Defeat mars Safri's day of celebration

CHRIS LAKEY Youssef Safri celebrated his 30th birthday by scoring his first goal for 16 months - and City's first direct from a free-kick for almost exactly four years.


Youssef Safri celebrated his 30th birthday by scoring his first goal for 16 months - and City's first direct from a free-kick for almost exactly four years.

It was on January 14, 2003, at home to Brighton in the third round of the FA Cup that City last witnessed a free-kick go straight from player - Phil Mulryne - to the back of the net.

But while the Irishman's goal helped City on their way to a 3-1 home win, Safri's was merely a scant consolation in a defeat by the same scoreline against a Plymouth side who, in Akas Buzsaky, had a free-kick specialist of their own.

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There must have been a square metre of the Carrow Road turf reserved for the two sides' dead ball specialists on Saturday as, first, Safri stepped up with a long-range special that went into Luke McCormack bottom right-hand corner, then Buzsaky fired home a double from almost the same spot to seal the points for Plymouth.

The last time Safri was on target was back in September, 2005, when he scored the equaliser in a 2-1 home win over Hull. Add that to his Premiership goal against Newcastle in April that year plus the League Cup cracker against Bristol Rovers in the autumn of 2004 and it takes Safri's total for City to just four in 61 starts.

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However, the popular midfielder is determined to improve that record, particularly after some recent troubles which led him to question his future at Carrow Road.

“I don't like to say that I asked the manager to play me without good reason,” he said. “When you work hard and deserve the chance that's when you can say something. I am pleased with the way I responded. I did feel under a bit of pressure at the time, but he has helped me with a few words from him, he gave me confidence and I am looking forward to do more and more for the team and to score more goals.

“I used to be the specialist free-kick taker with my national team and when I was at Coventry and now I have started scoring again I want to keep going and get more goals like you saw today.

“It was a really good kick - I have been waiting for it for a long, long time. I saw the keeper looking for me to cross it, but I saw a big gap on the right and thought I had to do it.

“It was a really good free-kick, but a very bad result for us. We worked all week to get three points today but we know that we should work more than we did today and do more to get a better result.

“It's disappointing to concede silly goals and if you see the changing room everyone was down. The manager deserved to be upset - all the players knew what we had done was really bad.”

Grant was furious after the game, but stressed the contribution made by his goalscorer.

“It was a terrific piece of skill from Saff,” he said. “His delivery was excellent today. I think he hit the first man once, but the rest of his delivery was excellent.

“It was a wonderful piece of skill that we know he is capable of. I think he is looking more like a footballer now because he is closer to the opposition more often now. He has taken it on board to be fair to him. He has got the talent and now he has to do it week in week out.”

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