Penalty sees youthful City side beaten in Abu Dhabi

A City team made up largely of reserve and academy players was this afternoon beaten 1-0 in the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Owner Sheikh Mansour was in attendance to see his side play for the first time. A 9th minute penalty from Mohamed Al Shihi proved to be the winner.

The Blues started with only two regulars, Stephen Ireland and Pablo Zabaleta, neither in international action this week. Nedum Onouha played ninety minutes at centre-half, eventually earning the Man of the Match award. Stuart Taylor and Benjani were the only other senior players involved, the Zimbabwean partnering Alex Nimely in attack. Kieran Trippier, Ben Mee, Javan Vidal, Andrew Tutte and Paul Marshall completed the starting eleven.

With such a young side on offer and little at stake it would probably be unfair to be too critical, but the hosts were certainly the brighter during the first half and deserved their victory. They opened the scoring in the early on, Stuart Taylor fluffing a kick from a Ben Mee backpass and then sending Al Kas tumbling. The lively Al Shihi stroked home a superb penalty, a powerful drive to Taylor's bottom right.

For all our possession things weren't really happening in the final third. Paul Marshall blazed a free-kick over the bar, a nice move involving Benjani and Stevie Ireland saw Alex Nimely run offside, and the same player saw a throughball from 'keeper Taylor clip off his heels when he looked set for goal. As the minutes ticked down only Nedum Onuoha throwing himself infront of a Youssef effort kept it at one.

The second half saw us improve significantly, with Ireland and right-back Trippier looking like our main outlets. A Benjani run down the left flank led to a deep cross just evading the incoming Tutte at the back post, and shortly afterwards Ireland forced a stop from goalkeeper Khsaif from a free-kick from just outside the area. The Cork man was later booked for pushing his marker to the floor after receiving several kicks.

Replays showed that we were unlucky to have not been awarded a penalty ourselves in the 70th minute. A cross from Trippier certainly came off the arms of Qassim, though in truth it was hard to spot in real-time. Our best chance came with minutes to go, Jack Redshaw found Nimely free on the right, the striker's cross sliced just wide by Abbas. Mahmood Khamis tested Taylor from distance late on.

Overall, i think it was a worthwhile exercise, and although we didn't perform too well as a team there were some positives to take from the game. Nedum Onuoha was solid in defence, Kieran Trippier extremely busy from right-back, and Javan Vidal coped admirably on his unnatural side. Pablo Zabaleta was his typically industrious self, playing in a central midfield role, Nimely showed some excellent movement and i even thought Benjani did okay. Substitute Poole looked like a very tidy player, too.

There's not a great deal more to say, really. Nice to see the owner getting a glimpse of his admittedly weakened side, and the aforementioned performances of the youngsters. The biggest bonus, though, is probably that Ireland and Onuoha have got another ninety minutes under their belts. Ireland hasn't looked 100% for a while, and Ned's been absent for a few weeks. We could do with them both matchfit, Ireland makes us tick, and Nedum's calm head could prove useful over the coming games.

Taylor, Trippier, Vidal, Onuoha, Mee (Boyata '66), Zabaleta, Tutte (Redshaw '78), Ireland, Benjani, Nimley, Marshall (Poole '56)

No comments:

Post a Comment