High five for City, three bore draws

With leaders Chelsea in FA Cup action and Arsenal inactive this

weekend, a win over Rovers at Ewood Park would have taken the

champions back to the top of the table. But after a goalless

stalemate, the Red Devils stay second, a point behind the Blues who

now have a game in hand. Antonio Valencia wasted the best

opportunity of a hard-fought encounter when he shot tamely at the

legs of Paul Robinson when one-on-one with the Rovers keeper

shortly before the break. United dominated the second half, but

Dimitar Berbatov’s weak effort was the only effort that troubled

Robinson. In the 4pm kick-off, Roberto Mancini saw his Manchester

City side warm up for the derby in devastating style against Alex

McLeish’s Blues. But perhaps more importantly for the Italian

manager they cemented fourth place in the Premier League table,

which brings the reward of a Champions League slot. Nedum Onuoha

scored his first league goal of the season and Emmanuel Adebayor

also weighed in with a brace. With Carlos Tevez scoring his 27th of

the season from the penalty spot and also getting a touch to

Onuoha’s header to score his 28th, City secured a comfortable

victory, with Cameron Jerome netting Birmingham’s goal. City have

now scored 14 goals in the last three games which will put them in

good heart for the match against arch rivals United on Saturday.

Guest of honour at the game was former City goalkeeper Bert

Trautmann, 86, who broke his neck in the victory against Birmingham

in the 1956 FA Cup final. Liverpool badly missed Fernando Torres as

they dropped two more points in their increasingly forlorn pursuit

of fourth place in the Premier League. The Reds had numerous

opportunities to beat their fellow Europa League semi-finalists

Fulham but, without the cutting edge of the injured Torres, drew a

blank at Anfield. They also came up against a goalkeeper in good

form in Mark Schwarzer, who produced a number of saves including a

fine stop from a powerful Ryan Babel drive. Torres scored twice in

Thursday’s stunning victory over Benfica but left the field early

to rest a knee injury. Manager Rafael Benitez had expected the

striker to be fit but he failed to even make the bench. Dirk Kuyt

and Lucas – Liverpool’s other two scorers on Thursday – also had to

make do with places among the substitutes along with Yossi Benayoun

as Benitez made four changes. David Ngog, Alberto Aquilani, Maxi

Rodriguez and Babel were the men to come in but none made the

difference against a resolute Fulham side. Liverpool dominated

possession throughout and Jose Reina, fresh from signing a new

six-year contract, barely had a shot to save. Yet their dependence

on Torres was again all too evident. Fulham were able to boast

their leading scorer and hero of their European run, Bobby Zamora,

following a fitness test on an Achilles injury, but the England

World Cup hopeful endured a quiet afternoon. Wolves took another

step towards Premier League survival after repelling a long-throw

bombardment from Stoke in a 0-0 draw at Molineux. The share of the

spoils in a match of little quality moved Mick McCarthy’s side six

points clear of the bottom three with four games remaining – and

they also have a superior goal difference. Stoke had the best

chances in the first half during which time Rory Delap reeled off

14 long throws – and 24 in total – to cries of ‘boring, boring’

from the home fans. Centre-back Abdoulaye Faye should have done

better with some headed opportunities and Mamady Sidibe wasted a

clear-cut opening early in the second period. But Wolves generally

looked solid and their determination was typified by centre-back

Jody Craddock who was made skipper on his 500th league appearance

in place of the suspended Karl Henry.