Shay Given proves perfect investment for Manchester City

07 February 2009 05:17
It's a great life being a goalkeeper at Manchester City: you see so much of the ball. And so, on the turf where Joe Hart has made a reputation as one of England's brightest young keepers, Shay Given became an instant hero.

Four saves, all from Afonso Alves, produced a clean sheet, leaving the rest of the task to the other side of City, the attacking flair.

And Craig Bellamy, another of the quartet in whom Mark Hughes invested £51 million during the winter window, obliged with a superbly taken goal. It took the world's most financially potent club a step closer to the certainty of a place in the Premier League next season, while further endangering Middlesbrough's status.

Gareth Southgate's team have now gone 13 matches without a win and the manager admitted: ''We need one very quickly.''

But he declined to criticise his players, saying: ''We're not where we are because of performance like this. I thought we were solid and the only time we switched off we got punished for it. You could talk about our finishing --- but there were some brilliant saves. I don't believe we're getting what we deserve.''

The difference lay in City's reinforcements (Middlesbrough tried to bring a couple of players through the window, said Southgate, but could not afford to complete the deals).

Hughes was delighted to acknowledge how his team had been refreshed. Of Given, he said: ''Although we controlled the game for long spells, they did have a few one-on-ones and in those situations there's no one better than Shay. But he was very calm and composed in all he did and that got through to our back four.''

Hughes paid tribute to the deposed Hart but added: ''I felt we needed experience and I think you could see today what Shay will bring.''

Likewise with Bellamy: ''The idea was to get in guys who know and understand the Premier League. They can come in and hit the ground running.'' Which Bellamy has clearly done. This was only his third appearance, and his first from the start. But already Hughes's fellow Welshman has two goals. ''We're delighted with the impact Craig's having, on and off the field. He's a great professional.''

Robinho was well and truly overshadowed on this occasion, not least by Stephen Ireland, who was markedly the more effective floater off the front despite the £32.5 million difference in their price-tags.

From the start, when Ireland's deliciously weighted through ball brought a brilliant save at Bellamy's feet out of Brad Jones - it was a day of good goalkeeping - City found a way through the visiting defence. Yet they they owed equality at half-time to Given. For City, though easy on the eye, were just as inviting to hit on the break.

The impressive Jones also did extremely well to thwart Bellamy when a shot was carefully aimed to his left.

All in all, the goalkeeper deserved his relief when first Ireland, from Bellamy's cross, headed against the crossbar and then Bellamy, from Ireland's artfully squared ball, failed to make contact in the goalmouth.

When Given took his turn to shine, his first denial of Alves was a case of standing firm and waiting for the striker's effort to thud against his body. But soon he was palming aside a swerver and saving with his legs.

After playing behind Newcastle defences for so long, Given would have been well prepared for this, and it was a former Tyneside team-mate who put City ahead. Bellamy took possession on the right and jinked inside, seeking an angle for a shot.

Whose feet would prove quicker: his or those of the attendant Emanuel Pogatetz? It was no contest and suddenly the ball nestled low in Jones's far corner.

Clever play by Shaun Wright-Phillips - whose ludicrously unjust violent-conduct rap at Stoke is to be challenged by City this week - set up Robinho, whom Jones frustrated with an outstretched hand.

The outcome remained in the balance and once more Given was required, making perhaps his best stop of all from the persistent Alves, who must have thought he had steered the ball to the Irishman's left.

Source: Telegraph