Wright-Phillips rises above the panic
Manchester City 3 Wolves 3
Sunday 11 April 2004
It is probably a good thing that Kevin Keegan missed this match. The Manchester City manager's injured frame might have been able to withstand it, but whether his nerves are that robust is a moot point as his team would reduce James Bond to running round shouting: "Don't panic!"
They survived but how is a wonder because Wolves did everything but record their first away Premiership win. They led 2-0 and 3-2, missed a penalty and hit a post but City, half-hearted and nervous, hung on, Shaun Wright-Phillips getting a late equaliser.
Wolves now look doomed, but City? Who knows? Probably not even Keegan, whose bad back invites comments about bad forwards and midfielders too. They are now two points clear of the drop zone and the sooner he returns the better. "It's exciting but it's not good for your health," Arthur Cox, Keegan's stand-in, said with a nod to his manager's incapacity. "For the first time I sensed some nervousness in the dressing room because of our League position."
Wolves established their superiority immediately and their first goal, after 14 minutes, was not a surprise even if its manner was. Camara's corner was insipid but after Michael Tarnat cleared with unnecessary haste, Kennedy lashed it into the top corner with the outside of his left foot. A former City player, he celebrated by standing in front of the home bench pointing to the name on his shirt.
If the writing was on the old gold then, it appeared to be etched on the wall for City after 23 minutes when their defence collapsed again to let Wolves go 2-0 ahead. Lee Naylor crossed, the ball bounced off a combination of Cort and Tarnat, and after David James had saved from Camara, Cort followed up.
City and predictability are not natural bedfellows and with an embarrassing defeat looming - Camara also hit a post in a breathless first half - they dragged themselves to parity. Their first goal, after 24 minutes, was a classic striker's goal, Anelka sprinting to beat his marker to meet Tarnat's cross at he near post, and their second, 15 minutes later, also came from Tarnat's accuracy from the flanks when Sibierski's determination got the better of Paul Butler.
If Butler was ponderous then, City's Richard Dunne made him look like a greyhound in comparison in the 64th minute, and, when he was caught out by Camara's speed for the umpteenth time, he upended the Senegalese sriker. Colin Cameron's penalty was to James' right but the England goalkeeper guessed right.
James had saved City but such was the ineptitude in front of him it was inevitable Wolves would strike again and they did so with 12 minutes to go. Paul Ince was fouled by Joey Barton and, when Kennedy's shot was saved by James, Camara and Dunne raced for the rebound. Needless to say, Camara won.
Had Wolves? With the game in stoppage time Tarnat's free-kick was cleared by Kennedy to Wright-Phillips who was faced by an area so crowded it could have been the nearby M60. With admirable cool he kept his shot low and it skidded through the congestion into the far corner.
"Football can be cruel sometimes," was the Wolves' manager Dave Jones' critique. City may yet find that out for themselves.
Manchester City 3
Anelka 24, Sibierski 39, Wright-Phillips 90
Kennedy 14, Cort 23, Camara 78
Half-time: 2-2 Attendance: 47,248
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