Hull City winger George Boyd faces investigation by the Football Association after television pictures of his angry confrontation with Manchester City’s Joe Hart yesterday suggested he may have spat at the England goalkeeper.
With City leading despite the early loss of Vincent Kompany to a red card, substitute Boyd squared up to Hart 20 minutes from time, after the goalkeeper accused him of diving to try to win a penalty.
Hart was booked for leaning into Boyd forehead first – a movement not unlike that which landed Newcastle manager Alan Pardew with a seven-match ban after his clash with Hull’s David Meyler at the KC Stadium two weeks ago.
Television pictures showed Boyd shouting directly into Hart’s face, with spittle flying from his mouth, although proving intent might be difficult and neither City manager Manuel Pellegrini nor Hull’s Steve Bruce saw the incident clearly enough to comment. “In my position it is very difficult to see,” Pellegrini said. “If Joe reacts maybe the other player dived.”
Bruce said he had seen the footage only once and made no reference to any spitting, but exonerated Boyd over the alleged dive. “There is a difference between simulation – diving, cheating if you like – and trying to get out of the road, and that’s what Boyd is trying to do. The referee was on the spot and made the right decision.” What happened afterwards, he said, was “all handbags, nothing that deserved a yellow card”.
On the match itself, Pellegrini insisted that City’s win, which moved them up to second behind Chelsea in the Premier League table, was “not a message for Jose Mourinho or any of the other teams” in the title race after defeats in the FA Cup and the Champions League ended City’s bid for a quadruple inside a week.
Yet this result makes a statement nonetheless, particularly given the handicap of losing their captain to a red card after only 10 minutes. Despite the disadvantage, Pellegrini’s side took control in the first half, at the end of which they led through an outstanding goal by David Silva, before withstanding all of Hull’s attempts to fight back in the second half and sealing the result with a late second goal from Edin Dzeko, created by a through pass from Silva.
“It was important to us after three weeks without playing in the Premier League, and with nine points behind Chelsea, to come back and win the game,” Pellegrini said. “After a very difficult week it was a very good response from the team, especially playing with one player less for 80 minutes.”
Had the result gone the other way, Pellegrini would have had a very clear message for referee Lee Mason over the circumstances of Kompany’s red card. Hustled off the ball by Jelavic, there was no doubt he impeded the Croatian as he tried to win it back, grabbing him by the shirt.
But Kompany argued that he had been fouled by Jelavic first and Pellegrini took the same view. “Now that we have won I have a calm opinion,” he said. “Before I thought there was a clear foul on Kompany and the referee did not see it. He saw the Kompany foul and sent him off.”
Fuming he might have been, but Pellegrini reorganised his players quickly and decisively, slotting Javier Garcia, his holding midfielder, into Kompany’s position and giving Yaya Touré a deeper role than he had originally planned. The five in front of the back four, aided by full-back Pablo Zabaleta’s mobility on the right flank, were still able to dominate play for much of the opening half and produce some wonderfully intricate passing sequences.
The goal that gave them the lead was technically superb from Silva, who benefited from more time on the ball than he should have been allowed when he received the ball from Touré near the edge of the Hull penalty area. He was able to strike a shot that evaded Allan McGregor’s dive before curling back inwards and inside his right-hand post.
Hull City (4-4-2): McGregor; Rosenior, Chester, Davies, Figueroa (Aluko, h-t); Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler (Boyd, 58); Long (Fryatt, 79), Jelavic.
Manchester City (4-1-2-3): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Garcia; Fernandinho, Silva (Kolarov, 91); Nasri (Navas 80) Touré (Lescott, 71), Dzeko.
Referee: Lee Mason.
Man of the match: Silva (Manchester City)
Match rating: 7/10