Finally after weeks of trailing United by eight points, Mancini`s words finally had an effect on United`s opposition as despite playing against twelve men for much of the match, Everton gained an unusual point at Old Trafford drawing a scintillating match 4-4. So as we went into today`s match in which a win would relegate the opposition, Wolves, to the Championship. It would also see City trailing their bitter rivals by only three points, going into the home Derby against them.
The team saw a couple of changes from the one that demolished Norwich and read as follows: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Yaya, Barry, Nasri, Silva, Aguero and Tevez. The bench consisted of: Pantillimon, Kolarov, Kolo, De Jong, Milner, Johnson and Dzeko.
The half kicked off with City in possession and in just the opening seconds, Mancini`s charges showed their intent as Tevez drove a wicked shot just wide of the far post. Wolves must have wondered what they were in for as the Blues played the ball around with pace and genuine intent.
How quickly things can change as Wolves upped their tempo and broke down field as they were under pressure. Bassong found himself free and struck the ball well, his shot taking a deflection as Hart back pedalled, looking nervous.
In the 6th minute, Aguero beat Wolves` flat back four and the offside trap to bear down on goal, but good defending forced him wide and his shot just scraped the post.
The game ebbed and flowed as City as expected put Wolves under pressure, but the home side time and time again threatened on the counter attack. In the 10th minute, Wolves earnt themselves a corner which was cleared by Zabaleta and saw City themselves counter attack the homeside.
A minute later and Hart was being forced into a great save as Wolves showed a great deal of spirit and tried to match City`s quality with endeavour and teamwork.
By the 20th minute, City had seen two more chances go astray as first Zabaleta set up Nasri only for the Frenchman to drag his shot wide and then a mistake by Stearman allowed Aguero a chance on goal, but the City forward chose to shoot early and fluffed his chance.
It was looking like one of those days for Aguero as his movement and pace were being applied flawlessly and his team mates were finding him with aplomb, however despite all these chances, he had yet to find the net. That all changed in the 27th minute as Clichy broke down the left. He looked -up to see Aguero making a dangerous run between the two center-halves. Clichy whipped in a perfect cross which Aguero managed, off balance, to pass the ball away from the keepers outstretched fingers and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Wolves on occasion threatened as the half wore on but each ball they crossed in was met by the stalwarts that were Kompany and Lescott and if they weren`t enough, Hart was in fine form. City had a couple of half chances before the whistle went for the break and could feel the more satisfied of the two teams as they went in for a well earnt break.
The opening ten minutes of the second half were a total contrast to the first half, as Wolves looked determined not to go out with a whimper. They were first to every ball and were winning every fifty fifty and whilst the score remained only 1-0, they were in with a chance of taking something from the game.
On the stroke of 56 minutes, Mancini`s heart must have been in his mouth as he saw his defence seemingly disintegrate under a prolonged Wolves attack. City were looking nervous as they came under more and more pressure when suddenly Fletcher found himself with time and space on the ball. He unleashed a wicked shot which at first looked to have Hart beaten before England`s best threw himself full length to make a timely save and keep his team in the lead.
City`s first substitution came in the 59th minute as Silva, who had hardly been involved in the second half was replaced by De Jong, as Mancini sought to give his team more bit and an extra pair of legs in midfield and allow the towering Ivorian to play further forward.
The tactical move from Mancini certainly had a positive effect on City as they seemed to have more dynamism in the final third of the field as Yaya picked up the ball and played it neatly. His driving runs were causing Wolves all sorts of problems as they failed to cope with his sheer strength and pace.
The second goal for City, when it came was a great piece of quick thinking by Tevez. The striker was brought to the ground by a foul as his marker attempted to kick him off the floor; the ref blew for a free kick. Tevez jumped up and quickly played the ball to Barry who played a one touch return pass to the already running Argentinian. Tevez looked up once and saw the run of Nasri between left back and centre half playing a perfect pass for Nasri to side foot the ball into the Wolves net. 2-0.
That was Tevez`s last contribution to the game as he was replaced by Adam Johnson and the young winger nearly made an instant impact as he unleashed a great shot which had the keeper beaten hands down but also beat the far post.
City didn`t have it all their own way in the final fifteen minutes as Wolves battled desperately looking for some form of solace and reward for the effort that they had clearly put in, but City`s defence was in a different class to their attack as each ball in was repulsed.
In the 82nd minute, Aguero once again showed his class and his inexperience in the same second. He made another perfect run into the channel. Yaya found him with a great pass, but instead of taking one touch before smashing the ball past the keeper, he decided to try and dribble past the defender and didn`t even manage to get of a shot. Profligacy of the highest order and something that may cause City problems if the season is decided on goal difference.
City`s final substitution came in the 85th minute as Nasri, scorer of City`s second goal, was replaced with Kolo as Mancini looked to shore up the already solid City back line and make sure of the three points that would put his team in touch with their bitter and seemingly, bottler, rivals.
The Blues saw the match out without ever really looking under threat. This was by no means a perfect performance by City as they wasted chance after chance, but they did what was needed under immense pressure having seen United once again drop points to inferior opposition and now knew that the League Title was almost certainly in their hands.
Joe Hart – 8
Didn’t have much to do but when called upon showed why he is the best in the world.
Pablo Zabaleta – 7.5
Worked hard and tackled hard. A great player to have in your team.
Vincent Kompany – 8
Captain Invincible and up their with the best in his position and still only young.
Joleon Lescott – 8
Playing some of the best football of his career and looking World class. Hardly put a foot wrong.
Gael Clichy – 8
Delightful cross for Aguero’s and City’s first goal. Was found wanting for one or two crosses, but his offensive work outweighs his defensive lapses.
Yaya Toure – 7.5
Played better when Silva went off and he was allowed to roam further forward. Another great player to have in your team.
Gareth Barry – 8.5
City’s unsung hero in midfield. Does the dirty stuff and tidies up without giving the ball away. A truly class player.
Samir Nasri – 7.5
Scored a goal and had another reasonable game for City. Still not playing with the form he showed at Arsenal.
David Silva – 7.5
Had a great first half but disappeared in the second and was replaced by De Jong.
Carlos Tevez – 8
Ran his heart out and created a couple of chances for himself. His quick thinking made the second goal.
Sergio Aguero – 8.5
Scored a great goal, whilst falling backwards. Showed truly world class movement and created a bagful of chances with it. Still wasted too many and could have and maybe should have had a hat trick.
Nigel De Jong – 7
Shored up the midfield and allowed Yaya to play in a more advanced role.
Adam Johnson – 7
Had a great chance almost as soon as he came on.
Too late to mark.
Roberto Mancini – 8
His mind games had a great impact on Everton and he must have been wishing he had been on the pitch to finish more of the chances his team created. Could still win the title. Forza Mancini.
Ref Watch – Lee Probert.
Wow, a ref that had a good game….now that’s unusual but Lee Probert officiated well and made little in the way of mistakes.