x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Given saves the day for City

Shay Given's heroics produced a first clean sheet in nine games to push Manchester City into the Premier League's top four.

Shay Given's heroics produced a first clean sheet in nine games to push Manchester City into the Premier League's top four. The Irish keeper made a string of fine saves, including one to his left to keep out James McFadden's 56th minute penalty. But City could not take advantage and, as they failed to score for the first time this season, it meant a fourth successive league draw instead of the victory Mark Hughes wanted on his 46th birthday. The point did move City above Tottenham and Liverpool, but Given said: "We were looking at these games to pick up three points. We threw away a two-goal lead against Fulham last weekend so we have had a disappointing couple of weeks. "Penalties are a bit of a lottery and lucky enough I've gone the right way. We have kept clean sheet, but we can play better than we did." City will be relieved it was not worse. Birmingham made a ferocious start. Tenacious in midfield and troublesome in attack, they could have had three goals in the first 11 minutes. Barry Ferguson caught his midfield counterpart Gareth Barry in possession and bustled his way into the box, creating space for a shot that veered just wide. Given then rescued his side in the ninth minute. Christian Benitez, the Birmingham striker known as Chucho, got himself within range and his shot deflected off Vincent Kompany and brushed the fingertips of the keeper before striking the foot of the post. Cameron Jerome then hustled Kompany into a mistake to set up another chance for Benitez. The Ecuadorean looked poised to open his goal account for the club, but again Given stood tall and made a crucial block. But City possess enough attacking quality to create chances and soon showed that with a last-ditch challenge from Roger Johnson deflecting Craig Bellamy's effort wide after the Welshman had been released into the box by an inch-perfect pass from Carlos Tevez. Shaun Wright-Phillips then fired in a 20-yard shot which forced Maik Taylor into a difficult stop. On the half-hour, Taylor gave his manager, Alex McLeish, food for thought about the goalkeeping position. He was only in the side as Joe Hart was on loan from City and unable to play because of his arrangement. But Taylor denied Roque Santa Cruz a second goal in successive games, smothering well from close range after Wright-Phillips had caused danger on the right. But it was Given who edged the goalkeeping honours with the spot-kick save after Nigel de Jong handled in an aerial challenge with Seb Larsson. Lescott and Tevez then saw Taylor equal to shots as City looked to build on that moment of fortune. Even six minutes of injury time ? after worry over Johnson when he was struck by a shot from Wayne Bridge - could not produce a winner. Ferguson's late sending off soured a determined Birmingham display. A petulant flick with his hand to stop Pablo Zabaleta taking a throw earned him a second yellow card. Ferguson's manager McLeish said: "He should have known better and has apologised to his teammates. He had another influential game and you can't afford discipline to go awry with our squad. "We are disappointed we haven't got the three points and that's a measure of how well the team have played. The front two lacked that bit of composure in front of goal and I hope it will come."