Football: Anelka Too Quick for Blackburn as City Claim Top Spot ; Rovers 2 Manchester City 3
Blackburn, Phil Shaw, The Independent (London, England)
THIRTEEN YEARS of hurt never stopped Manchester City supporters dreaming. Now, for the first time since Howard Kendall's side briefly led the old First Division in 1990, City are looking down on English football's elite after Nicolas Anelka's audacious 87th- minute goal settled last night's hugely entertaining encounter at Ewood Park.
Portsmouth could displace City tonight, yet the likelihood is that Kevin Keegan's team will remain top of the Premiership until Arsenal and Manchester United play tomorrow. Since they meet Arsenal at the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday - they lost 5-1 to them at Maine Road last spring - we should soon have a clearer idea as to whether City have what it takes to be contenders rather than pretenders.
Michael Tarnat, a defender recruited on a free transfer from Bayern Munich, had given City an early lead with an extraordinary long-range drive. Trevor Sinclair's own goal brought Blackburn level by the break, and even after Joey Barton restored City's advantage, Lorenzo Amoruso replied swiftly to revive home hopes of going top.
Anelka's sheer cheek put paid to such notions. After getting away from Amoruso, he still had to beat Brad Friedel from the tightest of angles. He did so by stroking the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper rated the best in the Premiership by his fellow professionals last season.
"I've been top before, you know," Keegan said, tongue in cheek, after the strains of "Blue Moon" faded into the night. "It's staying there that is the problem. People are talking up other teams but we may do very well this season, and Blackburn might even finish above us because they're a very strong side. It's set up for four of five clubs to win the League but us and them are capable of turning those teams over."
Keegan, whose side have now won four consecutive Premiership away matches, created a surprising number of chances given that they deployed Anelka as a lone front-runner with Antoine Sibierski lying slightly deeper. …