Articles

Various reports from The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express and The Times

Horton can see a shaft of light

By Ian Ross

IF Manchester City survive - and it is still a big if - yesterday afternoon will come to represent something of a watershed in a season of many bruises and countless blemishes.

As the final whistle confirmed only a third Premiership win in 20 attempts, Brian Horton, a manager who has redefined the word 'beleaguered' these past few weeks, embraced each of his players in turn. The fight is not yet over but at last the gloom has been pierced by a shaft of light.

Horton's pre-match assertion that his club were fast approaching the point of no return hardly constituted the revelation of a well-kept secret. However, rather belatedly it must be said, his players did appear to understand the gravity of the situation.

City's response to talk of a crisis is measured in effort and not skill these days. What little silky football a lightweight team have produced this season came before Christmas when hope, rather than apprehension, was the prevailing emotion.

There was plenty of courageous charging around and much chest- beating but, as always, there was an annoying fragility to virtually their every move.

Roy Evans will disagree, but Liverpool's season of sound and sensible rebuilding effectively ended last month when Coca-Cola Cup success guaranteed European qualification.

Yesterday they were presented with acres of space but were too surprised to make the most of their possession. They performed like novices in the final third of the pitch yet, even so, every move forward was laden with promise.

Steve McManaman cantered around like a young foal and had those around him displayed similar urgency, City, without a shadow of a doubt, would have slipped ever further down the greasy pole which has its foundations in the First Division.

They did not, and as a consequence, City were almost invited to reel in a victory of monumental significance without ever reaching even a satis- factory level of performance. This says much about Liverpool's ineptitude in a second half which they seemed content to treat as a training exercise.

The difference, of course, was that Liverpool did not need to win. City did, and they deserve fulsome credit for scraping it.

Not that they seemed likely to succeed after McManaman's delicious, curling shot midway through the opening half had cancelled out Nicky Summerbee's precise finish after 18 minutes.

A soulless spectacle was going nowhere in particular when the teams were separated for a second time, Maurizio Gaudino heading in Uwe Rosler's precise cross from the right with just 17 minutes remaining.

It was not pretty, but as the last chorus of Blue Moon drifted into the evening air it was difficult to begrudge Horton's weary clutch of players their isolated moment of triumph.

"We needed that win. It's a crazy season," said Horton, who believes four points from their remaining five games will be enough to secure City's place in the Premiership.

"If you don't raise your game against teams like Blackburn and Newcastle you'll get murdered. But if we show the same sort of commitment as we did today then we should be all right," he added.

"That must have been the first time Maurizio has headed the ball for us. In training, he always waits for the ball to drop so he can volley it."

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Gaudino grabs the glory

by Matt Dickinson of "The Daily Express"

Brian Horton headed for the Liebfraumilch to celebrate a vital victory made in Germany.

Uwe Rosler and Maurizio Gaudino provided the German bite at Maine Road as they combined for the winning goal that propelled City from the edge of the relegation zone to 11th place.

Horton said: "It's a crazy season, it really is. One win and suddenly we are up to 11th."

"We had to win today and the players could not have responded better."

It was a piece of precision German engineering that provided the difference between the two sides.

City, with just two wins in 19 games, looked in danger of another frustrating afternoon as they allowed Steve McManaman to cancel out Nicky Summerbee's first-half goal. But Rosler broke down the right after 73 minutes as the Maine Road crowd began to show their understandable anxiety.

His cross was perfectly measured and Gaudino, ten yards out, powered a precision header inside David James' right-hand post.

It was a goal as impressive as it was important for City's Premiership survival.

Whether Gaudino, or indeed manager Horton, are still around to enjoy the fruits of their labours next season will remain a point of contention into the summer. But the German, a target for Leeds after a series of impressive performances, made encouraging noises for the City fans.

He said: "I think City will stay in the Premiership and if they do, I want to be in the team. I think we have a great future. But it could be difficult if we go down."

"We are fighting for our football lives, but I'm confident we can pull through."

In their current predicament, City need all the friends they can get and it is unlikely they will find any more generous than this Liverpool team.

Liverpool were a far cry from the side that stormed to the Coca-Cola Cup.

Manager Roy Evans conceded: "It is not like Liverpool to give the ball away so much."

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Germans join forces to help City's climb to safer ground

by Michael Henderson of "The Times"

In a tense finish, Manchester City eventually got the better of a Liverpool team that was probably exhausted. Winners against Arsenal at Highbury on Wednesday, Liverpool could not deny City a win yesterday that carried them seven places up the FA Carling Premiership towards mid-table, riches indeed after their fallow spring. This was only their third victory in 20 league games, and it could not have been more timely.

City take on Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Monday with more hope than appeared likely at three o'clock yesterday. At the end, their players were out of puff, notably Rosler and Gaudino, who had to be scraped off the turf. The Germans had combined for the winning goal in the 74th minute, Gaudino heading in from 12 yards after Rosler had stayed onside to deliver a cross from the right.

Gaudino had played a significant part in the first goal, supplying a pass from the outside right position that Summerbee, running on to meet it, stroked calmly past James. It was his first league goal for the club in his 36th appearance, but then he, like his father before him, is not principally a goalscorer.

Given their superiority in the second half, when Rosler should have scored with a header and Foster almost did do with a header that James pushed around the post, City were worth their win. They are not safe yet, but they will sleep more soundly at nights. They are not a good team but, on this performance, they are a sight better than some of the other strugglers.

Liverpool had the chances before half-time to win. Five years ago - even two - Rush would surely have made more of two openings, and Fowler screwed the ball narrowly wide of the post after beating Curle to it. All they had to show was a goal for McManaman, who chipped over and beyond Coton, who stood rooted to the spot.

McManaman was clearly the best player on view until he was withdrawn a minute before City's second goal. It was, however, peculiar that Liverpool chose to play him on the left side, where Kennedy, the young Irishman, often replicated his movements, reducing the risk to City's more exposed left side, where Walsh was the lonely soul.

It was in that last spirited siege of the Liverpool goal that Flitcroft, an anonymous figure for much of the game, emerged as a man of substance. His ferocious right-footed volley stung James, who also mishandled a shot from Beagrie, the City substitute.

Head and shoulders above the others in light blue was Rosler, who had attained a status among the City supporters granted to few. But for his goals this season, and the sheer guts he brings to the team's cause, their position would be helpless. He is not a class horse, no Klinsmann, but he is what this team needs right now.

Scorer of goals, he can also make them, and he did here. Picking up the ball ten yards in the Liverpool half, by the touchline, he sprinted to the line and gave Gaudino the sort of ball players see in their dreams when the goal is in their sights. James stood no chance, and that was that.

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