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Manchester City's Wayne Bridge keeps his sanity among madness of St George
Published : 27 Feb 2010 22:21:04
John Terry was again embarrassed by an Argentine. Wayne Bridge, showing real character, enjoyed the last laugh on the Chelsea masses, who had cackled away like Madame Defarge on helium. The man charged with instilling some sanity into the English patient, Fabio Capello, watched on from the smart seats, probably horrified by some of the defending from Terry, particularly when a little spinning-top called Carlos Tévez ran at him. Another Italian manager, Carlo Ancelotti, was inevitably supportive of his Chelsea captain afterwards, saying that Terry had not erred when Tévez was twisting and turning him for City's first of a 4-2 success. If Tévez had turned Terry again he would have got to keep him. Terry had the new Mohican-style haircut but the scalping was done by the live wire attacker from the Fort Apache district of Buenos Aires. Tévez is an endless nightmare for any defender to combat. Terry can comfort himself that he will not face anyone of Tévez's calibre in the group stage of the World Cup. But having been stripped of the England captaincy, Terry risks being divested of his authority at a commanding stopper unless he quickly regains the powers of concentration that served him so well. His reactions were too sluggish in the face of the clear and present danger that is Tévez, just as they were against another Argentine, Inter Milan's Diego Milito, at San Siro in midweek. All the headlines stirred by the Bridge controversy may finally be playing through Terry's head, distracting him. With Rio Ferdinand injured, Capello really needs Terry at his focused, formidable best. The one England centre-half who did shine was Joleon Lescott, particularly aerially. City's defender has been easing his way back after injury and showed his class against Didier Drogba. Gareth Barry also excelled, particularly in the second half when the City midfielder put in some terrific tackles. On a similarly positive note for Capello was a lively hour from Joe Cole, including a fine pass to create Frank Lampard's first goal, although Capello does not seem a huge admirer of Cole's talents. Micah Richards's occasional propensity to make rash challenges around the box will have been noted by Capello. City's other full-back, Bridge, is also out of the England reckoning for now, having refused to share a dressing-room or hotel with Terry. Outside the ground, hawkers sold TEAM TERRY T-shirts and representatives from a hospitality company handed out leaflets detailing World Cup tours. With the country enrapt by Bridge's decision to avoid South Africa, the fliers came laced with irony. Nearby, a French television crew interviewed fans about why the prurient English were so obsessed with bringing the moral soapbox into the penalty box. Bridge versus Terry would simply not be a story in France. Inside Stamford Bridge, the madness was soon underway and a pantomime element characterised the whole treatment of Bridge. During the pre-match formalities, everyone watched transfixed as the City players walked along the Chelsea line, shaking hands. All eyes were on Bridge as he drew closer to Terry. Would he, wouldn't he? In mischevious mood, the Matthew Harding Stand gave Bridge's progress the big build-up as if he were storming in like Malcolm Marshall from the boundary. To a crescendo of "wooooo'', the first nine City players shook Terry's hand. When Bridge refused, an explosion of boos ripped through the stadium. The BBC website went upper-case crazy. BRIDGE AND TERRY DID NOT SHAKE HANDS it reported. DRAMA. Perspective is the first casualty of sport as well as war. But the vicissitudes of human existence fixate the English, particularly when somebody famous puts the bed into bedlam. Terry's infidelity towards his wife and his close friend has caused more ripples than a rock in a millpond. When Bridge and Joe Cole held a brief conversation, a call almost went out for "is there a lip-reader in the house?" As the match intensified, Bridge fluffed a few passes but refused to hide. Even when the Chelsea fans taunted him with "you're going to cry in a minute'', Bridge ignored them. They used to admire Bridge here, particularly for scoring a fabulous goal against Arsenal, but the Chelsea crowd was clearly determined to demonstrate its support for Terry by denigrating Bridge. When City's left-back misplaced a couple of passes, the Matthew Harding Stand shook with delight. Revealing character in adversity, Bridge was the model of respect towards his old club, showing commendable restraint when City scored. When Tévez swept in his penalty, making it 3-1, Bridge allowed himself a discreet clenching of the fists but initially resisted the temptation to join his jubilant team-mates hurtling towards Tévez. Lescott ran past, grabbed Bridge's hand and didn't let go, half-dragging the left-back towards the euphoric throng. Tévez embraced Bridge and then pointed repeatedly at him, highlighting his support for a popular colleague during such difficult times. Tévez himself has private concerns, as his premature-born baby lies in a hospital on the other side of the globe, yet he still thought of Bridge. Impressive. City fans lapped it up. "Terry, Terry, what's the score?" they inquired. When Bridge was removed by Roberto Mancini, he was given an emotional salute by the City supporters and a toxic send-off by the home fans. If this was a victory for players like Bridge and Tévez, and a welcome triumph for their manager. This was the 18th meeting between Mancini and Ancelotti as coaches, including their assorted previous incarnations at Fiorentina, Lazio, Juventus, AC and Inter Milan. Mancini has now won seven meetings to Ancelotti's eight. Under pressure following recent anaemic displays and reports of dressing-room objections towards his training methods, Mancini came up trumps here. When the heat was on, City's team spirit and tactics underpinned one of the results of the season, a win that gives them real hope of claiming the fourth Champions League position. In shielding the back-four, Mancini again deployed three pedigree dogs of war, Nigel de Jong, Pablo Zabaleta and Barry. Mancini's tactics are defensively-minded but City can counter-attack venomously, a quality displayed in an extraordinary second period. Adam Johnson and especially the left-sided Bellamy stretched Chelsea, always looking to insinuate their way into space vacated by the hosts' attack-minded full-backs, Branislav Ivanovic and Florent Malouda. Bellamy was unplayable after the break while Tévez utterly bemused Terry. The only time the Argentine looked troubled was when working out what "galvanised'' meant in a post-match interview. The dynamism of Tévez and the madness of St George had galvanised City.