As 2010 approaches its exciting close, one things for sure, what a year this has been for Manchester City FC.
On the eve of 2010 last December, only one emotion surrounded Eastland`s, embarrassment. Mark Hughes and his coaching staff had been controversially dismissed previously as City defeated Sunderland and the highly paid City stars were performing far below the required standards.
12 months later, City sit pretty at the top of the Barclays Premier League, albeit having played three more games than their neighbours` United, and have a manager who has the greatest of backing and faith from City`s hierarchy.
Labelled the master tactician, Roberto Mancini, made five big-name changes from the side that defeated Newcastle on Boxing Day, but despite a raised eyebrow from many before, his side rewarded his faith in the fringe players with a demolishing 4-0 victory over a labouring Aston Villa side.
A Mario Balotelli hat-trick and a rare goal from Joleon Lescott ended the year on a high and placed City above rivals United.
Previously and unfairly labelled “boring city” under the Italian, City`s approach play and fluent football has turned them into one of the most exciting football sides to watch.
Aston Villa looked hapless early on and were perhaps missing the defensive steel which Richard Dunne would have surely provided them with. There was also no return for “superman” Stephen Ireland as the away side looked devoid of ideas and far from strong enough to compete with their superior opponents.
The breakthrough from the blues came early on after magic from David Silva released Balotelli who was hauled down from Villa defender Lichaj.
The Italian striker quickly brushed himself off and from 12 yards home, nonchalantly dispatched his spot-kick.
City`s lead was doubled soon after when assistant referee confirmed Joleon Lescott`s header had crossed the line after Barry Bannan`s header failed to prevent the ball from crossing the goal-line.
With Silva the architect of everything sublime for City and Villa crumbling under the pressure, the Eastland`s crowd didn`t have long to wait for a third goal. Twisting, turning and brushing off several Villa challenges, Silva jinked majestically, his left-foot shot couldn`t quite beat the dive of Brad Friedel, however, Balotelli was on hand to convert subsequently.
For Villa to mount a come-back was seemingly impossible and it was mainly down to the visitors defence doing their best to remain resolute for the remainder of the encounter.
With City comfortable on the ball and not looking to press, Villa were delighted. However, there was still a chance for Balotelli to complete his hat-trick. There would have been no better chance than another opportunity from 12 yards and that`s exactly what he got after Mark Albrighton brought down the dazzling Johnson.
Balotelli again slotted home and completed his first treble in a City shirt.
If this was a sign of what is on the horizon for next year with Mancini at the helm, then it is set to be a very exciting 2011.
Had no problems. His distribution has a box ticked, ‘room for improvement’.
Powerful, fast and energetic, helped going forward and defensively.
Oozes class week in week out.
A great goal and defensive tackle after Hart’s spill. He has his chance and should stay there.
You know what you’re going to get from him. 100% commitment.
Assured in possesion.
Possibly the best defensive midfielder in the world.
DRove City forward on a few ocassions.
The best technically gifted footballer at City since Kinky.
Good to see him performing to the standard he knows he can.
Strong and influential.
Should have scored.
Last minute performance.