This match saw City with the chance to equal Newcastle`s 19 match unbeaten home run record set over 80 years ago, as City faced relegation threatened Bolton. The game saw a number of changes as Silva, Richards and Aguero all dropped to the bench as Zabaleta, Nasri and Balotelli came in. Bolton made a number of changes and set up with American international Tim Reame playing in front of his back four in an attempt prevent City from scoring too many.
The game started at 90 miles an hour and City could have been four up in the first ten minutes. In the first minute, Bolton were already under the cosh and David Wheater`s diving block denied Samir Nasri after wonderful build up play between Adam Johnson and Pablo Zabaleta.
Only sixty seconds later and the Blues went even closer as Yaya Toure chipped a wonderful ball through for the onrushing Balotelli. The Italian opened up his body and struck a perfect shot across Bogdan which unluckily for Balotelli came back off the inside of the far post. Nasri was first to the ball and he looked favourite to score before Bogdan pulled off a fine double save.
What followed was a spectacle of attacking football and profligacy in front of goal as Balotelli was guilty of wasting a number of fine chances to put the game beyond Bolton as his purported early morning frolics seemed to have taken the shine off his shooting boots. City attacked and Bolton defended, as the visitors rarely ventured out of their own half, their only outlet seeming to be long balls which were repulsed with ease by Kompany and Lescott.
The breakthrough, when it eventually came, came from the most unlikely of sources. Gael Clichy, the only outfield player on show who had never scored for City, made a break down the left side of midfield. Good movement by Barry and Balotelli created space for the full back who struck a powerful and wicked shot toward goal. The ball struck Steinsson on its way toward goal, the deflection wrong footing Bogdan and giving City a thoroughly deserved lead.
The only ray of light for Bolton on an afternoon when City brushed them easily aside without even breaking a sweat, was their on loan winger, Ryo Miyaichi. The Arsenal loanee looked excellent against Kolo Toure. Other than that, this local derby was merely a spectacle for the gulf in class between the two teams.
The Blues nearly added a second goal just before half time, after a lovely flowing counter attacking move after City won the ball in their own half. Toure picked the ball up and surged up field with Kompany of all people making a supporting run. Yaya played a square ball cross field to Kompany, who gathered the ball, turned and passed to Balotelli in one sumptuous liquid movement. Balotelli though was having one of those days. Getting into the perfect position every time but fluffing his lines, as this time Bogdan blocked with his legs.
Balotelli nearly scored City`s second as soon as the second half was underway, but again Bogdan was on hand to save Bolton from the thrashing that this game so nearly was. The second half continued as a spectacles of disparity as one team desperately hung on to respectability whilst the other bossed the ball around with swagger and confidence borne out of true world class brilliance.
The second goal when it came, was provided by another unlikely source as the invisible man that is Adam Johnson finally popped up on the right wing and showed some unfamiliar persistence to get past two defenders and make the by-line. His cheeky backheel caught the Bolton defence unawares and gave Balotelli a chance that even he couldn`t fluff as City scored again, making it 2-0.
City brought on Dzeko and Milner late in the game to add to the enforced replacement of Zabaleta by Kolo Toure early in the first half as the team passed and passed and passed barely breaking a sweat and seemingly content to stay at 2-0. The points in the bag and five points clear meant the players could put their feet up and enjoy MOTD tonight, but the scoreline should have been at least 6-0 and I for one hope Mancini let`s his charges know.
Joe Hart – 7
Was a spectator today and really wasn’t tested at all.
Pablo Zabaleta – 7
Looked excellent both defensively and in attack until he went off injured.
Vincent Kompany – 7
Imperious. Quite simple. Never challenged in the air or on the ground.
Joleon Lescott – 7.5
Looked outstanding today and covered every time one of his colleagues got caught out of position. Didn’t put a foot wrong.
Gael Clichy – 7.5
Scored a goal (albeit from a wicked deflection) and got forward well.
David Pizarro – 7
Didn’t put a foot wrong. Thrown in at the deep end and showed that class shines.
Gareth Barry – 7
His usual steady eddy performance, if he had pace he would be in the top ten midfielders in the world.
Yaya Toure – 7
Ran a lot, had some good touches, but really looked a bit slow and lumbering today.
Samir Nasri – 6
Hasn’t lived up to his potential and disappeared at times today.
Adam Johnson – 6
Has the skill but truly doesn’t look the part. Clearly doesn’t like to sweat. Although through part luck and part cheeky back heel, set up Balotelli for his goal.
Mario Balotelli – 7.5
Scored the winner, should have scored more and kept his temper in check. Well done.
Kolo Toure – 6.5
Looked a bit lumbering at times but did put in a shift.
Edin Dzeko – 7
Nearly scored and his approach play and positioning was excellent.
Too late to mark.
Roberto Mancini – 7
Should have won by a greater margin but is going to break more records in the coming weeks.
Mark Clattenberg had a poor game today. Inconsistent and repeatedly poor decisions. Clearly likes being centre of attention and is a perfect example of why we need TV replays, as the current crop of so called Premier League referees are quite simply not up to the job.