Manchester City came from a goal behind to beat Manchester United at Eastlands, with Carlos Tevez scoring two wildly celebrated goals to hand the blues a narrow advantage. The former United forward, who joined City for between £25 and £47 million in the summer, struck home a fortuitous penalty and a headed second to inflict more pain on an embattled Sir Alex Ferguson.
Manchester United’s away contingent provided an electric atmosphere before the match but referee Mike Dean handed Manchester City a gifted penalty in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg to spark some life into the tepid home support. But the defeat – a fourth in nine games and eighth this season – piles the pressure on United following a week of lurid headlines about the club’s financial situation.
United dominated possession early on with Anderson supporting the magnificent Wayne Rooney in attack and Antonio Valencia looking dangerous on the right wing. Sir Alex’ formation handed the visitors an extra man in midfield, to which City struggled to adapt in the opening period.
United’s early possession, which had fueled chances for Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra in the opening minutes, was rewarded on the quarter hour as the Welshman tapped home. Valencia, always the out-ball for Ferguson’s men, found Rooney at the near post and Giggs prodded in the rebound from Shey Given’s save.
City, subdued with three defensive players in midfield, almost struck back on twenty minutes as Shaun Wright-Philips skinned Evra to provide an opportunity for Tevez on a plate. Amazingly the striker headed wide from six yards out. It was a foretaste of things to come as United’s defence, once again missing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, was exposed.
There looked no way back into the game for City, with the fans as quiet as the team on the pitch. As United pressed, City dropped back with the away side well on top and home support more interested in singing their favourite ‘Munich’ tunes as is commonplace.
Indeed, it took a disgraceful decision from Dean to hand City a route back into the match. Rafael, holding Bellamy’s shirt well outside the area, gave away the softest of penalties as the Welsh striker finally tumbled in the box. Referee conned – another all too keen to make himself a name in a high profile match – and Tevez gleefully slammed home the spot-kick to bring the home side level.
It breathed life into City, with Bellamy flying into first Valencia and then Evra as he escaped the referee’s sanction. But the visitors still created the majority of chances with Rooney forcing an outstanding save from Given as he broke behind the City defence, and then Giggs almost addeding a second as he met the Scouser’s left-wing cross at the far post.
Finally City started playing like the home side and Tevez completed his brace from a dubious corner. Dean, having a ‘mare, spotted a deflection off a United player when few others, including the chasing Bellamy, could. But United failed to deal with the problem, defence all at sea as Wes Brown and Jonny Evans chased the ball rather than defend space, to leave the Argentinian all alone to head home a simple winner.
United rallied, with Fletcher’s drive blocked, Rooney forcing yet another save from the classy Given and Nedum Onoua clearing substitute Michael Owen’s goalbound effort off the line.
Rooney – the game’s standout player but criminally left to forage alone up front – then capped a wonderful United move, ghosting past three defenders and bringing out a finger-tip save from the Irishman in City’s goal. United laid siege as Giggs twice played teammates into open spaces as City dropped deeper, with Valencia managing to miss an open goal from just yards out.
Finally, Ferguson introduced striker Mame Biram Diouf as United sought a desperate equaliser. But the Senegalese forward, handed Tevez’ old number 32 shirt, headed wide when unmarked. The Blues sang “Fergie, Fergie sign him up” to sum up a woeful evening.