March 2012 - Reports
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 April & May 2012 - Reports
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Manchester City 3 Queens Park Rangers 2   CHAMPIONS
Sunday 13th May 2012 : GYKO at the Etihad.

The only words to describe it is bloody bedlam, absolute bloody bedlum. Manchester City are the champions of England but where do you start? How, seriously, can it be possible to sum up the raw, shredded emotion of those final, exhilarating moments, the scale of what it means and the sheer drama that unravelled before the party could begin and the Premier League trophy was in Roberto Mancini's hands?

There can be only one other moment to compete with this and it was Michael Thomas's title-winning goal for Arsenal at Anfield in 1989. Mancini's team played with their supporters' nerves to the point of brutality. They were 2-1 down going into stoppage time, on the verge of a defeat so harrowing they would never have been allowed to forget it. There were supporters leaving the ground in tears, scarcely believing the team could have been so reckless.

What happened next was so extraordinary it is difficult to know if there are enough superlatives in existence to do it justice. Edin Dzeko's header to make it 2-2 came in the 92nd minute, at a point when the crowd were watching in almost numb disbelief. On the sidelines, Mancini and his coaching staff could be seen imploring everyone to go forward, desperately relaying the news that Manchester United were winning at Sunderland. Except City had played dismally all afternoon, consumed by nerves against the team with the worst away record in the league. Queens Park Rangers had fought back from a goal down, despite the latest red card for the Joey Barton portfolio of shame.

The London club have avoided relegation courtesy of Stoke City's draw with Bolton Wanderers but their manager, Mark Hughes, described himself as "flat" later on, still trying to work out how his team had been beaten. City, he said, had "lost all direction". He, like everyone else, was bamboozled by what had happened.

It goes like this: four of the five minutes of extra time had elapsed when Sergio Agüero found himself with the ball. He was inside the penalty area, on his right foot, and it was then that everything suddenly seemed to go into slow motion. This was the moment football blurred with pandemonium.

His shirt was off, the victory run had started and the stadium was a mosh pit of flailing bodies. City had wrenched the title out of Manchester United's grasp, with 60 seconds to spare and the Etihad Stadium crowd roared and sobbed and bounced and screamed. Mancini talked later on of worrying about his father Aldo, remembering he had suffered a heart attack two summers ago.

When they have time to take a deep breath City will reflect that they really ought to have made this a far easier assignment once Pablo Zabaleta had moved forward from right-back, six minutes before half-time, and fired in a shot that looped off Paddy Kenny's glove and dropped in off the far post.

At that stage QPR had played as though in a straightjacket, barely venturing out of their own half. Kenny should have kept out Zabaleta's shot and it was reasonable at that point to believe a team that has dropped only two points at home all season would go on to emphasise their superiority with more goals. Except this was a day when the most financially powerful club on the planet threatened to revert to those years when they somehow always contrived to mess it up and leave the joke on themselves.

The entire complexion of the game changed three minutes into the second half when Shaun Wright-Phillips flicked a hopeful pass forward and Joleon Lescott's mistimed header allowed Djibril Cissé to run clear. The striker advanced towards Joe Hart and thumped his drive beyond the goalkeeper.

What followed was extraordinary even before we reached those final, stupefying moments. After 55 minutes Barton tangled with Carlos Tevez on the edge of the penalty area and the Argentinian went down, clutching his face. The referee, Mike Dean, brought out a red card and it was then it became apparent Barton was not going to go quietly. This was a street-fighter masquerading as a footballer, exposing the myth of being a changed man.

Agüero was then felled from behind, with a snide kick to the back of his legs. Suddenly Barton seemed intent on trying to prolong the argument with anyone in his proximity, shoving his head towards Vincent Kompany's face and moving aggressively in the direction of anyone in blue. Even as he was manhandled to the side of the pitch, he was trying to get at the City substitute Mario Balotelli. Mancini was on the pitch, ordering Kompany away from the flashpoint as City's players sought retribution.

Barton has no mitigating circumstances and his recklessness could have had ghastly consequences for his team. He deserves the club fine that will come his way and the FA will almost certainly have to act. If Hughes has any sense, he will also remove the captaincy because if ever there was an example of a player not understanding the true qualities of leadership, this was it. Hypothetical or not, it is no exaggeration to say QPR could have been relegated because of his stupidity. The strange thing was that QPR actually improved when they were down a man.

City were tense, nervous, rushing passes, unable to find their usual rhythm despite having a huge amount of possession. Then, on 66 minutes, a sudden, damp silence fell over the stadium as QPR broke, the substitute Armand Traoré crossed from the left and Jamie Mackie's header gave the away side the lead.

After that, there were periods when City seemed totally devoid of ideas but, to their credit, they always kept going. Everyone in the stadium knew United were winning and that, if this was the return of "Cityitis", it was going straight in at No1 in the list of games that would always haunt them. But then the board went up for extra time and football, bloody hell.

Teams:

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Nasri, Toure Yaya (De Jong 44), Barry (Dzeko 69), Silva, Tevez (Balotelli 75), Aguero.

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Richards, Milner, Kolarov.

Booked: Aguero.

Goals: Zabaleta 39, Aguero 90, Dzeko 90.

QPR Kenny, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Taiwo, Wright-Phillips, Barton, Derry, Mackie, Cisse (Traore 59), Zamora (Bothroyd 76).

Subs Not Used: Cerny, Gabbidon, Taarabt, Campbell, Buzsaky.

Sent Off: Barton (55).

Booked: Bothroyd.

Goals: Cisse 48, Mackie 66.

Man City are Champions

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).

 

Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 2  Back in the old routine
Sunday 6th May 2012 : Andrew Hart for GYKO at St James Park

Yaya Toure blasted Manchester City to within touching distance of the Barclays Premier League title with a hard-fought victory at Newcastle. The Ivory Coast international struck twice in the final 20 minutes of a pulsating contest to secure three precious points and send City into next Sunday's final-day clash with QPR in pole position to claim their first title in 44 years. City's last triumph in 1968 came courtesy of a 4-3 win at St James' Park, and today's victory could prove almost as pivotal.

However, it remained in doubt right until the final stages as the Magpies fought to keep alive their dreams of Champions League qualification. It was not until Toure blasted a 70th-minute shot past goalkeeper Tim Krul that City got their noses in front, and although both he and Sergio Aguero wasted further chances to cement the win, Toure made sure at the death with a simple tap-in.

Roberto Mancini's players celebrated just as lustily as their fans high in the stand behind Krul's goal after the final whistle with the promised land tantalisingly close.

City arrived knowing victory was a must if they are to pip arch-rivals United to the title, while their hosts ran out having already exceeded their wildest expectations and enjoying the luxury of a shot to nothing with a Champions League place firmly in their sights.

With the vast majority of a raucous crowd of 52,389 behind them, the Magpies flew out of the blocks to pin the visitors back inside their own half, although without ever looking like troubling keeper Joe Hart.

But as the half wore on, City's class and guile saw them gradually ease into a position of dominance.

With Carlos Tevez and David Silva targeting right-back James Perch, playing in yet another role with Danny Simpson injured, they threatened to open the scoring on several occasions before the break.

That they did not was testament to Krul and the stubborn refusal of the men in front of him to concede.

Perch and Yohan Cabaye blocked shots from Samir Nasri and Toure in quick succession and Krul produced excellent saves to deny first Silva and then Aguero from close range inside the opening 17 minutes with Mancini's men flexing their muscles.

Newcastle were sinking ever deeper towards their own goalline in an effort to keep City at bay, but from somewhere, they found the strength to first stem the tide, and then turn it in their direction.

Demba Ba, without a goal in 12 games, sent a 29th-minute shot on the turn just over after Hatem Ben Arfa's spring-heeled run down the right and then saw another snapshot blocked by Gael Clichy before Ben Arfa forced a superb diving save from Hart from the rebound.

Ba then headed over from Ben Arfa's 40th-minute cross after good work from Jonas Gutierrez with a breathless contest showing no sign of abating.

However, it took heroic blocks from first Fabricio Coloccini and then Davide Santon to keep out Gareth Barry four minutes before the break.

Krul's clean sheet was in peril once again within seven minutes of the restart when Perch tripped Tevez after the Argentinian had wriggled away from him, but Toure's free-kick flew harmlessly over the bar.

Such was Newcastle's determination not to concede that winger Gutierrez turned up inside his own penalty area to head Silva's 53rd-minute cross clear, and Krul had to make a smart save from Tevez's snapshot from distance.

But with the pace of Ben Arfa and Cisse worrying City on the break, Newcastle not only managed to keep them out, but to press them back.

Mancini decided the time for change had arrived and with 62 minutes gone, replaced Nasri with Nigel de Jong, the man whose tackle last season left Ben Arfa with a double leg fracture, a fact which had obviously not been forgotten by the home fans.

Ben Arfa almost provided the Dutchman with the perfect welcome within three minutes when, after being picked out by Ba, he twisted and turned his way in on goal, only to screw his right-foot shot wide.

De Jong's arrival allowed Toure to push further forward, and the move paid dividends with 20 minutes remaining.

Seconds after Edin Dzeko had replaced Tevez, Toure exchanged passes with Aguero 25 yards out and smashed a dipping right-foot shot past Krul and into the bottom corner.

It should have been all over within five minutes when Silva played in Aguero over the top, but with just Krul to beat, he side-footed wide.

Cisse might have claimed a point with a close-range header from substitute Shola Ameobi's 79th-minute cross, but for once, he failed to hit the target.

Toure should have made sure six minutes from time, but fell over as he attempted to round Krul, who managed to touch over Aguero's follow-up.

But the powerhouse midfielder wrapped up the points with a minute remaining when he accepted Clichy's pass six yards out and beat Krul to end Newcastle's hopes of a fightback.

Teams:

Newcastle Krul, Perch (Ferguson 74), Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 74), Cabaye, Tiote (Ryan Taylor 82), Gutierrez, Cisse, Ba.

Subs Not Used: Elliot, Gosling, Marveaux, Obertan.

Booked: Ben Arfa, Tiote, Perch, Ferguson.

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy, Nasri (De Jong 61), Toure Yaya, Barry, Silva (Richards 86), Aguero, Tevez (Dzeko 70).

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Milner, Johnson, Kolarov.

Booked: Barry, Toure Yaya, Zabaleta.

Goals: Toure Yaya 70, 89.

Att: 52, 389

Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

Manchester City 1 Stretford United 0    City in good Kompany
Monday 31st April 2012 : GYKO at the Etihad

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson went to war with Roberto Mancini as Vincent Kompany's first-half header sent Manchester City soaring to the top of the Barclays Premier League table.

The result means that if City win their final two games - at Newcastle on Sunday and at home to QPR on the last day - they will be crowned champions for the first time since 1968.

And clearly the prospect does not please Ferguson, who approached his opposite number in a finger-jabbing fury after Nigel de Jong had brought down Danny Welbeck in the second half.

The Italian responded in kind and at one point only fourth official Mike Jones stood between the pair, who after repeated clashes, were eventually pulled apart by their backroom staff.

Tempers had cooled at the final whistle enough for the customary handshake to take place, although the fire mattered little to City.

Just four games after that Arsenal debacle, after which their hopes appeared dead, City are back on top and agonisingly close to their holy grail after completing a league double over their great rivals for only the second time in 42 years.

Although the team sheets indicated Ferguson had adopted a cautious approach and Mancini a more attack-minded one, in fact the opening exchanges provided an alternate view.

With his midfield reinforced by the introduction of Park Ji-sung to a Premier League starting line-up for the first-time since January, Ferguson's side quickly got into their stride and looked capable of carving out a decent opportunity or two.

However, Nani wasted their clearest opportunity when he ignored Phil Jones' overlapping burst and let fly from 35 yards with a shot that was hopelessly off-target.

City meanwhile began sluggishly, their midfield seemingly incapable of stringing a succession of passes together with any regularity.

Samir Nasri was the man who sparked them into life with a couple of mazy dribbles as the hosts started to get near the byline, which always gives defences cause for concern.

Sergio Aguero screwed a volley wide, then Pablo Zabaleta seized on an opportunity he would have been better leaving for Nasri and his shot rolled through to David de Gea.

After all the hype, it was hardly a classic, although as the clock ticked down towards half-time, the United camp presumably reflected they were quite happy at that.

So, to go behind in stoppage time in such orthodox fashion would have been particularly galling for the visitors.

De Gea's frailties under the high ball are well known by now. When David Silva curled over the second of successive corners, a stronger, more confident goalkeeper might have come to punch.

Instead, he left it to his defenders.

Chris Smalling, like Park, making his first start since January after Jonny Evans was ruled out through injury, momentarily lost Kompany on their run from the edge of the box and was still marginally out of position when the Belgian rose to power home from six yards.

It was a devastating goal for United to lose as there had been no obvious indication they were likely to score.

Wayne Rooney looked particularly out of sorts, isolated up front and generally unhappy with the buffeting he was receiving, which had only drawn one yellow card for Kompany.

The second half was only 12 minutes old when Ferguson offered his star man some badly-needed support, replacing Park with Welbeck.

Immediately before the change though United might have found themselves two down when De Gea came for a corner without getting near it and Nasri ended up curling wide of the far post.

Even when the Red Devils did build some attacking momentum, their final pass was either off-target or overhit, ensuring Hart was not tested.

However, with his side well capable of grabbing a second, Mancini's decision to replace Carlos Tevez with De Jong hinted at containment, a very dangerous ploy against this particular set of opponents.

Yaya Toure did thrash a long-range effort wide, his shot close enough to have De Gea scrambling across his goal.

And, in truth, United seemed to have precious few ideas about prising their opponents open.

De Jong's foul on Welbeck brought a yellow card for the Dutchman and sparked the furious touchline row between Ferguson and Mancini. Peace was eventually restored but the visitors failed to feed off their manager's fire.

Toure came agonisingly close to grabbing a second for the Blues and De Gea made an excellent save to deny Gael Clichy.

And despite five minutes' stoppage time, the Blues cruised home, and the songs of celebration began with City two games from glory.

Teams:

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy, Barry, Toure Yaya, Silva (Richards 82), Tevez (De Jong 68), Nasri (Milner 90), Aguero.

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Dzeko, Kolarov, Balotelli.

Booked: Kompany, Toure Yaya, De Jong.

Goals: Kompany 45.

Man Utd De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra, Nani (Young 83), Carrick, Scholes (Valencia 78), Park (Welbeck 58), Giggs, Rooney.

Subs Not Used: Amos, Berbatov, Hernandez, Rafael Da Silva.

Booked: Jones, Carrick.

Att: 47, 259

Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
 

Wolverhampton 0 Manchester City 2   
Sunday 23rd April 2012 : Kevin Rogers for GYKO at Molineux

Hope can be a burden. Manchester City have been fending it off for weeks, with their manager Roberto Mancini insistent that the Premier League title was bound for Old Trafford. The challenge here was not really presented by Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have now been relegated. Manchester City, making their way to a 2-0 win, had to deal with the unexpected reappearance of hope.

They are likely to take the title on goal difference should they win their three remaining matches, including the fixture with United at the Etihad Stadium next Monday. That prospect arose with the 4-4 draw endured by United against Everton at Old Trafford earlier in the afternoon. Even so, it would be unwise to make assumptions.

There is a pattern to City's season. The irresistible football was most conspicuous in the early part of the season. Its hallmark was the engrossing skill of David Silva. His aura had not endured and it seemed sensible of Mancini to identify him as the first City man to be substituted.

City have regained much of their vivacity when it appeared that all hope was lost. Indeed, that trait encourages a certain scepticism. Silva, for instance, epitomises the mission the manager must pursue when he seeks to get his side back to a higher standard, even if the peak that City are capable of touching is temporarily out of reach.

The stress levels climb in tandem with the excitement over the feat that could well be accomplished. This engrossing situation, however, does not stir feelings only at the clubs striving for the principal domestic honour. Excitement spills over into anyone who has even a walk-on part in the drama. The circumstances certainly took the minds of the Wolves players off the prospect of life in the Championship, at least until they conceded the opener to Sergio Agüero in the 27th minute.

The hosts, having lost at home in each of their past nine fixtures in all competitions, could not have had true depth to the apparent optimism at the start. It could have been argued that Wolves had nothing left to lose, but City would have begged to differ. They insisted on one more troublesome occasion. City were only at ease when Samir Nasri turned in a low ball by Carlos Tevez in the 75th minute.

That concentration was essential and there were early flurries of attacking from Wolves in the opening phase. Joe Hart was called upon to make saves. People might have begun to remember that there was enough spirit in the Wolves ranks for a goalless draw to have been achieved at Sunderland.

City, of course, are a club of a different order. That was unmistakable at Molineux, Mancini deploys greater means than the other clubs and were equipped to devastate Terry Connor's team. The manager, who has worked at the club for 13 years, sounded disconsolate when calling this "a very raw day". Wolves' vulnerability has been demonstrated at length, but the interest in the outcome of this Premier League campaign was stimulating for them.

Despite the contrast in resources, City were not always at ease before the interval. Wolves had been insistent on competing even though they are fully aware that their demotion could not be prevented. They were in a resilient mood and it looked as if the anticipated loss of top‑flight status was less inhibiting than the high hopes of City.

Regardless of the honours collected elsewhere, the City lineup was touched by stress. It could be argued that the freewheeling football associated with them recedes each time the stakes rise steeply. In that regard, the fame and feats of earlier times are of scant help. There was no sign of freewheeling play from them. Indeed, Mancini decided to remove the creative Silva and replace him with the defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong. It stirred thoughts of the apprehension that looked to have gripped City of late. Mancini, ever the pragmatist, tried to check Wolves and succeeded in doing so. That purpose might be regarded as unworthy of a club with City's means, but Mancini is still wary of the position he is in.

There is no lack of talent, but the manner in which his side acts as a unit over the remaining weeks is hard to guess. The return of Tevez may at least have come at a key moment. It is fair to ponder what might have happened if he had not given himself that extended leave of absence. As it is, he is now with a side who will be enriched if he can lead by example.

City looked on edge, making Mancini's stance look all the more astute whenever he announces that United will prevail. He cannot really be in earnest, but he is seeking to lighten the burden on City. His men are on edge. Agüero, for instance, was a little slow in reacting to a low ball from Tevez and made no contact with it on the six-yard line. Ultimately, however. Mancini's men made their mark on the game and the contest for the title.

Teams:

Wolverhampton De Vries, Foley, Stearman, Bassong (Berra 75), Ward, Kightly, Davis, Henry, Jarvis, Edwards (Doyle 61), Fletcher (Ebanks-Blake 77).

Subs Not Used: Ikeme, Johnson, Milijas, Zubar.

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Silva (De Jong 59), Toure Yaya, Barry, Nasri (Toure 86), Tevez (Johnson 75), Aguero.

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Milner, Dzeko, Kolarov.

Booked: Toure Yaya.

Goals: Aguero 27, Nasri 74.

Wolves are relegated

Att: 24, 576

Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).
 

Norwich City 1 Manchester City 6   Tevez makes his mark
Saturday 12th April 2012 : Kevin Goodman for GYKO at Carrow Road

Manchester City found a cure for their ailing away form to keep the title race alive – even if Roberto Mancini insists it is dead – with a hard-fought victory at Carrow Road. A key ingredient in the remedy was Carlos Tevez, who scored a hat-trick and created another for his compatriot Sergio Agüero to cloak the win in two questions: where would City be if the Argentinian had not been in exile for most of the campaign? And has their revival come too late?

Wednesday's crushing win over West Brom, in which Tevez crowned his first start in seven months with a goal, hinted at a return to form but only a triumph away would confirm it. Mancini's side had won just two of their past 10 matches on the road.

This was not a perfect performance but it was the first time since November that they netted more than once away in the Premier League and there was an encouraging flourish to much of their play, with most of the magic coming from Tevez and Agüero, who treated himself to two sumptuous goals and would have had a hat-trick of his own if a late shot had not bounced out off the post.

City's win came despite an inauspicious beginning for the Argentinian duo. Tevez was booked in the ninth minute by the inept Chris Foy for diving even though it was clear that Ryan Bennett stood on his foot as he headed for goal in the box, and two minutes later Agüero also had appeals for a penalty rejected after he tumbled following an ungainly challenge by Anthony Pilkington. What is more, the Canaries were ruffling the visitors at the other end.

Pilkington curled a shot narrowly wide in the fourth minute after skipping past Pablo Zabaleta and Samir Nasri and in the 13th Joleon Lescott had to nod a Grant Holt header off the line after the striker won an aerial duel with Joe Hart. Four minutes later, however, City's jitters were ended in style.

Agüero won the ball in midfield and fed Silva, who helped it out wide to Tevez. The prodigal striker unleashed a ferocious drive from 25 yards but John Ruddy seemed to have it covered until it swerved drastically at the last second, leaving the goalkeeper clasping at thin air as the net shook.

City took charge of the rest of the first half. Some of the panache with which they played earlier in the season returned, most notably for their second goal in the 26th minute. A wonderfully intricate exchange on the edge of the area between Tevez and Agüero concluded with the former back-heeling in the ball into the path of Agüero, who walloped it into the net from 16 yards. "We did well in the first half but those two goals were absolute rockets," said the Norwich manager, Paul Lambert.

A feature of Lambert's success as he has guided his team from League One to top-flight safety has been his ability to make telling switches, and his two substitutions at half-time enabled Norwich to claw their way back into the game.

Wes Hoolahan gave them a greater foothold in midfield before the other new arrival, Andrew Surman, equalised in the 51st minute, volleying into the net from 15 yards after Hart, again looking shaky under pressure from Aaron Wilbraham, got only a weak punch to Adam Drury's cross.

City retorted quickly, but Ruddy beat away a fierce Agüero shot. On the hour mark Ruddy had to repeat that feat to deny Zabaleta from close range after a cute through ball by Nigel De Jong.

In the 73rd minute one of Mancini's Argentinians helped swing the momentum back in the visitors' favour. Ruddy could not hold an 18-yard shot from the substitute Yaya Touré and Tevez reacted faster than anyone else to nod the rebound into the net.

A minute later City scored a fourth, Agüero running from halfway before curling a superb shot into the top corner form the edge of the area.

Before another replacement, Adam Johnson, scored in stoppage time, Tevez completed his hat-trick in the 80th minute, exploiting a short back-pass by Ryan Bennett before rounding Ruddy and tapping into the net. He celebrated by swinging an imaginary golf club. If he had spent less time on the course and more on the pitch in recent months, Manchester United might have been the ones playing catch-up, Tevez made his point.

Teams

Norwich Ruddy, Martin, Ward, Ryan Bennett, Drury, Elliott Bennett, Howson, Johnson (Hoolahan 46), Pilkington (Surman 46), Holt, Wilbraham (Morison 68).

Subs Not Used: Steer, Jackson, Fox, Naughton.

Booked: Ryan Bennett.

Goals: Surman 51.

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, De Jong, Barry, Nasri (Toure Yaya 63), Tevez (Richards 81), Aguero, Silva (Johnson 75).

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Milner, Dzeko, Kolarov.

Booked: Tevez, Nasri.

Goals: Tevez 18, Aguero 27, Tevez 73, Aguero 75, Tevez 80,

Johnson 90.

Att: 26, 812

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

Manchester City 4 West Bromwich 0   Baggies Boinged
 Wednesday 11 April 2012 : GYKO at the Etihad Stadium

Was this the night the blue moon began rising again towards a first league championship since 1968? With Manchester United going down at Wigan Athletic this emphatic win, studded with a supreme display from Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tevez's first league goal since May, closes the gap to five points for Manchester City to Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

By Saturday afternoon the deficit could be reduced further, to two points, as Roberto Mancini's side travel to Norwich City for the early kick-off, while United host Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon. A 20th league title is still in their hands but despite Mancini's claim that City are still out of it due to United's "fantastic spirit" – surely his attempt at mind games – nervous times are back: another slip and the title decider could again be the Manchester derby here later this month.

For the first time since 21 September Tevez's name had been read out in a Roberto Mancini first XI, the Argentinian also making what was only a second league start for City in this troubled season. He would end his evening after 63 minutes having illustrated what the Blues have missed, his ability to operate between the lines as impressively as when he was captaining City and scoring 24 times last season.

It was Agüero, Tevez's countryman, who would take City into the interval a goal up, giving his side their first lead in the league since 3 March, when the Bolton Wanderers Gretar Steinsson's own goal set City on their way to a 2-0 win.

Agüero's 25th goal of an impressive debut season at the club came when he collected possession in midfield, brushed off Keith Andrews, and slotted a 20-yard shot to Ben Foster's right.

Roy Hodgson's side had their moments, but these were few, with two featuring Joleon Lescott being embarrassed. First, Shane Long's speed left him trailing before the No9 turned into Vincent Kompany and was barged off the ball. Then Lescott allowed a high ball to bounce, despite being in prime position beneath it, and he was fortunate that Long again failed to profit. And there was also a menacing cross fed in by Simon Cox that swept before Joe Hart but lacked the finish, and an Andrews effort that went straight at the keeper.

That City had rediscovered their quality was evident throughout. As the suspended Mario Balotelli watched from an executive box, a smooth move went from Samir Nasri to Agüero back to Nasri then into Tevez, who played a one-two with the Frenchman before he unloaded a bullet of a shot that was just too high.

As the half closed, a Ben Foster howler which saw him carrying the ball over the line for a corner had the fans behind his goal singing how he was "England's No5". But it was the City No32 who had impressed so far, and he would be the initiator of his side's second, nine minutes into the second half.

After Tevez's attempted ball towards the West Bromwich area was repelled, it arrived at Nasri, and his pass into Agüero was placed across Foster for his second.

As a celebration not seen in this stadium for a while – the Poznan – broke out, City again moved upfield, and Nasri had a golden chance that would have secured a first league win since Chelsea were beaten here three weeks ago.

The Frenchman's effort was wide and when Mancini tore into his side after West Brom forced a corner, the proof that City were emerging from their costly poor run was about to be confirmed.

After an Agüero attempt from the angle was cleared, Tevez's moment arrived. Nasri played Agüero into the area and, from close to the line on the left, he pulled the ball back to Tevez: his careful finish made it 3-0 and was followed by a calm celebration, and his removal by Mancini – his work done for the night.

David Silva then scored his first league goal since 18 December. For this, Jonas Olsson dawdled, was robbed by Agüero who played in the Spaniard, and he moved at the advancing Foster before chipping a sand-wedge of a finish over the keeper.

Now, with Tevez and Silva returning to form, Mancini also hopes Yaya Touré can be restored to the side after a leg injury. "He took a knock on the knee against Arsenal. I don't think it's a serious injury," the manager said of the midfielder. "Maybe for Saturday he will be ready."

Teams:

Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Silva (Zabaleta 81), De Jong, Barry, Nasri, Aguero (Dzeko 74), Tevez (Johnson 63).

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Milner, Pizarro, Kolarov.

Goals: Aguero 6, 54, Tevez 61, Silva 64.

West Brom Foster, Jones, Dawson, Olsson, Shorey, Cox, Mulumbu (Fortune 68), Scharner, Andrews, Dorrans (Tchoyi 78), Long.

Subs Not Used: Daniels, McAuley, Odemwingie, Hurst, Roofe.

Att: 46, 746

Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).
 

Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0   Now for Next Season
Sunday 8th April 2012 : Bernie Stephens for GYKO at the Emerates

Arsenal delivered a potentially fatal blow to Manchester City's Barclays Premier League title hopes as Mikel Arteta fired home a brilliant late winner at Emirates Stadium, where Mario Balotelli was shown a red card in a 1-0 defeat.

Leaders Manchester United had earlier opened up an eight-point lead over their bitter rivals with their 2-0 lunchtime win over QPR at Old Trafford, leaving Roberto Mancini's men with little room for error on Sunday afternoon.

However, the Gunners - chasing a place back in the top three - raised their own game and created enough chances to have been well ahead by half-time, with Robin van Persie's goalbound header striking team-mate Thomas Vermaelen.

After the woodwork twice again came to City's rescue in the second half, the Gunners were not to be denied as, with three minutes left, Arteta strode forwards to smash a superb, 25-yard drive past Joe Hart into the bottom corner

City finished the match with 10 men when Balotelli, who should have been sent off for a studs-up challenge on Song in the first half which was missed by referee Martin Atkinson and his assistants, was shown a second yellow card for clattering into Bacary Sagna.

Mancini cut a forlorn figure at the final whistle, as his position will now once again come under intense scrutiny.

Arsenal started strongly, with both Theo Walcott and Sagna stretching former team-mate Gael Clichy on the overlap.

Tomas Rosicky was seeing plenty of the ball and on nine minutes the Czech midfielder's drive was deflected behind.

Yaya Toure, who once had a trial at Arsenal as a youngster, was left in a heap following a clash of knees with Song, and the Ivory Coast midfielder hobbled off for treatment.

On 14 minutes, Arsenal had a shout for a penalty when Vincent Kompany looked to have pushed Van Persie in the back as the ball was floated into the City penalty area.

Toure was unable to continue, and while the visitors were down to 10 men, they almost went behind.

A corner from the left was flicked through the City six-yard box, where Van Persie headed it goalwards, only for the ball to cannon back of team-mate Vermaelen on the line and up onto the crossbar, with Rosicky nodding the rebound over.

City made an enforced change on 17 minutes as David Pizarro replaced Toure.

Balotelli then caught Song with a studs-up challenge just below the knee. Neither Atkinson nor his assistant on the touchline saw the poor tackle which, if they had, would have surely resulted in a red card for the controversial Italian striker. Fortunately, Cameroon international Song was able to recover and continue.

On 25 minutes, Balotelli popped up in the Arsenal penalty area to flick a corner goalwards, and when his shot was blocked by Kieran Gibbs, the maverick City forward took his frustrations out by kicking the base of the post.

The Italian finally received a caution for catching Sagna with a high boot on 38 minutes.

It was perhaps something of a surprise to see the 21-year-old return for the second half, Mancini electing to keep faith with a player whom he openly admits he may well have punched were they team-mates.

City went on the offensive, with Sergio Aguero's looping header tipped over by Szczesny.

At the other end, Blues keeper Hart was a bystander as Van Persie came even closer to breaking the deadlock on 62 minutes after he was picked out from a floated cross by Song, but his cushioned header came back off the base of the post when perhaps the Dutchman - without a goal in three games - should really have hit the back of the net.

On 66 minutes, Laurent Koscielny caught Gareth Barry on the ankle to collect a 10th yellow card of the season, and with it a likely two-game suspension.

It was then City's turn to spurn a great chance when Kompany headed a deep free-kick back across the Arsenal six-yard box, but Balotelli failed to connect with his attempted scissors-kick.

The Gunners broke away through Song, who slipped Van Persie clear on the left side of the penalty area to slot past Hart, but the Dutchman had strayed just offside.

City's goal continued to lead a charmed life as Walcott's shot was tipped on to the far post by Hart, with Vermaelen then scuffing the rebound which Benayoun could not force past Joleon Lescott on the line.

On 87 minutes, Arsenal finally made the breakthrough - and effectively gift-wrapped the championship for United - when Mikel Arteta strode forwards to fire a brilliant 25-yard strike into the bottom corner.

Balotelli then lunged in on Sagna out on the far touchline, and was shown a second yellow card, swiftly followed by a red as City's season crumbled.

Teams:

Arsenal Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs (Andre Santos 56), Arteta, Song, Walcott (Oxlade-Chamberlain 85), Rosicky, Benayoun (Ramsey 78), van Persie.

Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Djourou, Jenkinson, Chamakh.

Booked: Andre Santos, Koscielny.

Goals: Arteta 87.

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Toure Yaya (Pizarro 17), Barry, Milner, Aguero (Tevez 83), Nasri (Kolarov 79), Balotelli.

Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Richards, Dzeko, De Jong.

Sent Off: Balotelli (90).

Booked: Toure Yaya, Balotelli, Milner, Zabaleta.

Att: 60, 096

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

 

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