull conclusion for Wanderers. And City? They are first club since Liverpool in 1963-64 to go through an entire top-flight season without a home draw. You suspect their Arab paymasters expected something more.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Given; Richards, Onuoha, Dunne, Bridge (Berti, 85); Kompany (Zabaleta, 82), De Jong; Wright-Phillips, Ireland (Weiss, 71), Robinho; Caicedo. Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Bojinov, Petrov, Benjani.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Shittu (O'Brien, 83), Samuel; Taylor (Basham, 60), Muamba, McCann, M Davies; K Davies, Elmander (Riga, 83). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Puygrenier, Cohen, Hunt.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
Man of the match: Robinho.
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