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Micah and Stewart Downing battle for the ball

Micah and Stewart Downing battle for the ball

Saturday February 7, 2009Micah's Say... Manchester City v Middlesbrough

By William Wood | In Micah's Say

Manchester City recorded a well-earned 1-0 victory over struggling Middlesbrough, and Micah, who played the full 90 minutes, gave his views on a win that cements the side’s place in the Premier League top-ten.

Gareth Southgate’s men travelled to the City of Manchester Stadium looking for their first win in 13 matches, while the hosts were looking to bounce back after the disappointment of the defeat against Stoke City last weekend.

Mark Hughes handed new signing Shay Given his debut, but other than that it was a case of as it was for City, with Micah lining up on the right-side of the defence, continuing a sustained run in that position of late.

The Citizens began the game brightly, Stephen Ireland immediately allowing Craig Bellamy to stretch his legs as he raced through on goal, though Brad Jones was alert to the danger as he slid in and collected the ball.

City continued to toil, but it was Middlesbrough who carved open the first real opportunity of the match, the lively Adam Johnson curling in a ball that found Afonso Alves, and the latter’s toe-poked effort required an excellent save from Given.

The home side responded, Shaun Wright-Phillips drilling in a shot on goal which, when deflected, found Bellamy, but once again Jones was equal to the Welshman’s effort.

Afonso, who had four clear-cut chances to score for the Teessiders, then unleashed a shot that swerved at that last moment, but Given, ever on guard, kept the score goal-less, frustrating the Boro frontman.

Ireland was instrumental in most of City’s attacks and, after some fine inter-change with Wayne Bridge on the left, he connected with a cross but saw his heade agonisingly rebound off the crossbar and away from danger, though his efforts were deserving of a goal.

Moments later, Ireland collected Robinho’s incisive pass and flashed a cut-back across goal, but none of the City players could get to the ball to deflect it into the open goal and the danger was cleared by the Boro defence.

However, the breakthrough for Hughes’ side finally came six minutes after the interval, Nigel de Jong playing the ball in to Bellamy’s feet and, as the Boro defence stood off the striker, he worked a yard of space and curled the ball in to the away side’s far-post, beating Jones and the post with curl and handing his side the lead.

Southgate would have felt hard done by given his side’s own chances, and even more so as he saw the superb Given deny Alves once again, this time diving low to deny the Brazilian’s 20-yard effort, and City held on for the three points despite some late pressure from Middlesbrough.

Aside from the victory, Hughes will have been delighted with Given’s debut, with the Northern Ireland international bolstering the experience in City’s defence, and the manager will be hoping his side can continue their upsurge in form ahead of next week’s visit to Portsmouth.

“We kept a clean sheet and got the three points, but we know we can still improve,” Micah said. “I think we’re starting to become more of a team and are moving forward. “

“We’re slowing creeping up the table and will work towards a european spot if possible.”

“Both side had chances but we had more clear cut ones, and it was an enjoyable game to play in.”

New goalkeeper Given slotted into the team seamlessly, and the 20-year old reserved praise for his teammate following a sparkling debut.

“Shay put in a great performance and made some great saves,” he continued. “He was a deserving man-of-the-man match, and he will be a excellent addition to the team.”