The milestones came thick and fast – Roberto Mancini’s 100th game as Manchester City manager, City’s 200thgoal under the Italian’s stewardship and Carlos Tevez’ 50th Premier League strike in sky blue.
It’s a fact that whenever Tevez scores in the PL for City or Yaya scores at all, City have never lost – and so it was against QPR on Saturday.
But the only statistics that really mattered were three points three goals and 29 wins in an unbeaten run of 31 PL encounters at the Etihad Stadium since December 2010, as City beat Rangers 3-1.
It’s a cherished record but one that has looked increasingly creaky as City have made heavy work of their last three wins against supposedly ‘inferior’ opponents – QPR twice and newly promoted Southampton.
The Etihad faithful haven’t wanted for anxiety, drama or entertainment with City racking up nine goals to five conceded, and so it was as the home team deservedly overcame Mark Hughes’ much changed Rangers.
The old clichés of winning ugly and it being a sign of champions that a team can under perform and still win games will be of some consolation to Mancini, as City continue to amass points without the Rolls Royce performances of this time last season.
As in all three matches this season City came firing out of the blocks, dominating the first 20 minutes with slick passing and fluent movement but being far too profligate in front of goal.
The 16th minute breakthrough from Yaya Toure was scant reward for City’s domination. Carlos Tevez connected with David Silva’s corner for an assist of sorts as his acrobatic effort fell to the Ivorian man mountain who buried his shot past QPR keeper Green.
City continued to press but without reward and QPR came closest to equalizing courtesy of a bizarre looping ‘back pass’ from the halfway line by City’s Jack Rodwell. Hart scrambled to touch the goal bound effort over his bar to safety.
Despite the blip Rodwell is acclimatizing to his new surroundings quickly, showing no signs of being overawed and looking a sound investment for the present as well as the future.
The slim half time lead left City vulnerable to any defensive lapse and so it proved but only after the splendid Pablo Zabaleta was thwarted by the crossbar. A firm City favourite, the swashbuckling Argentine marauded down the right flank, took a deft Silva pass in his stride and exquisitely curled the ball over Green. A contender for goal of the season…had it gone in!
QPR were level on the hour when the industrious Andy Johnson wriggled free on the left of the City 18 yard box firing a rasping drive at Joe Hart who reacted well to save. But it was the largely anonymous Bobby Zamora, head swathed in bandages who reacted first to the loose ball and nodded home.
The City scoreboard operator – possibly anticipating a re-run of the 13 May cliffhanger – somehow conspired to flash City 1 QPR 2 on the massive electronic screen but thankfully that wasn’t to be.
City weren’t going there again. Within two minutes they were ahead thanks to the terrific terrier-like Tevez who ripped the Rangers’ defence apart, pulling a cross back from the byline for Edin Dzeko to expertly execute a header in the six yard box. 2-1 to the champions.
Kolo Toure, James Milner and Abdul Razak were introduced for the injured Zabaleta, tiring Silva and impressive Nasri, before Tevez kept up his goal-a-game ratio for City – four in four including the Community Shield.
Tevez – now forgiven by the masses and rehabilitated by Mancini – is the main man once again and so he proved with a gut-busting display, capped by his 90th minute stab at Dzeko’s mishit drive.
The 3-1 scoreline didn’t flatter City who could have been 3-0 up by half time but there is plenty of room for improvement.
The influx of Garcia, Nastasic, Maicon and Sinclair, along with the returning Aguero, Barry and Richards will intensify competition for places and sharpen up City’s performances.