Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Birmingham-United: Ratings and recap

Birmingham City hosted Manchester United in the late kick-off Tuesday on the second matchday of the gloriously congested festive period.

The home side had the fortune of having been postponed on Sunday due to inclement weather while most United starters put in full shifts that afternoon.

Birmingham played within their means for much of the first half, doing little going forward but absorbing United's tepid attacks.

The Red Devils characteristically succumbed to disinterest after the first quarter of the match. United's midfield was unbalanced; left-footer Ryan Giggs ran the right while the painstakingly right-footed Rooney cut in predictably on the left. Furthermore, their central trio consisted of Michael Carrick, the still malleable Anderson, and an average Darron Gibson.

Birmingham shunted dull incoming attacks and managed spells of possession themselves until the interval mercifully arrived scoreless.

The home side again appeared more fresh as the second half began. You knew things were boring when the play-by-play announcer said "Bowyer,... why not?" as the Englishman fired from range. Any crosses into the box were fortunate and hopeful for both teams.

But, at the 58th minute, the most form attacker on the pitch continued his vein to break the deadlock. Dimitar Berbatov started United's attack through the middle and finished it right-footed after interplay with Gibson.
The Bulgarian hit the post only a few minutes later when he shimmied around Liam Ridgewell atop of the box.

United enjoyed being a goal up and passed the ball between and around their opposition for the next twenty minutes. The European super-giant has a tendency of giving up leads this season, but if ever a 1-0 was secure, it was tonight. The game was peetering out accordingly.

That was, until the 90th minute. City's lanky striker Zigic rose to meet a deep cross and purposefully armed the ball down for an offside Bowyer to touch home a shoddy equalizer.

The color commentator, Steve McManaman, referred to it as a "great equalizer." It was't. But it was an important one, especially for a City side flirting with relegation.

Meanwhile, Manchester United drop two more points on the road again for their seventh away draw this year, but still, perhaps serendipitously, top the league tables entering 2011.

Player Ratings

Manchester United

Van der Sar: 6: Two easy matchdays in succession for the elder Dutchman. He fielded one shot on target today. The other went in and it wasn't his fault. His accuracy is wanting often when trying to release counterattacks on the punt.

Rafael: 5.5: City offered little going forward. Somewhat surprisingly, so did Rafael. But he didn't make any egregious errors, despite some silly fouls in dangerous positions. United's burgeoning right-back should benefit enough from another 90 minutes.

Ferdinand: 6.5: Another solid outing on the trot. Probably would have done more if more was required.

Vidic: 7.5: Same as his partner, but the Serb manages to get more involved in games even when there isn't great defending required. Powered a few headers on target for measure.

Evra: 6.5: Easy to overlook a consistent left-back. The Frenchman stayed tight in position, especially after United broke through, and was mindful of his modest duties this evening.

Giggs: 7: Displayed good fitness and engine. His creativity was required. His play on the left was refreshing though sparse.

Carrick: 5:  Too concerned with managing impressions to take any hold on this game.

Anderson: 6: Harried and hustled around but looked a little knackered from Sunday's endeavors.

Gibson: 6.5: Wasn't outstanding throughout necessarily but made the right decision at the right time to assist Berbatov's opener.

Rooney: 5: Tracked back, which is fine, but offered little going forward besides the odd shot that was never going in. His one-footedness is highly lamentable, particularly when he is employed on the left side. When not in the best of form, he's a puzzle long` since solved by English defenses.

Berbatov: 8: Without being perfect, he flicked his way to creating several opportunities out of nothing. He was essentially the only creative player in the team and performed as such. He isn't playing especially better than he did in either of the last two seasons, but he's bagging the goals so he's no longer the arch-villain.

Birmingham City

Foster: 7:Had to make a few nice saves but otherwise enjoyed a pretty tame evening on a night that could have been much worse in theory.

Dann: 7: Picking up proven center-backs from the lower-divisions is paying dividends for City this season, supposedly. That narrative was reinforced today.

Johnson: 6.5

Ridgewell: 5: Has looked better.

Carr: 6: Pretty easy task today: shackle a Rooney already hamstrung by his own inability to play to his either side.

Bowyer: 7: Scored the equalizer late. He was offsides then but it doesn't matter anymore. Tried to bring his side forward. You could tell he was as up for this game as his nose was.

Ferguson: 7: Experience showed today (as it often does when you're looking for it.) Fortunate enough not to face his compatriot Fletcher over the ninety minutes or it'd have been a rougher day for this Scotsman.

Beausejour: 6.5: Provided out wide going forward on seldom occasions and even got stuck-in a bit for good measure. Not bad for a player I'd otherwise never heard of.

Larsson: 5.5: Not afforded enough space for comfort. Couldn't get behind United's backline. Didn't trouble from set pieces.

Jerome: 5: Willing throughout but ragged come game's end after ninety minutes in the trenches of United's defense.

Gardner: 5: Birmingham had two shots on target today. The second one was in the 90th minute and was bundled home after an intentional handball. Not much glory to go around to this striker.

Manager Ratings

Alex Ferguson: 5: Nebulous formation was more homage to his friend on the opposite touchline than competitive. Why Fergie continues to rest Javier Hernandez is bewildering. Gabriel Obertan should have also been introduced into this match. Ferguson could and probably should have mixed up his personnel more than just starting Darron Gibson after ten of his eventual starters played just 48 hours prior.

Alex McLeish: 7: Produced the formation and tactics which best suit his squad. Lucky to get a point at the end, but even a 1-0 defeat shouldn't have been depressing. To his credit, he had enough audacity to introduce attacking players as the game flickered out and it paid dividends.

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