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Blues boss backs on-the-spot Robinho

Robinho 0809

Robinho 0809

Mark Hughes has given his blessing - and a large slice of sympathy - to Robinho as Blues penalty taker after the Brazilian star hit his first-half spot kick straight at Sunderland's goalkeeper in City's 1-0 victory.

In the week when brilliant penalties and Shay Given's heroics took the team into the last eight of the UEFA Cup, Robi was devastated at his miss - and relieved that it did not affect the Blues' bid for seventh place.

Luckless Robi has gone nearly three months without a goal, but manager Hughes pointed out: "He was confident enough to take the ball and try and score - he wants to make a positive impact, he's always of that frame of mind.

"He's disappointed that he wasn't able to put the penalty away, but he kept on trying and had good opportunities in the second half as well. The desire to make amends for the miss was there for everyone to see."

Robinho's stop-start approach to the penalty, awarded after 19 minutes when Micah Richards was brought down, did not fool Sunderland goalkeeper Martin Fulop, who refused to move early, and it was left to man-of-the-match Richards to head a rare winner after 56 minutes.

Hughes added: "In the end it wasn't crucial, so we're happy enough. I think he played cat and mouse with the keeper. On occasions, if the keeper - who's a big guy - chooses the correct side, there's a chance he may be able to stop it. There was a bit of kidology going on, the keeper guessed right and he saved it. That happens.

"I don't have a view on how they take penalties - as long as they score! The only thing is that if it comes to a shoot-out, it's better to smash them because tiredness takes a little bit of your power away and there's the likelihood they could be saved."

Ironically, three of the players who scored immaculate penalties in Denmark - Elano, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Richard Dunne - were on the pitch when Robi missed. The other scorer at Aalborg, Ched Evans, was on the bench.

Sunderland, whose defeat made them City's first Double victims this season, felt they deserved some fortune after  bitterly disputing George McCartney's 14th-minute red card for pulling back SWP just outside the box.

But the Blues boss said: "My initial thought was that Shaun was through and the defender was the last man. Then he was impeded, whether deliberately or by accident. I felt he was clean through on goal and denied a clear goalscoring opportunity.

I'd have to look at it again to clairify that. But in fairness to the referee, he took his time. He went to his assistant and in the end gave his decision. We have to respect that decision.

Mark Hughes


Match Report

City v Sunderland 22-03-2009

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Given makes his presence felt

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Hughes hails shoot-out hero Shay

Shay Given training 0809

Mark Hughes saluted penalty shoot-out hero Shay Given after the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper stopped two spot kicks to see City through to their first European quarter-final in 30 years.