Posts Tagged jozy altidore

Hull City 2 Manchester City 1

It’s now indisputable: the present Hull City are a totally different proposition to the team that couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a win for such a long stretch at the back end of last season. More steely at the back, even without Michael Turner; a midfield that has some ball-playing craft as well as graft; and two strikers up front that even top teams struggle to keep a lid on.

It’s important not to overstate our mini-revival, or jinx it, as this was our first win for months, we’re winless away from The Circle and we’re just a few points above the drop zone. But there is a real feeling we’ve turned a corner, particularly as a very tricky set of games are behind us and Phil Brown is wisely sticking with a formation and a line-up that seems to be working well, rather than just working hard.

And just as we fully deserved to take a point off moneybags Chelsea on Tuesday, no one connected to even more megabucks Manchester City could argue they were unlucky to go home pointless today.

From the off, the Tigers were more aggressive and dictated the pace of the game. At times Citeh’s centre-back pairing just could not handle Jozy Altidore, who is becoming ever sharper now he’s a settled part of the team rather than a bit-part player, and both of them picked up bookings for hauling our American boy down on the edge of the box.

He looked emotional as he celebrated his first Premier League goal in the first half – slotting home from the edge of the penalty area after being teed up by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – and the relief of finally getting off the mark should lead to a few more goals before the season ends.

Teenage sensation Tom Cairney impressed once more with his awareness and composure on the ball. Suddenly we don’t seem quite so desperate for Jimmy Bullard’s return to the midfield, as hugely important as that will be, though it may be ambitious to expect too much of Cairney yet.

At the other end of the age scale, two old warhorses proved they still have the legs for three games in seven days, with Vennegoor of Hesselink dominating the aerial battle and George Boateng the best player on the park even if you ignore his winning goal, lashed home from outside the box. ‘Feed the Boat and he will score’.

What of the other City on display? Well, they finally took the upper hand for a 15-minute spell after their goal, Emmanuel Adebayor bundling in during a goalmouth scramble, and spurned a couple of good openings as the ball was lumped towards our goal in the dying stages. But for the most part their players put in the type of moody, lethargic shrug of a performance you’d more readily associate with Dmitar Berbatov at their cross-city rivals.

Just as the officials didn’t spot Rio Ferdinand’s elbow to Craig Fagan’s face off the ball against Manchester United, today they missed Stephen Ireland slapping the same player in the face which could have warranted a straight red. There may be some retrospective disciplinary action, as in the Ferdinand case, but having Ireland banned when Man City play our relegation rivals won’t help us in any way. Though judging on his performance today, his replacement couldn’t possibly be any worse.

You can buy the most expensive players in the world, you can fire managers, but you can’t shake the feeling that Manchester City are still years away from being a team to challenge for trophies.

As for Hull City, things seem to be clicking nicely thank you very much.

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Hull City 1 Chelsea 1

If our Premier League stay is to end in three months’ time, then I’m especially thankful for this night.

For while those of us who trek to away games have seen a triumph at Arsenal and draws at Chelsea and Liverpool, this was the first time our home crowd had seen us take a point off a Big Four side.

It was something joyous for 23,000, not just 3,000, City fans to share in, unmatched since our Premier League bow against Fulham 18 months ago.

OK, we didn’t pouch a much-needed three points to haul ourselves out of the bottom three, but at times we threatened to rip the guts out of the Premier League leaders.

It was all led by the dogged, strong and pacy Jozy Altidore and intelligently conducted by not-Wolves-bound Stephen Hunt with assured, ball-hungry youngster Tom Cairney in the midfield playmaker role.

Of course, there were several other spells when Chelsea splayed the ball round at a cracking lick and we looked vulnerable to a sucker punch goal.

But we never stopped closing the Cockneys down or putting bodies in the way, from George Boateng blocking and mopping up in midfield, through the unflustered back four, to on-form Boaz Myhill palming out several cracking goal-bound efforts.

Cheating Chelsea captain john Terry received a predictable jeer every time he touched the ball and sparked some rousing choruses from the East Stand to boot.

All fantastic, bawdy fun but needless to say it did not affect the loverat’s concentration as he continued to play it simple and assured. Even so, Altidore had a dynamite 20-minute spell where he had the full measure of his upcoming World Cup opponent and Terry received a booking for hauling him down.

Our goal came as Hunt delivered an inch-perfect dead ball from a corner following several disappointing efforts earlier in the game. His teasing delivery was met by Stephen Mouyokolo, who’d ducked away from his marker around ten yards out, and a firm header on target gave Petr Cech little chance.

Chelsea’s reply came in confusing style, with referee Mark Clattenberg awarding them a free-kick for an unknown infringement on the edge of the box when the action had already switched to a tangle of bodies well inside our penalty area.

Relief that we’d not conceded a spot-kick was short-lived, however, as Didier Drogba’s free-kick was effortlessly slotted it into the bottom corner through a crumbling wall.
City’s players appealed that a) it was supposed to be indirect but went straight in and b) the ref had not whistled for Drog to take it.

Whether there was truth in either of those protests I’m not sure, but had the nearest two players in the wall not jumped out of the ball’s way the shot would have bounced harmlessly out.

Outside of the goals, there were gilt-edged chances at either end. Antony Gardner squirmed free from a floated Cairney free-kick but from his location inside the six-yard box could not direct his header on target.

Then late on, Chelsea sub Daniel Sturridge latched onto a flick and stroked a shot towards the bottom corner before it was somehow batted out by Myhill.

That shot sneaking in would have been par for the course in our clashes with the Big Four, usually typified by a cruel twist of luck at the end of a spirited performance.

Fortunately, this night proved to be exceptional in every sense of the word.

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Hull City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

January 31, 2009: Hull City face West Bromwich Albion at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

January 30, 2010: Hull City face Wolverhampton Wanderers at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

So nothng’s changed over these 364 years? Not exactly. The personnel was different: only two City players started both games, Dawson and Mendy. Wolves were undoubtedly more of an attacking threat than West Brom. And we were beset by problems which meant a draw in this instance wasn’t actually that bad.

With Kamel Zayatte ruled out with ankle problems, Amr Zaki not fully fit and Craig Fagan being injured in the warm-up, Phil Brown had to change both his defence and attack from the ones he’d have intended to field. Furthermore, Tom Cairney was making his debut, Stephen Hunt was trying too hard to show his loyalties lie firmly with his employers and not his suitors Wolves and Seyi Olofinjana was sat on a bench in Nigeria, watching the Africa Cup of Nations.

Despite the problems, I thought we put in a performance that just about deserved three points. It was refreshing to see not one but two strikers on the pitch, Jozy Altidore and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, the former creating both goals and creating a one-on-one for himself which hit the keeper’s legs, while the latter superbly opened the scoring from the edge of the box and looked dangerous in the air all game.

The problem with having 2 up front, and 2 wingers as well, is it places a huge burden on the 2 central midfielders to deal with the packed opposition midfield. George Boateng battled admirably but as an attacking midfielder making his Premier League bow Cairney understandably looked a little lost when balls needed to be cleared or tackles made.

And as the game wore on Wolves increasingly won the midfield battle and managed to push several of them forward to join their lone striker in attacks. Both goals conceded came from positions where we could easily have cleared two or three occasions, but from the midfielders just as much as the defence.

An option for Brown when we’d taken the lead again could have been to shore up the midfield and go 4-5-1, perhaps with someone like the hard-working Richard Garcia joining Cairney and Boateng in the middle, but I’m pleased he didn’t. He chose to stick with an attacking set-up, presumably reasoning a third goal would kill them off, and I’m not going to criticise him for that having seen so many ultra-defensive tactics from him.

This game wasn’t a must-win. It was a must-not-lose, and we keep just one point behind Wolves, the team we’re most likely to be able to overtake. Keep in touching distance with them for the next two games, against Chelsea and Manchester City, and with the return of Jimmy Bullard and the full fitness of Zaki we’ll be in with a strong chance.

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