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FC Copenhagen 2 Man City 2: Hughes boys get their travelling act together

20 February 2009 11:00
Mark Hughes' team on Thursday night discovered a little of the grit and determination they will need if they are to see out the rest of their strange season in positive fashion.

Manchester City

have been dreadfully disappointing away from home in the Barclays Premier League, succumbing far too easily at places like Wigan, Stoke, West Bromwich and Portsmouth. But in the UEFA Cup it has been a little different.

City delight: Nedum Onuoha (right) is congratulated by Craig Bellamy and Co after scoring the opener

Although a last-minute header from Copenhagen substitute Martin Vingaard denied City a fifth victory out of six away games in Europe on a snowy evening at the Parken Stadium, there was enough evidence from this display to suggest that all may not be lost when City travel from Eastlands.

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Copenhagen offered none of the physical presence City are presented with in the Premier League and it is too early to say that this first leg of the tie will prove to be a turning point. Sunday's game at Liverpool will, perhaps, tell us that.

Nevertheless, Hughes was pleased to see his team play impressively and goals from Nedum Onuoha and Stephen Ireland ensured that City head to next week's return game as favourites to reach the last 16.

The manager said: 'We would've taken that result beforehand although it's very disappointing to let them back into it at the end. But our attitude was great and our front three were excellent.

'When teams open up against us, we can hurt them and hopefully against Liverpool at the weekend that can happen.'

After Brazilian Robinho turned up at Manchester airport on Wednesday wearing training shoes with his club suit - something he has been warned not to do by his manager - he was once again sporting notable footwear on Thursday night.

Flying start: City's Vincent Kompany clears acrobatically from Mikael Antonsson

This time it was the lime green boots that caught the eye but he was missing one of his favourite accessories, friend and countryman Elano.

Having digested the Brazilians' diabolical showing in the 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth last weekend, Elano paid a predictable price and it is also understood that Hughes would have left Robinho out, too, had he had a palatable alternative in his squad.

As it was, Robinho played and produced an acceptable performance even if he was far from influential. City's best player was Craig Bellamy who could certainly teach Robinho a thing or two about how to contribute to a team performance.

The Welshman ran the channels tirelessly for City, adding some much-needed verve and energy to the English team's attacking efforts. It is only a shame that City have not managed to recruit an effective target man for Bellamy to play off.

That will have to wait until the summer, when Blackburn's Roque Santa Cruz and Portsmouth's Peter Crouch will be the preferred targets.

Bellamy should actually have been City's scorer when they broke well to take the lead in the 29th minute. As it was, defender Onuoha claimed what was a bizarre goal. Released down the left flank by Ireland, Onuoha really should have passed the ball to his right for Bellamy to score from close range.

Instead, he chose to shoot and just as Bellamy began to complain at his young team-mate's weak effort, he saw Copenhagen keeper Jesper Christiansen inexplicably allow the ball to slide under his body.

It was the softest of goals to concede, even more so considering that Christiansen has three times been named Danish goalkeeper of the year.

match facts

Not that City cared. It was a goal they deserved and they held their lead comfortably until half time, only to undo their good work by conceding an equaliser in the 56th minute.

Hughes and his staff have worked hard on defending set-pieces but it appears that there is more yet to do. A corner from the left by Thomas Kristensen should have been dealt with but Wayne Bridge was caught on his heels and Ailton Jose Almeida was able to head the ball comfortably past goalkeeper Shay Given.

The visitors reacted well, even though they have lacked confidence of late and regained the lead in the 61st minute, with the much-improved Ireland taking his chance superbly.

The home team should not have let Shaun Wright-Phillips cross the ball as he appeared to be trapped by the corner flag but the England winger managed to squeeze the ball across and Ireland showed great technique to strike it first time in to the corner as Copenhagen captain Ulrik Laursen failed to close him down.

There were other chances, too, as Robinho and Wright-Phillips went on to draw saves from Christiansen when they may have scored. And they paid a price for that profligacy when Vingaard found space between Richard Dunne and Micah Richards to score right at the death.

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Source: Daily_Mail