Manchester City 1 Birmingham City 0: Elano's touch of class gets City moving

Eriksson praises his Brazilian playmaker as surprise package begin to enjoy life at top
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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson has accomplished much as a manager but he might be about to pull off his greatest feat: making Manchester City predictable. In previous incarnations they would almost certainly have blown their chance to make their best start in 50 years, yesterday they achieved it. In their terms, it was almost with aplomb.

The cock-up club have now won four of their last five Premier League matches, have a 100 per cent record at Eastlands and are beginning to look at home in the upper reaches of the top division. The angst they cemented into the brickwork when they built the City of Manchester Stadium is being called upon with much less urgency.

True, Birmingham City mounted a salvage attempt in the closing minutes and could have earned a draw but by then Eriksson's team were 1-0 up courtesy of Elano and they held on for their sixth successive win at home. Even the manager could not remember the last time he had such a good sequence.

"It was strange to take three points when we did not play so well," Eriksson said before heaping praise on the match winner. "Elano is a great player and he is scoring important goals. I don't think we have seen the best of him yet but even if he goes on as he is I will be very happy."

Yesterday's goal was Elano's second this week as he scored for Brazil against Ecuador on Wednesday and Eriksson was concerned his playmaker might be suffering from jet lag after flying in from Rio de Janeiro on Friday. If he was he hid it well because he was the game's outstanding talent and received a standing ovation when he left the field after 89 minutes. Birmingham caught him on one of his jaded days but he was still too good.

Elano established he was fresh enough to be effective with a dribble after 17 minutes. The subsequent foul by Liam Ridgewell led to the home team's first chance, Vedran Corluka seizing on hesitation in the Birmingham defence to drill a low pass into a melee of players and Stephen Kelly's block flew just over his own bar.

That was Elano as creator, the finisher arrived after 37 minutes, although Birmingham's manager Steve Bruce was adamant Michael Johnson fouled Fabrice Muamba in the build-up. Stephen Ireland passed to Corluka who sent the ball along the line like a rugby back. From 12 yards it was anything but a formality but Elano fired low into the corner.

Eriksson's team began the second half as they had the first, forcing a series of corners the most dangerous of which was an in-swinger from the right from Petrov that bounced through the Birmingham six-yard box without anyone even threatening to make contact.

They continued to show more potential than threat, until Georgios Samaras came on as a substitute and almost created a goal with his first touches. His dribble dragged three defenders together so that when the ball ricocheted away, Elano should have done better than to fire high and wide.

His touch returned with a shot that whistled by a post but it was Birmingham who should have got the next goal. Wilson Palacios passed to Kapo on the left and his cross allowed Muamba to hit the ball on the run. Anywhere else and it would have been a goal but the England Under 21 player hit it straight at Hart. The visitors then went closer when Micah Richards had to clear from Rafael Schmitz.

It left Bruce harbouring regrets. "I think we should have got something from the game and Mr Eriksson said the same," he said. "But it's no use getting pats on the back, we need to start translating that into points."

The City of Manchester Stadium is used to hard luck stories. In the past, though, it was the home manager who told them.

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