By William Wood | In Match Reports - Away Games
Manchester City emerged 1-0 victors in their FA Cup third-round clash with Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, though the hosts will feel that they
deserved a replay at the very least.
With injuries hampering his selection, Roberto Mancini opted to move Micah into the middle of the defence alongside Vincent Kompany, whilst Benjani led the attack.
In a wholly frustrating opening 45 minutes, neither side could truly claim to have emerged the more dominant, though Micah and then Pablo Zabaleta threatened to break the deadlock early on with shots which were eventually blocked.
The snowy conditions were making play difficult, with Micah cutting out the threat of substitute Martin Emnes with a fine tackle with 34 minutes on the clock as the Dutchman looked to break clear.
A great flowing move from City, with Vladimir Weiss laying the ball off to Benjani and the Zimbabwe international picking out Martin Petrov, saw the winger fire just wide, though the roles were reversed just before the break as Mancini’s men found the opening goal.
Benjani turned provider as he fed Petrov and the Bulgarian made no mistake to fire beyond Danny Coyne to silence the home crowd amid wintery conditions in the north east.
Boro were doing their utmost to mount a counter, so much so that Gary O’Neill was booked for diving after Sylvinho’s challenge, though Carlos Tevez was exerting himself at the other end as he scuttled clear only for his shot to wind up in Coyne’s hands.
The hosts themselves went close as Williams’ header looped just over after fine play by Julio Arca, whilst the latter’s compatriot Tevez missed a guilt-edged chance after pressure from the on-rushing Coyne, before a free-kick from the diminutive forward flew a yard wide of the post.
As the game progressed City increasingly showed their greater level of skill, though Petrov’s slice over the ball rather than a solid connection saw another opportunity go begging as Gordon Strachan sensed an opportunity for his side from the touchline.
A corner with just seconds remaining forced Kompany to clear off the line before Rhys Williams’ subsequent effort was caught by Given, while for City Tevez took the ball beyond Coyne only for Craig Bellamy to see his shot saved by Boro’s stopper.
There were to be no further opportunities as City held firm for the win, avoiding the awkward replay, and Boro are left to reflect on a chance missed to mount an FA Cup run.
Middlesbrough: Coyne; McMahon, Riggott, Wheater, Hoyte; O’Neil, R Williams,
Arca, Johnson; Bent, Franks. Subs: Steele, Grounds, Bennett, Shawky, Yeates,
Emnes, L Williams.
Man City: Given; Zabaleta, Richards, Garrido, Sylvinho; Weiss, Kompany, De
Jong, Petrov; Benjani, Boyata. Subs: Taylor, Barry, Tevez, Vidal, Bellamy,
Man City: Benjani (45’)