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21 Jan 2008 11:43
Sven-Goran Eriksson admitted Manchester City were fortunate to preserve their unbeaten home record after Darius Vassell’s controversial equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw against West Ham.
City trailed to Carlton Cole’s excellent early goal at Eastlands on Sunday but Vassell was given the benefit of a debatable offside decision to level and extend the unbeaten league run in front of their own fans to 12 matches.
The point was also enough to send City up to fifth in the Premier League, while Alan Curbishley’s team remain marooned in mid-table despite having the better of a scrappy encounter.
Eriksson conceded that Vassell’s goal was probably offside and called for a clearer interpretation of the rule.
“We didn’t play good football. The spirit is good and we are fighting but we had to be lucky and we have to be happy to take one point,” Eriksson said.
“I think they have to decide whether it is offside or it’s not.
Curbishley felt the Hammers deserved more from the match and he was scathing about the failure to rule out Vassell’s goal.
But the West Ham boss will be relieved to see the back of City. His side had crashed out of the FA Cup at Eastlands four days previously and this draw left them without a win over Eriksson’s team in four attempts this season.
“We deserved to be the first team to win here and I think Sven agreed with us when we came off. We should have got more out of the two games,” Curbishley said.
“I think the linesman said he didn’t interfere with the first phase of play but he is standing in the six-yard box,” Curbishley said. “All of us are a bit bemused by ‘is he interfering with play or is he not?’ Sometimes you get the rub of the green, but today [Sunday] I don’t think we did.”
Former Chelsea striker Cole had come in for Dean Ashton and made an instant impact in the eighth minute.
Richard Dunne has been in fine form for City this season but the Irish defender was guilty of a costly error as he carelessly surrendered possession.
Mark Noble took advantage as he picked out Freddie Ljungberg and the Swede’s cross was brilliantly finished by Cole, who turned and beat Joe Hart with a close-range overhead kick.
It was West Ham’s first goal against City in four matches this season but the lead was short-lived.
Eriksson’s side equalised eight minutes later when West Ham failed to clear Martin Petrov’s cross and Vassell was on hand to poke the ball home from close range. Television replays suggested Vassell was offside but the goal was allowed to stand.
After that early flurry of action, both teams settled into an uninspired stalemate of poor passing and little imagination.—Sapa-AFP
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