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City lose elite spot as Burnley break away jinx

SoccerNews in English Premier League 7 Nov 2009

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A dramatic late equaliser from Kevin McDonald earned Burnley a 3-3 draw at Manchester City that underlined the fact that Mark Hughes’s expensively-assembled team is far from the finished article.

It was a fifth consecutive draw for City, who drop out of the top four as a result of Tottenham’s win over Sunderland.

City defended poorly for long spells, against a newly-promoted team without an away point all season, and eventually required all the attacking firepower at their disposal to avoid complete embarrassment.

There had been warning signs for the home team, even before Graham Alexander shot them ahead from the penalty spot in the 18th minute, the 69th successful penalty in 74 career attempts by the Premier League?s oldest outfield player.

Clarke Carlisle was left unmarked at an early corner but, off-balance, was unable to direct a shot on goal while Robbie Blake, similarly unimpeded, missed the target from only eight yards.

Fortunately, for the visitors at least, Alexander was far more accurate from the penalty spot, continuing his perfect record of 13 in 13 attempts for Burnley, after Joleon Lescott needlessly raised his hands and handled a cross from Tyrone Mears.

City were struggling to come to terms with Burnley?s energetic and physical approach, aided by the fact that the officials were missing a sizeable amount of shirt tugging and other niggling fouls by the visitors.

Craig Bellamy took matters into his own hands in the 32nd minute, hacking down Chris Eagles and conceding a free-kick from which Shay Given made a superb reflex save to keep out Blake?s driven and deflected shot.

However, the City defence failed to clear the danger, Gareth Barry was dispossessed by Blake who, in turn, found Eagles whose perfectly-weighted cross was turned into an empty net by Steven Fletcher.

Trailing by two goals, and with the home support suitably incensed, City finally responded and started to look like a goal threat themselves.

Shaun Wright-Phillips volleyed into the net, although from a clearly offside position, and, after Fletcher had almost converted a third goal from Wade Elliott?s cross, Bellamy forced Brian Jensen into his first save of the game with a low shot across goal.

Eventually, and deservedly, Wright-Phillips gave City a lifeline, with a shot which deflected off the boot of left-back Stephen Jordan and curled into the far corner, just before half-time.

At the interval, Hughes pushed Bellamy into an advanced position, effectively now one of three front-line strikers, and the attacking move paid immediate dividends.

After an extended bout of City pressure, Andre Bikey?s foul on Stephen Ireland in the 55th minute presented Gareth Barry with a free-kick which the England midfielder curled into the Burnley area.

Lescott, making amends for the game?s first goal, did well to stretch and keep the ball in play with Kolo Toure netting the loose ball from close range.

City were in full flow, and Burnley in the midst of showing why they had failed to collect an away point all season. Only three minutes later, Ireland launched a probing attack through the centre of midfield and sent Wright-Phillips racing clear for the winger to pick out Bellamy, who converted clinically from 12 yards out.

Not surprisingly, events had taken their toll on Burnley and Carlos Tevez might have made the concluding minutes comfortable, but the forward placed his 67th minute chance too close to Jensen who dived to smother the ball and then missed the target altogether from Bellamy?s 72nd minute centre.

David Nugent was forced to head a deflected corner off the Burnley line and Martin Petrov shot inches wide as the game seemed to be concluding in a procession towards the Burnley goal.

But, with four minutes remaining, Nugent directed a long pass onto the head of Fletcher, who found McDonald with a perfect assist, the Burnley substitute converting from close range for his team?s first away point of the campaign.

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