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Ireland shows Chiefs who is boss

Steven Ireland Carlos Tevez meet fans Abu Dhabi July 09

Steven Ireland Carlos Tevez meet fans Abu Dhabi July 09

A goal in first half injury time from captain Stephen Ireland sent the Blues into Saturday’s Vodacom Challenge final in a fine fettle.

But Mark Hughes' men had to withstand a spirited late fight back from the Kaizer Chiefs who now face off with the Orlando Pirates on Thursday night to see who plays City in the decider in Pretoria.

The game certainly caught the imagination of those back home with around 21,000 tuning in to mcfc.co.uk’s exclusive live streaming of the contest.

The latest segment of City’s South African safari took them to the shores of the Indian Ocean and a balmy Durban for their second match.

The Premier League side and Johannesburg’s Chiefs received a noisy welcome from a decent turn-out, despite the ground being the home turf of rival side Royal Thanda Zulu.

For those with an interest in such things, the ABSA Stadium was previously known as King’s Park and has seen some famous rugby internationals, most notably a pair of great wins for the Lions in 1974 and 1997 – and a defeat to the Springboks just a few weeks ago.

Hughes made a host of changes from the side that started in Polokwane. Gareth Barry began a City game for the first time and partnered Nigel de Jong in midfield.

SWP was on one wing and Kelvin Etuhu on the other with Ireland playing in the hole between the midfield and striker Felipe Caicedo.

Further back Northern Ireland international Ryan McGivern came in, as did Wayne Bridge. Carlos Tevez did not feature - attacking options on the bench coming in the shape of Benjani and Bojinov.

City applied most of the early pressure, with two fine chances being made and missed. Ireland’s shot from inside the box was blocked for a corner, which Ben Mee headed over then McGivern’s headed attempt sailed beyond the left-hand post.

Half way through the opening half a fine pass from Bridge found Ireland in acres of space on the right but after homing in on goal the Player of the Season’s attempt drew a good save out of Khune.

Gareth Barry looked perfectly at home in sky blue after so long in the claret and blue of Villa, his best moment coming on the half hour when a trademark run into the left side of the box ended with a chipped cross going over the bar. A shot from the edge of the box just afterwards with his right foot fizzed just past the near post. Just before a shot from Kaizer Motaung jr, son of the Chiefs’ owner, no less, fired wide from a promising position.

Stuart Taylor had had little to worry about until eight minutes from the break, when he had to be alert enough to punch away a well-hit effort from Mathebula.

Deep into stoppage time City broke the shackles. Etuhu wriggled free down the right to find Ireland unmarked in the box, and he had the easiest of tasks to slot the ball past a stranded Khune.

That was the Irishman’s last contribution, as Hughes replaced him at the interval along with Caicedo. Petrov and Benjani were the replacements.

The Chiefs soon had their fans roused in the second half as Nale’s sweet strike from the edge of the box forced Taylor down to his left to make a smart save.

Barry’s debut came to an end on 65 minutes, the England midfielder leaving to be replaced by Vidal.  Petrov hit a shot across the open goal and Mee looped a header tamely into the keeper’s arms as the Blues looked to put the game to bed but they then faced a fierce onslaught from the home side.

The Chiefs should have equalised with nine minutes to go when Motaung jr., six yards out and in space, rolled his shot wide of the post with the goal at his mercy.

Etuhu then spurned a great chance with 90 seconds left, eluding the keeper but falling off balance as he shot wide.

He and Motaung were both given plenty of stick by the noisy crowd but City with only Pablo Zabaleta and De Jong still on the pitch of those who can expect to start against Blackburn, held for the win.

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