James saves a City calamity

Keegan's keeper holds nerve as stewards help to quell pitch battle
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The Independent Online

David James, who has at times deserved the inevitable epithet Calamity, enjoyed a Rudyard Kipling moment at the Walkers Stadium amid scenes that were more reminiscent of Lindsay Anderson's film If... than the Bombay-born writer's poem.

David James, who has at times deserved the inevitable epithet Calamity, enjoyed a Rudyard Kipling moment at the Walkers Stadium amid scenes that were more reminiscent of Lindsay Anderson's film If... than the Bombay-born writer's poem.

James earned Manchester City a point in a 1-1 draw at Leicester City by keeping his head while all about were losing theirs to save an 82nd-minute penalty that had sparked anarchy on the pitch. Individual confrontations merged into a widespread mêlée that involved players, substitutes, coaches and stewards and needed the intervention of all four match officials and four yellow cards to quell. The Football Association will almost certainly consider taking some action.

Leicester's manager Micky Adams and his counterpart, Kevin Keegan, greeted the final whistle with a hug and were united in playing down the fracas, blaming the tension of the occasion. Adams said: "You're talking about two teams scrapping for survival and I think it was much ado about nothing. I'm delighted with our overall performance and I can't ask any more in terms of work-rate. We didn't give Manchester City a moment's peace but it is never simple at this club - not this season anyway."

Keegan might share that view about life in Manchester, too, but he embellished his comments with criticism of the referee, Andy D'Urso, who pulled back City's Nicolas Anelka when clear late on for an earlier infringement. He said: "It was a lot of passionate people who care. We're both passionate managers as well. There is no doubt it was a bad decision, the [Leicester] guy definitely handled it and we felt aggrieved, just as we did when he failed to play the advantage [for Anelka]. I like to think the referee made the decisions honestly - he just got them wrong."

Because of the fracas after D'Urso's penalty award for a foul on Muzzy Izzet by Manchester City's goalscorer, Michael Tarnat, there was a five-minute delay before the kick could be taken, and then James parried Paul Dickov's shot. There were chances at both ends during added time, but essentially James's save rescued his side from a true calamity. They are by no means safe from relegation from the Premiership, but defeat would have severely dented their survival hopes. James and all involved with Manchester City will watch today's events at Elland Road with trepidation, as victory for Leeds United over Portsmouth would lift the Yorkshire side alongside them.

A point was at least some reward for the extra work that Manchester City put in this week. Leicester have based their season on unremitting hard work but for 20 minutes it looked inevitable that it go unrewarded after Tarnat's long-range free-kick put the visitors ahead just before half-time. Leicester threw everything forward and equalised when Ian Walker's long clearance was headed home by Jamie Scowcroft.

Then came the rumpus on a day of penalty drama for Manchester fans. At Old Trafford United conceded a spot-kick that settled their fate against Liverpool. Gary Neville, involved in a row over diving during the week, brought down Steven Gerrard, but the only doubt was over which Liverpool player would take the kick. Gerrard and Michael Owen have had little luck with penalties, so Danny Murphy did the honours, giving Liverpool a 1-0 victory that means they could join United in Champions' League qualifying next season.

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