MAN CITY v SWANSEA – Mancini playing the long, long game

There’s winning ugly and there’s winning pig ugly and extending this unsightly encounter to make it the longest Premier League fixture in history did nothing to beautify proceedings.

A near capacity Etihad crowd endured an additional 12 minutes and 45 seconds after the regulation 90 minutes were interrupted for medical treatment following nasty injuries to Swansea keeper Michel Vorm and Micah Richards.

It was a case of quantity over quality as the minutes ticked by but it’s supposed to be the trademark of champions when a team wins when far from its best.

The Fergie-fearing tabloid’s football journos have always exalted Manchester United over the years when they have ground out unattractive, but vital victories. When Mancini’s Manchester City does it, it’s supposed to be evidence of team in disarray and splits in the dressing room.

Such hideous hypocritical sycophants.

Granted this was not easy on the eye – the fact City’s first shot on target came in the 38th minute tells its own story – but this is a City undefeated in the Premier League since Easter Sunday, one point off the top of the table and ravaged by injuries.

With enforced changes due to injuries to Aleksander Kolarov and the suspected dislocated knee of Micah Richards, the under pressure Mancini now has more than a quarter of his squad out of action. 

The first half was truly and easily forgettable with the only point of real interest being an excellent save by Joe Hart as the dangerous Michu broke clear only to be thwarted by Hart’s block in a one-on-one situation.

It had been perhaps the most lacklustre display of Mancini’s reign with the home fans being totally underwhelmed by the ‘entertainment’ on offer.

Carlos Tevez was the only outfield player to acquit himself with any real credibility as he worked tirelessly on the frontline, as well as dropping deeper to collect the ball.

Mario Balotelli replaced the injured Kolarov, albeit the Serb with the sweet left foot had been anonymous out on the right wing. Question is, what the hell was he doing there in the first place?

Moments after entering the tedium the Italian took a precision pass from Nasri in the Swansea box, only to be forced wide by keeper Vorm and, his effort from an acute angle, came to nothing.

Seconds later Balotelli had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Martin Atkinson. Tevez and Richards combined and zipped the ball low across the six yard box. Balotelli went down under the close attentions of Chico when it seemed easier to score. It added weight to his protests because why dive when he would surely have scored?

Michu sent a header straight at Hart following another of Swansea’s fine passing movements. A better placement and the champions would have been 1-0 down and with no real cause for complaint.

On the hour, the irrepressible and splendid Tevez conjured up the breakthrough. Gael Clichy – one of the few who put in the proverbial ‘shift’, cut in from the left, squared the ball to the indefatigable Argentine who sent a 30 yard drive arrowing into the bottom left corner of Vorm’s net.

Wakey wakey, City were 1-0 to the good. Vorm, however wasn’t, having torn a groin muscle in his acrobatic attempt to reach the Tevez strike. Warm applause greeted the plucky Dutchman as he was stretchered away.

The untried 33 year old Gerhard Tremmel came out for only his second ever PL appearance in goal.  Would this be the cue to City to unload their frustration on the wounded Swans and reward their loyal fans….er, no!

On the contrary a poor clearance from Nasri almost landed the Frenchman with an assist for the opposition as the lively De Guzman fired a 20 yard screamer just wide, with Hart scrambling.

The lowlight of the match was a clearly distraught Richards writhing in agony in City’s box with no other player within 10 yards. The stretcher crew gained more live ESPN exposure as they carried off the stricken defender as he inhaled comforting gulps of oxygen.

When the 12 additional minutes went up on the added time display it was clearly not your conventional keep the ball and see out the win time. Nonetheless the seemingly out-of-favour Joleon Lescott came on for Aguero to help preserve the precious advantage.

Tevez was quite rightly given the laurels as Man of the Match after a tenacious display embroidered with moments of genuine quality, far and above the evening’s long and torturous offerings.

In reality the manner of the victory was of no consequence. It represented the 31st win in an unbeaten 34 match PL run at M11 3FF and bought time for Mancini to quell the doubters.

 

 

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