Sky Monday night football gave our Beloved Blues the chance to go four point clear of our only real challenger for fourth place, Spurs. With a win tonight and a home win against Spurs on the 10th of May, City could well be seven points clear with two games to go, guaranteeing Champions League football next season.
Mancini named an unchanged team from the one that defeated United at Wembley whilst Rovers Manager Steve Kean named two changes, swapping around his two strikers bringing in Jason Roberts and Benjani for Roque Santa Cruz and Ruben Rochina.
The game started with City kicking off, right to left and Silva was fouled immediately. The alarm bells started to ring for Blackburn right away as City stroked the ball around the park at pace, with David Silva at the centre of everything. City`s first corner came after Silva had struck the post on three minutes and the confidence began to ooze from the Blues.
Blackburn entered the City half on five minutes and were instantly snuffed out by the towering Kompany. Two minutes later Balotelli struck a free kick on target but too close to the keeper.
Our fifth shot on target came on nine minutes, a long range pile driver from Kolarov which was only inches over the bar. Silva was purring in the City engine room linking play between defence and attack with invention and intelligence and Blackburn seemed at a loss as to how to deal with him.
Salgado was throwing himself about with aplomb firstly clattering Kolarov and then Silva, gifting Johnson with a chance which he blazed over on 17 minutes after a neat free kick by Silva. Blackburn were resorting to dirty tactics and Toure found himself half blinded by a finger to the eye on 20 minutes.
City were cruising, dealing easily with anything Blackburn could muster and having nearly 80% of the ball in the first 25 minutes. Amazingly, considering the stamping, eye poking and general dirty tactics employed by Blackburn, Barry was first to go into the book for his second block of the game. The resultant free kick was taken by Dunn and who tamely passed the ball to Hart.
As the half wore on Blackburn started to gain a little more control and were holding onto the ball for longer periods and with better strikers could have scored on thirty seven minutes after a great cross from the Blackburn right.
Whilst City were still in control, Blackburn were foraging more and more out of their own half as City seemed to run out of momentum but Kompany marshalled the defensive unit well. One worrying thing was becoming apparent; as the half drew to a close, City seemed to be playing with ten men?.where was Adam Johnson?
The first half actually started with a Johnson(!) cross nearly leading to Toure scoring with his head, but the Blackburn keeper managed to push the ball over the bar. Blackburn then reverted to type when Toure was cynically brought down by Jones and left hobbling off the pitch.
Five minutes on and Blackburn had their best chance of the game as Kolarov lost possession and allowed Blackburn to cross from the right. Lescott lost Roberts who luckily mis-shot. The ball fell to Olssen who neatly finished into the side netting. A lucky break for City.
Blackburn were without doubt playing higher up the pitch now and City were coming under more pressure and failing to hold onto the ball for the long spells they had in the first half. The possession stats were being reversed and it was now City who were playing a containment game as Blackburn visibly upped their effort.
City were giving the ball away far too much and even De Jong who rarely passes to anything but a team mate was remiss of poor distribution. Blackburn were definitely back in this game and the first fifteen minutes of the second half were all theirs. City had not scored in the first half in which they clearly dominated and there was everything to play for but it was the home side who were the ones showing more hunger and desire.
City`s first shot of the second half didn`t come until the 67th minute when Silva attempted a low curling shot which went wide of the post. Blackburn though, were quick to answer when Benjani rifled a shot just wide of Hart`s right post only minutes later.
The first substitution of the half was made by Blackburn as Klasnic in the 69th minute replaced Benjani who had in truth not put one shot on target. This was quickly followed by a City change as Dzeko replaced the near (I did say near) invisible Adam Johnson.
City began to hold onto the ball a little better with Silva again at the centre of things. Good work on the left between Toure and Silva led to Dzeko finding himself with the ball at his feet unmarked ten yards out from goal. A smart side foot later and City were one nil up and Dzeko had his first Premier League goal for the Blues.
Following the goal Blackburn reverted to type as the wonderfully handy Salgado delivered a delightful elbow to the jaw of Balotelli and once again was overlooked by the ref.
With ten minutes to go City were in control of the game and appeared to have three David Silva`s on the pitch as he turned up on the left, on the right and in the middle, having a hand (or foot) in everything good City did.
With 7 minutes to go, a yellow card and an elbow to the jaw, Mancini withdrew the ever volatile Balotelli and replaced him with Patrick Viera in a bid to tighten up the midfield and hold onto a precious three points which keeps fourth place likely and third place a possibility.
Two minutes later Diouf replaced Givet for Blackburn and whilst the two sides wrestled in midfield I think Blackburn took the wrestling a little too seriously as Jones took Dzeko out with a foot to the midriff so high that it would have cleared my head.
Man of the match David Silva was replaced on 90 minutes by Dedryk Boyata as City sought to strengthen defensively for the five minutes of extra time.
The final whistle blew and the relief on the City faces was apparent. A one nil win enough to strengthen the hold on a position in the elite group of Champions League clubs in Europe. Well done to David Silva for a master class on how to play an offensive midfield role. Well done to Roberto Mancini for opening up a gap on Spurs and well done Blackburn for showing us the brutal side of football.
Joe Hart – 7
Was up to the task when called upon, especially in the first half hour of the second half. Still has a problem with his distribution
Pablo Zabaleta – 7
Tenacious in the tackle and supported the attack well when City were in possession.
Vincent Kompany – 7.5
Reliable, hard working and marshalled the defence well. Stood up to the Blackburn bully boy tactics.
Joleon Lescott – 6.5
At fault for a couple of the Blackburn chances losing the player he was marking.
Aleksandar Kolarov – 7
One bad mistake in the second half but supported the midfield well and put in some good crosses. Improving as the season finishes.
Nigel De Jong – 8
The best defensive midfielder in the Premier League and in the top three in Europe…if I have another son he is being called Nigel.
Gareth Barry – 7
Steady Eddy. Didn’t put a foot wrong and tackled at important moments. I do think his lack of pace will be a problem next year.
Adam Johnson – 6
Invisible for the most part and I think the rating is generous but we won.
Yaya Toure – 7.5
Made a lot of his trade mark runs and seems to be settling into his new role further forward. But for a poor first touch would probably have had a goal.
David Silva – 8.5
Ran the midfield putting in a phenomenal effort and rarely did a pass go astray. I think he plays better when Tevez isn’t in the team.
Mario Balotelli – 7
Tackled back on occasion and was strong on the ball. Got booked but didn’t rise to the physical tactics employed by Blackburn.
Dzeko – 7.5
Scored his first premier league goal for City and how important will that goal be!
Came on too late to mark
Came on too late to mark.
Roberto Mancini – 7
Picked the same team that beat United and ended up with the same result.
Well done Roberto, a step closer to the Champions League.
Steve Kean – 6
This was a game that Rovers would have done well to draw. As it was, City were too much for Blackburn.