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Free-scoring Manchester City must be more boring, says Milner

Manchester City's James Milner celebrates his goal against Fulham during their English Premier League soccer match at Craven Cottage in Lond
Manchester City's James Milner celebrates his goal against Fulham during their English Premier League soccer match at Craven Cottage in Lond

(Reuters) - The entertaining, goal-scoring feats of title-chasing Manchester City has wowed fans and impressed rivals this season, but midfielder James Milner craves a less cavalier approach.

Even without injured top scorer Sergio Aguero, City delivered a glut of goals in a 4-2 away win over relegation threatened Fulham on Saturday.

They have scored a league-best 51 goals from 17 league matches, 35 coming at home, and are on course to better the record of 103 scored by Chelsea en route to winning the title in the 2009/10 season.

They still sit only second, however, as their cavalier approach and struggles to field a settled defense and mistake-free goalkeeper have given teams an opportunity to poach points when hosting the big-spending 2011/12 champions.

City weathered some early pressure on Saturday before taking a 2-0 lead only for Fulham to pull level with 20 minutes remaining as City's defense, the joint fourth worst away from home in the league, were again culpable.

But substitutes Jesus Navas and Milner put City back on top with late goals to leave them a point behind leaders Liverpool.

England midfielder Milner says he could do without the roller coaster ride.

"We'd like to have games that are a bit more boring if we can ... maybe a 1-0 or 2-0," Milner said in quotes carried by British media on Monday.

"When you are 2-0 up, you like to see out the job and we did that in the end. Hopefully we can get a few more clean sheets, which will be more important as the season goes on."

Clean sheets have not been a problem at their Etihad Stadium home fortress, where they have achieved five in winning eight straight league matches and conceded only five goals along the way.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini has rotated his goalkeepers Joe Hart and Costel Pantilimon and juggled his backline but still the goals have continued to flow against his charges on the road.

Only Fulham, Hull City and Norwich City have conceded more goals than City on the road this season.

Milner, though, believes the blame does not lie solely with the defense and keeper.

"We need to work on the mistakes we are making throughout the team," the former Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Leeds United player said.

"When we are conceding goals it's not the defense and the goalkeeper, it's the whole team. At the moment we are scoring enough to win games."

Fulham, languishing in 19th with just 13 points from 17 matches, had further chances to score on Saturday before and after Kieran Richardson's swift counter-attack strike and Vincent Kompany's freak own goal.

The returning Hart made his first league start since the 2-1 league loss at Chelsea at the end of October and made some sharp stops from Adel Taarabt in the first half to suggest his run of errors were behind him.

Pellegrini said the England goalkeeper would keep his place in the side for the home match against leaders Liverpool on Thursday but seemed oblivious to the number of attacks his goalkeeper repelled at Craven Cottage.

"They scored one goal on the counter-attack and it is normal when you are attacking for 90 minutes that sometimes the other team can score one goal with a counter-attack," said Pellegrini, who replaced Roberto Mancini in the close season.

"We had very bad luck on their second goal. If the other team has four, five, six chances every game then, of course, I would be concerned but that is not the reality."

(Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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