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Manchester City's tough test with Germans Hamburg suits Ireland

21 March 2009 12:14
A quarter-final meeting with Martin Jol's Hamburg represents a significant step up inclass for Manchester City

, but after another crazy night in Denmark it might be a blessing for their UEFA Cup ambitions.

Of all the European opposition Mark Hughes' team have faced in a campaign stretching back to last summer, it is the Danish underdogs of Midtjylland and Aalborgwho have taken them to the brink of elimination.

And having survived a second penalty shootout of the season in Jutland on Thursday,midfielder Stephen Ireland believes they are better off facing bigger clubs like Bundesliga title contenders Hamburg even though Jol won all six of his Premier League meetings with City when in charge at Tottenham

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Confident: Ireland

'It's been happening all season,' said Ireland, after City threw away a two-goal lead from the first leg in the last five minutes of normal time against Aalborg.

'When we play the lesser teams we make it hard for ourselves, which is stupid. We should do a professional job.

'But we always play well against the good teams and I'm hoping we can go as far as the final now. I don't see why we can't. We're at our peak and it's really important we finish strongly.'

Shay Given came to City's rescue with two saves in the shootout at Aalborg but Ireland, who decided against volunteering for a penalty after injuring an ankle, is still mystified by his team's late collapse. He said: 'I just thought, 'How have we got ourselves in this situation?'.

'Halfway through the second half it just felt so cushy. We were flowing through the game so easily and then it all became a bit of a blur.

'When it went to penalties, I said to myself, 'Blimey, this is one of these games youhear about when you're younger, one of those cup classics'. Luckily, we got through and Shay was brilliant.'

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Source: Daily_Mail