Milner Free-kick Saves Poor City at the Death

Published: 08th February 2015 09:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th February 2015 09:40 AM   |  A+A-

James-Milner-AP

Manchester City 1 Hull City 1

Having performed a rescue act to spare Manchester City from their first defeat at home to Hull for 85 years, James Milner delivered a reality check on the champions' flickering hopes of retaining the title.

Forget the diplomacy and neutral observations of Manuel Pellegrini, after falling seven points behind leaders Chelsea, it was Milner who cut through the spin to tell it as it is.

"It was not good enough," Milner said. "Coming off the back of a good performance last week [at Chelsea], we knew it would be tough against a spirited side, but we've slipped up at home again.

"You can look at a few things, but over ninety minutes, we didn't do what we should have done.

"You look at our success in recent seasons and it was built on solid home form. It shows we now need to make up the ground away from home because Chelsea have a big lead." Had Milner been on from the start, rather being than introduced as a sixty-seventh minute replacement for the ineffective Edin Dzeko, the Yorkshireman's fighting spirit and desire may have helped drag City to the victory their title challenge so desperately needed.

But despite Milner's stoppage-time equaliser, which cancelled out David Meyler's first-half opener, the draw ensured City remain in their worst run of form since November 2009 - a month before the roof caved in on former manager Mark Hughes.

Having suffered successive home defeats against Middlesbrough and Arsenal, the visit of Hull should have offered City a 'get out of jail' card due to the east Yorkshire club's dismal record against the champions.

And with Hull plunging down the table in recent months due to a run of just two victories from sixteen league games, anything resembling a full-blooded approach by the home side would surely result in three points.

But perhaps all of the above contributed to an air of complacency within the City dressing-room because the champions were awful.

Pellegrini's players were lethargic and half-hearted - almost disinterested - as they passed and dominated possession without any kind of purpose.

At one stage, prior to Hull's 35th minute opener, the statistics showed that City had enjoyed 78 per cent of the possession.

Yet aside from an eighth minute Dzeko header, which was easily saved by Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor, City barely ventured into the visitors' penalty area.

Hull sensed the indifference among their opponents and the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Gaston Ramirez and Robbie Brady became more adventurous when they had the ball.

And they gave City their first scare on sixteen minutes when winger Brady's inch-perfect cross from the left was headed onto the crossbar by Ahmed Elmohamady.

And after growing in confidence, Bruce's team opened the scoring ten minutes before half-time through Meyler.

City goalkeeper Joe Hart was left exposed by Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis as Hull attacked the penalty area, but the England number one initially did well to keep out Jake Livermore's shot from thirty yards. City failed to clear, with Kompany nowhere to be seen as Ramirez rattled the post, and with the loose ball bouncing out, Meyler was left unmarked to score from six yards.

City subjected Hull to an inevitable second-half onslaught.

And while the home side struggled to carve out clear-cut chances, their dominance and control was such that Hull must have felt as though they were being squeezed by a vice.

City poured forward, but fortune was a stranger, especially when referee Jon Moss rejected claims for a penalty on fifty-six minutes after Alex Bruce had clumsily bundled over David Silva.

With Hull soaking up the pressure, Pellegrini introduced Milner and he had an instant impact, winning a free-kick after enticing a rash challenge from Michael Dawson on the edge of the penalty area. It was a dangerous free-kick to concede, but Silva's set-piece was limp.

But Milner's late free-kick equaliser denied Hull a crucial victory and kept City just about on Chelsea's tails.

"It's been an awful 10-12 weeks for us," said Hull manager Bruce.

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