Mowbray lost in recurring replay of Albion's flaws

Manchester City 4 West Bromwich 2
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The Independent Online

Bryan Robson engineered West Bromwich Albion's great escape from relegation in 2005 with a minature Buddha in his pocket. To emulate his predecessor, Tony Mowbray would need a piece of the true cross.

Even if West Brom take as many points from their final five games as Robson's men did from theirs, they would still finish last. At Eastlands they compressed a whole season into 90 minutes. Lovely passing, plenty of chances and some defending that was beyond schoolboyish.

A minute after Chris Brunt had brought them level with a free-kick, Jonas Olsson gave away a penalty with an entirely unnecessary challenge on Elano that the Brazilian duly converted. Then as they strove for another equaliser, Manchester City broke away, Stephen Ireland passed to an unmarked Daniel Sturridge and Brunt's two goals and all the other positives were once more lost in the wash. For a club that has had more last throws of the dice than a craps player as dawn breaks over the casino, that is now that.

"I've not been looking at the table for a few weeks, it's about trying to win a game of football now," Mowbray said. "We are a few ingredients short of being a good team; we miss too many chances and give away too many soft goals but, if you gave us Rio Ferdinand and Fernando Torres, we'd be top 10."

Despite the beach ball tossed around the stands that gave this game an end-of-season feel, City's campaign is not quite over. It is possible they can clamber over three London clubs and secure the seventh place that should give them a place in the Europa League. However, Mark Hughes would need his players to be a lot tighter defensively and the manager added that City would probably have to win one of their remaining away games at either Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, or Goodison Park.

Eastlands was not altogether happy. The substitution of an exhausted Elano, whom Hughes said was "covered in ice packs in the dressing-room" was met by jeers. City were in truth still suffering from the draining effects of their heroic attempt to overcome Hamburg in last Thursday's Uefa Cup quarter-final, which may have accounted for Pablo Zabaleta's pulled hamstring. They still produced an enormously entertaining match against another side who are far more comfortable going forward and their opening two goals were in turn sublime and hugely controversial.

The match was eight minutes old when Robinho met Ireland's cross beautifully for his first goal since late December. Thirteen minutes later, as Scott Carson attempted to reclaim a half-cleared corner, he appeared to be blatantly intimidated by Felipe Caceido, allowing Nedem Onuoha to head home. Carson ran half the length of the pitch to confront the referee and for a fleeting second you thought he might strike Mike Jones. It was as near to physical as the afternoon got.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Given; Zabaleta, Dunne, Onuoha, Bridge; Kompany, De Jong; Elano (Fernandes, 74), Ireland, Robinho (Petrov, 83); Caceido (Sturridge, 58). Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Richards, Garrido, Sturridge, Evans.

West Bromwich Albion (4-5-1): Carson; Zuiverloon, Meite, Olsson, Robinson; Morrison (Mulumbu, 66), Brunt, Dorrans (Valero, 62), Greening, Koren (Simpson, 62); Fortune. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Teixeira, Donk, Wood.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire)

Booked: Manchester City Kompany; West Bromwich Albion Carson, Morrison.

Man of the match: Brunt.

Attendance: 40,072

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