Date: 26th December 2009 at 7:19pm
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Today`s home fixture against a battling, Tony Pulis Stoke side would be where the eagerly anticipated first fixture of Roberto Mancini was witnessed. After a short reign at the helm for Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini took charge of what is turning out to be a much debated announcement.

Whether Mancini stays at City for the duration of his contract will be down to the results and performances. A top four finish is the aim for all concerned with the club and today`s clash was a must win.

Several brave and some enforced changes greeted the home fans on arrival today. Both Petrov and Robinho started, De Jong was back from suspension, Kompany replaced the injured Onohua and Bellamy was amongst the substitutes.

Both the tactical awareness as well as a typical Italian defensive back door shut out were hot topics that were expected under the arrival of Mancini. These debates would have been confirmed successful as the final whistle approached. A returning goal for Petrov and another goal from the in-form Tevez capitalised on a weak Stoke side to ensure Mancini started his tenure with a winning start.

The match which unfolded at Eastlands proved more a professional performance from us rather than scintillating. The defence were strong and with the backing of Given behind them only a Tuncay effort in the first half gave us problems. The midfield trio of De Jong, Barry and Ireland all worked efficiently and the strike force bar Robinho were technically sound and created problems.

With the pace of Petrov, skill of Robinho and determination of Tevez upfront the Stoke defence looked shaky. Several attacks created nothing more than territory possession, but the impetus would always be with us.

Several penalty shouts followed, but the referee looked determined not to double the blues penalty tally. First, Barry checked back where a sliding Faye looked the handle the ball. The first was more conclusive but was turned down, then Robinho went down easily after a body check from Wilkinson, the referee bringing the correct outcome from a frivolous appeal. The third appeal of the half was again turned down after Barry was legally brought down.

The match needed a goal and it was the returning Petrov who put City ahead. Great work by Tevez as he bustled his way in the Stoke box, the striker than set up Robinho who hopelessly shot wide, the ball luckily fell to Petrov who poked in from close range.

A deserved lead from City, who were beginning to take the game to Stoke. Petrov should have made it two with a chance not to dissimilar to his goal, the winger this time hit his shot horrendously wide.

As the half-time whistle loomed a goal from the excellent Tevez completed a dominating first half. The ball broke to Zabaleta far left, the Argentine swung a cross deep into the box, Barry then headed on the ball which found the poaching Tevez, the striker completed the move poking the ball past a helpless Sorenson.

H-T 2-0

Mancini would have been pleased with a tight and professional first half display.

The Blues came out from the dressing room impressive and Petrov nearly added to his earlier goal. The chance fell to Petrov on the edge of the box whose curled shot was saved by the desperate dive of Sorenson.

Pulis took time to make several changes, bringing on all three subs in quick succession. The changes brought little joy to the travelling side who witnessed the home side soak up the pressure.

No great chances were falling to either side and it was now Bellamy coming on for the unimpressive Robinho. The Welshman has been inspirational all season and was denied a clear penalty, our fourth shout of the game.

The defence remained tight and Stoke offered very little in a poor second half.

F-T 2-0

The anticipation surrounding this match added to the Boxing Day occasion. The clean sheet was our first at home since August and a depleted side performed well under circumstances.

Player Ratings

Given- 7
A vital save in the first half from Tuncay prevented Stoke taking the lead. The keeper worked well with his defence and didn`t look like conceding. A well earned clean sheet.

Zabaleta- 7
The full back was very efficient and the back and put in some good strong tackles. Also, worked well going forward and created chances.

Toure- 7
The captain looked stronger than previous encounters and worked well with Kompany at the back. Still believe he lacks leadership abilities.

Kompany- 8
Very strong defensively and played like he had been the stalwart all season. More performances of a similar mould will see a consistent position.

Sylvinho- 7
Strongest game of the season. Looked good defensively and like Zabaleta created chances through the overlap.

De Jong- 8
Proved his worth time and time again and another strong performance from the combative defensive midfielder.

Barry- 8
Assured and comfortable in possession, Barry was at his best. The midfielder broke up the play and created several meaningful chances

Ireland- 7
Pushed forward well and created several key openings. Combined well with the strikeforce and was unlucky not too have assisted several goals.

Petrov- 8
The winger was instrumental going forward and used his pace and crossing abilities to carve open the Stoke defence. Deserved his goal.

Robinho- 5
Poor and looked completely off the pace. Lack of effort and enthusiasm, will be lucky to start any forthcoming fixtures.

Tevez- 7
Deserved his goal and battled extremely well. The striker is in great form and is the lynchpin of the forward line.

Richards- 6
Was very strong and looked well positioned at right back.

Bellamy- 6
A surprise none starter proved his worth when coming on. Deserved a penalty and created confusion for the Stoke defence.

Manager Rating
Mancini- A successful start to the Mancini era. Tactically sound and made his defence aware. Professional display from all.


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