Notts County 1 Manchester City 1 Just
Not Good Enough
Sunday 30th January 2011 : John Howe for GYKO
at Meadow Lane
short while it looked as though Manchester City would be subjected
to the kind of humiliation that was supposed to belong to a
different era. Notts County, 59 places below them in the league
ladder, led through a 59th-minute goal from an archetypal journeyman
and the richest club on earth were staring at the possibility of
becoming the story of the weekend for all the wrong reasons.
Edin Dzeko's first goal for his new club, 10 minutes from the end of
normal time, came at a telling moment,
the swarm of locusts that would have headed City's way had they not
been able to score an equaliser against the 18th-placed side in
League One. The £27m signing from Wolfsburg spared his employers a
chastening experience and the two sides will replay on the weekend
of the fifth round.
City's manager, Roberto Mancini, expressed his regret that the draw
had added another game to an already cluttered fixture list but
there was also an immense sense of relief on the part of the Premier
League club after they had come so close to their lowest point under
the ownership of the Abu Dhabi royal family. When the richest men on
earth took control at Eastlands they can hardly have envisaged that,
two and a half years on, their team would be floundering so badly
against a side from English football's third tier. When Dzeko turned
in the equaliser he did not do so in the midst of the all-out
assault that might have been anticipated.
For any club with Notts County's resources, a second match will in
one sense feel like a victory. In another, however, there was a
sense of disappointment because City were looking vulnerable after
Neal Bishop had flashed a header past Joe Hart from Alan Gow's
All the ingredients were there for the FA Cup upset, not least a
muddy and inhospitable pitch, its few patches of grass remaining
after it staged two games involving Nottingham Rugby Club in a week.
Bishop, a previously unremarkable midfielder who had played
non-league football until the age of 26, with York City,
Scarborough, Whitby Town and Spennymoor, would have been the classic
FA Cup hero.
City had dominated long spells of the match, with the midfield trio
of Patrick Vieira, Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré controlling the
tempo. Yet there was little creativity, with Carlos Tevez, Adam
Johnson and Mario Balotelli missing through injury and David Silva
on the bench. There were only four players in the starting line-up
who would be guaranteed to make Mancini's best XI and in that
21-minute spell when City were staring at an ignominious exit from
the competition, it did seem as though the Italian may have been
guilty of underestimating his opponents in his desire to rest
Mancini said that his side had not deserved to lose – "We played in
their half for the first 45 minutes," he said – but he must have
been alarmed by his team's inability to get behind the home defence.
The Brazilian striker Jô is surely running out of chances to
establish himself and Dzeko generally had a difficult time against
the young Notts County centre-half Krystian Pearce. "He needs time
to understand English football," Mancini said. "He needs another
four or five games."
Mancini had replaced Jô with Silva shortly after the goal and the
Spaniard was involved in the equaliser. Micah Richards sprinted away
on the right, latching on to Silva's pass, and the full-back
delivered the best cross of the match for Dzeko to turn in a volley
from inside the six-yard area.
For the most part County defended stoutly and in the first 20
minutes of the second half they were the better team, pressing
forward, increasingly adventurous.
"We tired," their manager, Paul Ince, said. "I was watching the
clock and I've never seen a clock move so slowly. I looked at 75
minutes and I swear it wasn't even moving. They're a lot fitter than
us and once they got the equaliser I thought we might capitulate.
But we didn't. We stopped them playing and I think we should get a
lot of credit for that.
Notts County Nelson, Darby, Edwards, Pearce, Harley, Westcarr,
Ravenhill, Bishop, Martin, Hughes, Gow (Hawley 70).
Subs Not Used: Burch, Lee, Thompson, Gobern, Spicer, Burgess.
Booked: Edwards, Bishop.
Goals: Bishop 59.
Man City Hart, Richards (Kompany 88), Boateng, Lescott, Zabaleta
(Kolarov 77), Milner, Vieira, Barry, Toure Yaya, Dzeko, Jo (Silva
Subs Not Used: Given, Toure, De Jong, Guidetti.
Goals: Dzeko 80.
Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).
Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 0
Too Slow Too Casual
Saturday 22nd January 2011 : Paul Richards for
GYKO at Villa Park
Darren Bent may not be everyone's idea of a £24m player but he got
his Aston Villa career off to a dream start with a goal after 18
minutes that earned three precious points for Gérard Houllier's
strugglers and dashed the visitors' hopes of returning to joint top
with Manchester United.
Bent did not do an awful lot more than score the winner, and neither
were Villa transformed into an attacking force to be reckoned with
by his arrival, although this was a game they might not have won a
week ago. Their confidence was visibly lifted, even if they did have
to endure a siege situation in the final 10 minutes, when City piled
on the pressure but kept inventing new ways to miss the target. The
equaliser never came, Edin Dzeko had
a more disappointing afternoon than on his debut a week ago, and
City were far less inventive and incisive than they had been against
City only had themselves to blame for Bent's opening goal. They had
just broken up a Villa attack and Kolo Touré had all the time in the
world to weigh up his options with no one anywhere near him in the
centre of his own half. From that position he executed an extremely
poor pass that immediately put David Silva under pressure on
halfway, Stewart Downing regained possession and swiftly moved the
ball forward, and when Joe Hart could only palm out Ashley Young's
low curling shot the man of the moment was on hand to tuck away the
loose ball. Not the greatest goal Bent will ever score, but an ideal
way to start life as Villa's record signing.
Brad Friedel made a good stop from a Vincent Kompany header to
prevent City equalising almost immediately from an Aleksandar
Kolarov corner. The left-back was City's liveliest attacking player
in the first half, which perhaps tells its own story, although as
the interval approached the visitors were putting Friedel's goal
under all the pressure, with Villa increasingly penned in their own
Edin Dzeko, last week's big money signing, is yet to open his goal
account for City and was unable to reach Kolarov's cross from the
left after Yaya Touré had split open the Villa defence. The Bosnian
unselfishly tried to set up Carlos Tevez a few minutes later, only
for James Collins to make an important intervention, and Gareth
Barry – booed throughout – was close with a header from Jérôme
Villa's interval lead was therefore by courtesy of their only decent
attempt of the first half, although that is exactly why clubs spend
fortunes on strikers who can make the most of limited chances. At
least the home side managed to give Hart something to think about
just before the break, when he was required to stop long shots from
Young and Downing. Both efforts were well struck, but both went much
too close to the goalkeeper.
Dzeko headed narrowly over from a corner early in the second half
before Roberto Mancini put the labouring Barry out of his misery,
replacing him with Adam Johnson. In what struck the amused crowd as
adding insult to injury Barry had just spoiled a Yaya Touré run by
straying offside before receiving the pass, and turned to see a flag
raised on one side of the pitch and his number being held up on the
City were again doing most of the attacking yet Villa managed to
create a few half chances around the hour mark. First a back pass
from Kompany forced an error from Hart, but Marc Albrighton could
not shoot quickly enough when an attempted clearance came straight
to him. Young was unlucky with a cross that rolled across the face
of goal and a shot that brought a diving save from Hart, before
Albrighton squandered a promising position by overhitting a first
time cross with Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor waiting unmarked in the
In the closing stages Nigel de Jong saw a pile-driving shot
deflected on to a post, Kompany had a similar effort diverted to
safety by Carlos Cuéllar, and just when Johnson sent over a cross
that looked perfect for Dzeko the striker sent his header the wrong
side of the post. It was a day to remember for the new big spenders,
one to forget for the old ones.
Aston Villa Friedel, Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Clark,Albrighton,
Petrov (Reo-Coker 88), Downing, Agbonlahor,Ashley Young, Bent.
Subs Not Used: Marshall, Pires, Delfouneso, Bannan, Herd, Baker.
Goals: Bent 18.
Man City Hart, Boateng, Toure, Kompany, Kolarov, De Jong,Barry (Adam
Johnson 57), Silva, Toure Yaya, Tevez, Dzeko.
Subs Not Used: Given, Zabaleta, Milner, Lescott, Vieira, Jo.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
Manchester City 4 Leicester City 2
City go into the fourth round
Tuesday 18th January 2011 : GYKO at the
Eriksson's return to Eastlands produced a night of pride and
frustration. His side could find dignity in defeat after they
subjected Manchester City to a nerve-shredding finale but the
Premier League's second-placed team still advanced to the fourth
round and a tie against Notts County that Roberto Mancini will hope
will be much more straightforward.
Carlos Tevez, Patrick Vieira and Adam Johnson put the home side into
a 3-1 lead at half-time and it looked like Eriksson's first game
back at his old club could become something of an ordeal. Yet at
times this was a careless performance from Mancini's men. Tevez
squandered a chance to make it 4-1 in the second half, missing his
second penalty in succession, and when Lloyd Dyer made it 3-2 with
eight minutes of normal time to play there was the first sense of
alarm in the stands. The home team had some difficult moments before
they found the relief of Aleksandar Kolarov's left-foot strike in
the final minute of normal time.
"In the last 10 minutes I don't know what happened," Mancini said.
"Maybe we thought the game was finished. I don't like winning 4-3 or
4-2. For the crowd, it might be good to see but I prefer 4-0 or 4-1.
It's concentration, and I think we have to improve."
Eriksson said he was "rather proud". The team 13th in the
Championship played with little trepidation and there were times
when they threatened to make it a difficult evening for their
opponents. "I told my players we playing one of the best sides in
Europe," the former England manager said, "and, over the two games,
we have scored four goals against them and had a chance right until
the final few minutes."
Yet Eriksson's side also learned that you cannot defend so
generously at the highest level. "We conceded goals a little too
easily, which has been our problem all season," the Swede said.
"I guess that's the difference between a top Premier League club and
a team playing where we are."
The tone was set in the build-up to the opening goal, when Yuki Abe
and Jack Hobbs let Tevez advance and the Argentinean punished them
with a searing right-foot drive, taking his shot early and beating
the goalkeeper, Chris Weale, with another addition to his growing
portfolio of outstanding goals. Tevez has 16 goals this season and
this was possibly the best of the lot, struck with power and
precision to find the top right-hand corner of the net.
Leicester's response was swift although the referee, Mark Halsey,
was generous in the extreme when he awarded the penalty from which
Paul Gallagher made it 1-1. Neither Joleon Lescott nor Vieira
appeared to make any contact with Dyer as he cut between them.
At that point Leicester were playing with drive and ambition but
they were undone by two goals in three minutes. First, Vieira turned
in a rebound after the defender Souleymane Bamba had blocked David
Silva's shot on the line. Then Silva's defence-splitting pass sent
Johnson clear and the winger beat the advancing Weale with a
Mancini was entitled to think his side would see out the game
comfortably. Tevez, however, may need to fine-tune his
penalty-taking technique. In the 57th minute he had the chance to
soothe any lingering nerves, when he ran clear from Kolarov's pass
and again exposed the high line of Leicester's defence, only for
Hobbs to hack him down. The centre-half was fortunate not to be
shown a red card – a point Mancini made on the touchline – but Tevez
aimed his penalty low and hard, straight down the middle, and Weale
saved with his feet.
Mancini's impression of Halsey's refereeing was not improved by the
official playing an inadvertent part in the build-up to Dyer's goal,
Abe benefiting from a ricochet to send the striker running between
Lescott and Vincent Kompany. Dyer slipped his shot beyond Joe Hart.
Suddenly Leicester's 6,000 boisterous fans turned up the volume but
their team left themselves vulnerable to the counterattack as they
set about trying to create an equaliser and, from 20 yards, Kolarov
made them pay with for his first goal for his club.
Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Kolarov, Toure Yaya (Jo
78), Vieira, Milner, Adam Johnson, Tevez, Silva (Barry 64).
Subs Not Used: Given, Toure, De Jong, Boyata, Nimely.
Goals: Tevez 15, Vieira 37, Adam Johnson 38, Kolarov 90.
Leicester Weale, Naughton, Hobbs, Bamba, Berner, Gallagher (Moussa
30), Wellens (Oakley 46), Abe, Andy King, Dyer, Howard (Waghorn 68).
Subs Not Used: Logan, Neilson, Teixeira, N'Guessan.
Goals: Gallagher 19 pen, Dyer 83.
Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).
Manchester City 4 Wolverhampton 3 Wolves
go down fighting
Saturday 15th January 2011 : GYKO at the
did not manage to score on his debut, but he showed plenty of
promise and will have a much clearer idea now of what Manchester
City are all about. His new side played like strangers in the first
half, went a goal behind, then just about enjoyed the better of a
seven-goal share-out to climb to the top of the Premier League
Accommodating their £27m signing, however, meant David Silva and
James Milner were among those missing out, which in turn meant
City's bench alone was worth a nine-figure sum. The entire Wolves
squad only coast a fraction of that, of course, not that anyone
would have guessed in the first half hour.
The visitors gave City a passing lesson from the start, easily
finding their way through the back line and its two defensive
shields and making the home side's attempts to get forward look
clumsy. It was no great surprise when Wolves went in front in the
12th minute, the only mystery was how they failed to add to their
lead before City got back on terms. Nenad Milijas, a constructive
midfield influence all afternoon, scored the opening goal after a
comedy of errors in the City defence. Matt Jarvis's cross from the
right was first deflected off Gareth Barry, then Kolo Touré's
attempted clearance struck Vincent Kompany, and though Joe Hart
managed a point-blank save to keep out Milijas's first effort he was
unable to prevent the Serbian's follow-up.
The former Red Star Belgrade player then headed a decent chance
straight at Hart, before excellent interplay between Stephen Hunt
and Steven Fletcher on the left set up a perfect shooting
opportunity for Jarvis, only for the winger to see Aleksandar
Kolarov fling himself in the way of a goalbound effort. By this
stage Dzeko must have been wondering what sort of team he had
joined, particularly when he found Carlos Tevez with an astute pass
and saw the City captain waste a good position with a heavy first
City did manage to get more into the game as the interval
approached, Adam Johnson bringing a save from Wayne Hennessey and
Tevez going close with a pot shot from distance, and eventually drew
level from a corner earned when a Dzeko shot was blocked. The cross
came through to Kolo Touré at the far post, and Wolves seemed to put
more faith in putting men on the line than closing down the shot.
Touré had time to hit a low shot so firmly it found the net through
Hunt, Hennessey and David Jones.
The second half was a completely different story once City went
ahead a couple of minutes after the restart, and it was a different
trio of Wolves players left flat-footed as Tevez went on a Diego
Maradona-type surge to score. Picking up the ball from a throw-in
Tevez burst into the area and between Christophe Berra and Hunt,
before slaloming past Richard Stearman to slot a low shot beyond
Hennessey. It was quite a goal, and there was more to come. Seven
minutes later Dzeko took a Tevez pass and came up with an inspired
through ball of his own to allow Yaya Touré to run on and score.
Tevez headed in off the underside of the bar from Pablo Zabaleta's
cross to make it four, before Joleon Lescott climbed all over Kevin
Doyle to concede a penalty from which the Wolves striker pulled a
City withdrew Tevez and Johnson to milk the crowd's applause before
the close, then ended up hanging on nervily after Yaya Touré missed
a golden opportunity to wrap up the points and Ronald Zubar brought
Wolves right back in touch with a header from a Hunt corner. Had the
same player managed to convert an earlier chance rather than
striking the bar City might have had to settle for a draw. Not many
teams reach the top of the table by conceding three goals at home,
but given time Dzeko will probably get used to it.
Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Toure (Lescott 51), Kompany, Kolarov, De
Jong, Barry, Adam Johnson (Silva 84), Toure Yaya, Tevez (Milner 81),
Subs Not Used: Given, Boateng, Vieira, Jo.
Goals: Toure 40, Tevez 49, Toure Yaya 54, Tevez 66.
Wolverhampton Hennessey, Zubar, Stearman, Berra, Ward (Mouyokolo
70), Hunt, Milijas, David Jones, Jarvis (Mujangi Bia 79), Doyle,
Fletcher (Henry 69).
Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Vokes, Davis, Doherty.
Goals: Milijas 12, Doyle 68 pen, Zubar 86.
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire). Att: 46672
Leicester City 2 Manchester City 2 Sven
back at the COMSTAD
Sunday 9th January 2011 : Len Peterson for
GYKO at the Walker Stadium
This will be remembered as the day when the master
decided it was never too late to teach his favourite pupil a lesson.
Thirty league positions and several hundred million pounds separate
Leicester City and Manchester City but there was little evidence of
that chasm during an
absorbing contest that ended with Sven Goran-Eriksson forcing
Roberto Mancini to welcome him back to Eastlands for a replay in
nine days' time.
It was no more than Eriksson's courageous Leicester side deserved
after an impressive performance in which the wonderfully named Sol
Bamba was outstanding on his debut. Bamba, who was a member of
Eriksson's Ivory Coast World Cup squad and joined Leicester from
Hibernian at the start of the month, scored after 46 seconds and
wreaked havoc throughout with his threat from set pieces, the
central defender having two efforts cleared off the line and another
saved by Joe Hart.
The Manchester City goalkeeper's contribution here, however, will be
recalled for all the wrong reasons after he handed Leicester an
equaliser in the second half. Paul Gallagher's in-swinging centre
bounced awkwardly in front of Hart but a goalkeeper of his calibre
would have expected to deal with the ball with the minimum of fuss.
Instead it dropped invitingly at Andy King's feet and the midfielder
pounced to register his 10th and most important goal of the season
In keeping with a match that ebbed and flowed from the start there
were still chances for both teams to seize victory. Bamba towered
above the visitors' defence to connect with Gallagher's corner only
for James Milner, who had earlier registered his first City goal to
level the match at 1-1, to nod off the line. Two minutes later Chris
Weale smothered at Nigel de Jong's feet and in stoppage time the
Leicester keeper and the remarkable Bamba both denied Carlos Tevez
his second goal of the afternoon.
Mancini had no complaints with the outcome but he suggested his
players were guilty of underestimating their opponents. "I think
Leicester played very well. They didn't deserve to lose this game,"
said Mancini, who picked a strong side despite making six changes
from the team that drew at Arsenal on Wednesday. "For us it's an
important lesson because now we understand that, if we want to win
the FA Cup, we must always play at 100% because every game is
The City manager could see the funny side when the Leicester
supporters jeered when he miscontrolled a ball in the technical area
in the second half, but there were plenty of other occasions when he
looked uncomfortable and anxious. Mancini knows Eriksson well after
playing under him at Sampdoria and Lazio and also working as his
coach but the Swede caught him off guard with his inclusion of Bamba.
"We had a lot of problems because Bamba's very tall," said Mancini.
"Next time we must pay attention."
His players were certainly caught napping when Bruno Berner flicked
the ball on for Bamba to turn in Gallagher's early corner.
Manchester City, who started off in a 4-4-2 formation that was
changed to 4-5-1 when Mancini withdrew the disappointing Shaun
Wright-Phillips at half-time, took a while to recover from that
setback but an equaliser arrived in the 23rd minute when Milner
exchanged passes with Tevez before driving at the Leicester defence
and shooting beyond Weale.
Back came Leicester as Hart turned Yuki Abe's 25-yard drive behind
before making a double save from Bamba from the corner that
followed. Within three minutes Bamba was at it again, his header
from yet another Gallagher set piece cleared by Wright-Phillips.
Hart then saved from King, who had tried to chip the Manchester City
keeper, before the visitors worked a short-corner routine on the
stroke of half-time that culminated in Tevez turning the ball home
with an improvised flick.
Hart's faux pas, which Mancini described as "unlucky", gave
Leicester the equaliser that their bright start to the second half
merited, as they began to pass the ball with more confidence. There
was then a moment of potential controversy when De Jong, who came on
for Wright-Phillips, appeared to stamp on Richie Wellens's hand but
nothing was going to detract Eriksson from eulogising over his own
"I'm very proud of our players," said the Leicester manager, who
will come up against Notts County, another of his former clubs, if
he can spring a surprise in the replay at Eastlands. "We stood up to
Manchester City, one of the best teams in the country, and I
couldn't see a big difference between the teams. I think we matched
them for 90 minutes. We were at them all the time and when we got
the ball we kept it against a very good team for a long time. The
performance of all the players was brilliant."
Leicester Weale, Naughton, Hobbs, Bamba, Berner (Neilson 90), Abe,
Wellens, King, Dyer (Waghorn 79), Vassell (Howard 83), Gallagher.
Subs Not Used: Teixeira, Oakley, Logan, Moussa.
Goals: Bamba 1, King 64.
Man City Hart, Boateng, Toure, Lescott, Kolarov, Wright-Phillips (De
Jong 46), Milner, Vieira, Adam Johnson, Jo (Zabaleta 73), Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Given, Santa Cruz, Boyata, Nimely, Ibrahim.
Goals: Milner 23, Tevez 45.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).
Arsenal 0 Manchester City 0
City make their point
Wednesday 5th January 2011 : Jed Thomas at the
Emirates Stadium for GYKO
Arsenal must sense another season of exasperation
after a fluent and authoritative display that could not quite
overcome opponents who were dogged and a little lucky when their
post was struck twice. Manchester City are now two points behind the
leaders Manchester United after playing two matches more. While
Arsenal are also in hot pursuit this was a maddening
experience for them. Composure was lost by both teams in the 90th
minute when Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta bumped heads tamely
during a dispute and were both sent off by the referee Mike Jones.
The reservations about Arsenal concern the occasional lack of
cold-blooded efficiency since it is already so obvious that they
possess burning talent. Whatever City had in mind, they were forced
to put on a defensive performance throughout the first-half. It did
not help that David Silva was missing through injury, but he might
have had an enforced absence for at least a while since Arsène
Wenger's side attacked with such incisive finesse for half-an-hour.
It would do City too much credit to say they had withstood the
pressure when the woodwork provided key resistance. Robin van Persie,
in the ninth minute, and Cesc Fábregas, 20 minutes later, both
struck the post. The speed in the Arsenal ranks is great and the
control with which possession is kept seems to accentuate it. City,
all the same, did not succumb readily Regardless of the opulent
budget, this is a line-up with much pragmatism in it.
That trait had to be complemented by luck in that first 45 minutes.
A bid for the Premier League title must still feel like a novelty to
City. As recently as two seasons ago they finished tenth. Nowadays
they are a concern to the established elite and not just for the
sort of budget that is about to bring in the Bosnia forward Edin
Dzeko for £27m. The image of the club as wastrels has begun to look
outdated now there is a severity under Roberto Mancini.
They are a side for others to worry about and Arsenal are just one
club whose hopes of taking the title now are a little better than
they will be if City continue with further recruitment of leading
footballers. Wenger does not lack for talent, but his side has an
ingrained habit of handicapping itself. In a match such as this you
can sense the team willing itself to overcome inhibitions born of
Arsenal were still far too slick for City in those first 45 minutes
and that comes through a rapport built up over a period, even if it
is rather young line-up. When Wenger's team last played at home,
however, they exposed the crumbling nature of Chelsea as the
reigning champions could not cope with the swiftness and accuracy
attacked in a 3-1 win.
City are different. Unlike Chelsea, they are coming to the fore and
the away league games have suited them so well that they had scored
19 times in them before this contest. Only Arsenal have surpassed
that, by a single goal. Whenever Mancini presents his side as rank
outsiders for the title the only thing that can stop Sheikh Mansour
from asking what, in that case, the point has been in spending so
much is the knowledge that the manager is just deflecting attention.
Even so, City had kept a dangerously low profile here in a first
half when Arsenal would have deserved to lead by a goal or two. The
previous away win for City against these opponents had come in 1975
and history was proving resistant to change.
If the whirl of Arsenal attacking was not quite at the same pace as
it had been early in the night, it still made opponents grimace. All
Wenger's man lacked was a trace of the cold-bloodedness to be a
fraction more precise at the critical moment. City, though, still
had to be content with confirming the endurance that is in them.
With an hour gone, Mancini can still have had only the most
tentative hope that his side would ever impose itself. He had to
settle for relief in the 61st minute when Joe Hart was tipping a
25-yarder from Van Persie over the bar. All that could have shaken
Arsenal was the dread that they would be punished for not
capitalising on their domination.
City, having endured such a barrage, ought to have been encouraged.
They were at least in the opposition's half more often, but their
opponents, with Andrey Arshavin on for Theo Walcott, could hope for
scope on the counterattack. It was a struggle whose intensity seldom
Arsenal Fabianski, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere
(Bendtner 81), Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott (Arshavin 68), van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Szczesny, Rosicky, Denilson, Squillaci, Chamakh.
Sent Off: Sagna (90).
Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Toure, Zabaleta, De Jong, Barry,
Toure Yaya, Milner, Tevez (Boateng 90), Jo (Adam Johnson 64).
Subs Not Used: Given, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Lescott, Vieira.
Sent Off: Zabaleta (90).
Booked: Barry, De Jong.
Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire).
Manchester City 1 Blackpool 0 City
Saturday 1st January 2011 : GYKO at the
City found Blackpool to be accomplished opponents but probably
deserved this victory given the number of chances they created. Adam
Johnson's deflected shot keeps Roberto Mancini's side hanging on
Manchester United's coattails at the top of the table and they could
also reflect on Carlos Tevez's missed penalty a minute after the
Yet City were made to work hard for their third straight win and
Tevez's carelessness from the spot meant there were plenty of
anxious moments against a Blackpool side playing with confidence and
drive. This was an open match, with numerous chances at both ends,
and there were long spells, particularly in the second half, when
Ian Holloway's team threatened to undermine City's title challenge.
Blackpool, once again, played in a manner that suggests they should
achieve their main objective of surviving relegation with something
to spare. They were quick to the ball, strong in the tackle and
played with a sense of adventure that was refreshing for an away
team playing one of the top four teams.
Their expansive system leaves them vulnerable at times in defence,
however, and Mancini was entitled to wonder how his side had not
managed more goals. Tevez, in particular, was let down by some
erratic finishing and, with Mario Balotelli resting a sore knee,
there were times when the Argentinean was isolated in attack,
leaving Mancini even more animated than usual in the technical area
– and perhaps a little angry, too, given the way he threw his gloves
to the floor at the final whistle.
"We didn't take advantage of some good opportunities to get the
second goal," his assistant, David Platt, said. "That would have
given us more freedom to play. We were on a knife-edge that
Blackpool could score the second goal and it became a bit nervous.
Out of the two teams, we were probably the one that was pleased to
hear the final whistle."
City may have to be more clinical if they are to take anything from
Wednesday's game at Arsenal and, looking further ahead, keep up the
pressure on United. They also lost David Silva to a knee injury, yet
it still amounted to a satisfying afternoon, courtesy of Johnson's
fifth goal of the season. Aleksandar Kolarov's corner was headed out
by Gary Taylor-Fletcher and when Johnson fired a low 20-yard shot
through a congested penalty area the ball flicked off Stephen
Crainey to beat Richard Kingson for the game's decisive moment.
The inquest was still going on in the visitors' defence when Luke
Varney brought down Yaya Touré inside the penalty area to give Tevez
the chance to double the lead, only for City's leading scorer to
scuff his effort wide.
A second goal at that stage would have given the game an entirely
different complexion. Instead, Blackpool demonstrated why they have
won five away matches this season, pressing numbers forward. Charlie
Adam and David Vaughan were excellent in midfield and the substitute
Matt Phillips excelling on the right side of attack, leading Mancini
to withdraw a shaky Kolarov.
"We threw everything we had at them in the second half," Holloway
said. "I put our centre-half up front and put on all our strikers. I
don't think we could have been more positive. We gave away a
horrific goal but, that apart, we gave them a good game. We were
meant to be 'the worst team ever' but we've surprised a few people
and we'll continue to surprise people."
Man City Hart, Boateng, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov (Zabaleta 58), De
Jong, Barry, Adam Johnson, Toure Yaya (Vieira 85), Silva (Milner
Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Wright-Phillips, Jo.
Goals: Adam Johnson 34.
Blackpool Kingson, Eardley, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey,Sylvestre
(Phillips 46), Vaughan, Adam, Varney (Carney 82),Campbell,
Taylor-Fletcher (Ormerod 74).
Subs Not Used: Halstead, Southern, Baptiste, Edwards.
Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).