Etihad Ten: The Goal Drought of 06/07
- 04 June 2013 09:56
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
The darkest hour is just before the dawn...
When Georgios Samaras stepped up to convert a 72nd minute penalty to put City 2-0 up against Everton on January 1 2007, fans could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be a good year.
A third successive win in the bag, a solid defensive record and talented youngsters like Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha and Stephen Ireland coming through seemed to signpost bright days ahead for Stuart Pearce’s men.
Little did season ticket holders know that Samaras’s spot-kick would be the last City goal they would see in Premier League games at the City of Manchester Stadium that season.
This inability to find the back of the net at home for five long, barren months nearly cost City their Premier League status in a campaign which could be seen as a turning point in the club’s history.
At times in that period from January to May it as if there were an invisible force field in front of the opposition goal as City’s strike force of Samaras, Bernardo Corradi, Paul Dickov and Darius Vassell toiled against a toxic whirlwind of woodwork, inspired goalkeeping and failing confidence.
720 minutes. Eight games. Five months. No goals.
Earlier in the season, Pearce had enlisted the services of his daughter Chelsea’s horse toy, “Beanie” on the touchline but the good luck properties of this equine mascot had run dry by the time Emile Mpenza signed for the club in January.
The Belgian striker’s transfer turned out to be perhaps the most significant moment of the season for the Blues and “Beanie” was sent to the glue factory.
City’s new be-dreadlocked forward had been accused of entering into semi-retirement by critics in his homeland when he left Hamburg in 2006 for a lucrative move to Al Rayyan in the Qatar League, so when the 28-year old joined City he was quick to point out that he still had plenty to offer.
"I am not finished and I will prove it in Manchester - I make this move as revenge, with respect to all those who criticised my decision to play in Qatar,” he declared on Belgian radio station Bel-RTL.
He would have to be patient for a chance to back up those words but a friendly against Blackpool on Valentine’s Day provided a platform for Emile to showcase his ample talents.
A goal in that specially-arranged game at Bloomfield Road convinced Pearce to give the Zellik-born man a chance as a half-time substitute in the 1-0 defeat to Wigan.
Despite the scoreline, Mpenza had shown enough to be considered ready to start against Chelsea in the next match.
Only a Frank Lampard penalty denied City a deserved point against Jose Mourinho’s men next time out but Emile was the Blues’ most dangerous player and finally got off the mark in the next game away to Newcastle with a goal worth its weight in gold.
Defeats to Blackburn, Reading and Wigan had the Blues sweating and peering anxiously over their shoulders as the forwards continued to misfire.
Although City had flirted with the idea of relegation in the darkest moments of this soul-sapping goalless home run, safety was confirmed by the time they reached their last home game, thanks to Mpenza-inspired away wins at Fulham and Middlesbrough.
That just left one final opportunity to end the home goal drought once for all in a Manchester derby against the champions elect on Saturday 5 May 2007.
Cristiano Ronaldo had given Manchester United the lead on 33 minutes after picking himself up from a late Michael Ball challenge to convert a penalty.
The home side rallied, inspired by the tireless Mpenza, a one-man battering ram against the formidable centre-back pairing of Ferdinand and Vidic very much in its pomp.
The Belgian had a header that flew just a foot wide of the target at the start of the second half before he was joined up top by Dickov, making his first appearance since January during his second spell at the club.
However, it was left-back Ball who broke forward on 79 minutes and was subsequently hauled down by Wes Brown inside the area – penalty!
Surely five months of misery on Eastlands was about to be ended in the most poetic circumstances against their bitterest rivals.
The curse was about to be lifted, the net would ripple and the fans would finally climb to their feet and celebrate a goal 20 weeks in the making.
In the absence of regular penalty takers Joey Barton and Samaras, responsibility fell to Darius Vassell to level the match but his low, powerful strike came back off the legs of Van der Sar to confirm the inevitable and to end City’s home campaign with defeat to the cross-city rivals.
Still the levy would not break.
720 minutes. Eight games. Five months. No goals.
Despite an Mpenza goal, City slumped to another defeat in their final game of 2006/07 away at Tottenham to leave them with an identical 21 point record from both home and away games, with just 10 goals scored at home all season.
Joey Barton finished the season as City’s top-scorer with six goals.
Usually the end of the football season feels like dropping off the edge of a cliff for ardent supporters but this summer break felt like sweet relief to Blues, unaware of the exciting, historic times that lay just over the horizon.