By William Wood | In Micah's Say
Manchester City progressed to the last eight of Uefa Cup after a nerve-racking penalty shoot-out victory against Aalborg, and Micah gave his views on the match exclusively with MicahRichards.com.
Carrying a 2-0 lead into the tie following an impressive victory in the first leg at the City of Manchester stadium, Mark Hughes’ men set out to retain the advantage and seal their progress to the next round of the competition.
And the Premier League side started brightly, Shaun Wright-Phillips finding Stephen Ireland after a mazy run before the latter’s effort was deflected clear.
City used their physical prowess to limit the hosts throughout the opening exchanges, while at the other end Micah seized on every opportunity to burst beyond Wright-Phillips and support the attack down the right-flank.
Both sides were unable to mount any serious attacks in the final-third, with an otherwise quiet Robinho carving open the Aalborg defence and forcing Zaza into a smart save in one of the few chances of the half.
After an innocuous first 45 minutes, controversy ensued minutes after the interval as Kasper Risgaard went down under pressure from Wayne Bridge, but the referee waved play on.
Brazilian midfielder Caca had Given on his toes soon after as he volleyed towards goal only for the ball to curl wide of the post, while a scramble in the City box saw three Aalborg players line up to shoot only for the defence to poke the ball away from danger.
The home side began to grow in stature as City looked to shut up shop, with Luton Shelton bursting beyond Richard Dunne and Nedum Onouha before seeing his snapshot well-saved by Given.
City went within inches of sealing the victory as a powerful effort from Robinho rebounded off the cross-bar, and a dismayed Hughes could only watch on from the touchline as his side were punished for their inability to close the game out.
Shelton was first to score, working a yard of space in the box before blasting past City’s goalkeeper, before Michael Jakobsen’s shot struck Ched Evans’ hand, and the former converted the subsequent penalty.
With the two teams level on aggregate, the match went to extra-time, though the first 15 minutes were played out in tentative fashion as neither side committed men in attack.
Goalscorer Shelton, once of Sheffield United fame, was in confident mood as he struck a shot from 30-yards, but the ball swooped wide of Given’s goal, much to the Republic of Ireland international’s relief.
After the additional time Aalborg were still 2-0 up, thus leading to the fans’ nightmare of penalties, but City maintained their nerve as they won the shoot-out 4-3, Given performing heroics as he saved two of his opponent’s spot-kicks.
While Hughes will be disappointed that City were unable to secure the tie in normal time, everyone involved with the club will be confident of going all the way in the competition after over-coming a tricky tie.
“We’re delighted to be through to the next round, even though we made it hard for ourselves,” Micah said.
“Over the two legs I’d say we deserved to go through, but obviously we’re disappointed with the performance tonight, especially as we should have sealed our progress in normal time.”
“We had loads of chances to kill off the tie, particularly in the first-leg, and that’s something we’ll work on for the next round.”
The usual spot-kick takers stepped up to convert their penalties for City, while the 20-year old watched on from the halfway line, and the England defender was relieved that his teammates pulled through.
“Penalties are a lottery so I’m just delighted that the lads managed to win the shoot-out – it’s really nerve-wracking,” he added.