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Fightback earns Hughes salute

Mark Hughes 0809

Mark Hughes 0809

Mark Hughes admitted his weary players fell over the line for the 4-2 home win over West Brom that threatened to turn into a real banana skin after their deflating UEFA Cup exit against Hamburg on Thursday night.

City started without the rested Micah Richards and finished with ten men when Pablo Zabaleta limped off late on with all three substitutes used, but the Blues squeezed home from 2-2 to return to tenth place in the table.

Manager Hughes, who refuses to write off the chance of seventh spot despite last week's defeat by Fulham, declared: "A 4-2 Premier League win is always to be welcomed. But the game itself was nervy towards the end.

"We had a lot of players out on their feet and that's to be expected, given the emotions and the amount of energy expended on Thursday night. It's difficult to keep up the intensity and we were a bit slack on occasions.

"We were up against a good West Brom side fighting for their lives, and they had a clear week leading up to the game with their sole focus to beat Manchester City.

"On occasion we just didn't have enough energy to stop their creative play at source. As a consequence they got into good areas and were able to get balls into our box which we had to deal with. But we showed a lot of commitment, dug in, and got the result that we wanted."

The game was notable for a succession of chances for both sides, and while City were satisfied with strikes from Robinho - his 13th of the season but first this year - Nedum Onuoha, penalty specialist Elano and sub Danny Sturridge, Albion felt they were worth more than winger Chris Brunt's double.

Hughes admitted: "That's the way we play our football - we've got attack-minded players, so at times it's open and opposition players will have opportunities. What you have to do is try and keep that to a minimum and, going the other way, convert your chances."

Richards was the only absentee from the side that went out of Europe on a 4-3 aggregate despite a stirring 2-1  win at City of Manchester Stadium, and Hughes said: "It was important we got fresh energy into the team.

"Micah did well the other night but he was out on his feet after the game and we're going to need his energy and athleticism. It was a case of using the squad.

"I didn't want to make too many changes because when I did that against Fulham, we didn't have enough on the field to overcome them. I was keenly aware of that, and making sure it didn't happen again.
"This was a difficult game for us. We had to match their commitment. Maybe we switched off a bit for them to get back on level terms but we kept going and had enough to see the game out."

Hughes is having no luck with injuries. Zabaleta could miss a couple of games with a hamstring problem and striker Craig Bellamy, already out of the last three matches, hopes for a couple of games at the season's end.

Elano's tough week has also taken its toll. Some fans booed the decision to bring him off 15 minutes from time against West Brom, but Hughes explained: "He was struggling, and he's sat with ice packs all over his body now."

Match Report

City v West Brom 19-04-2009

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