City played Wolves for the second time in a week today flying high in the top position of the Premier League. With United only managing to score one goal away at a lacklustre Everton and if Wednesday night`s performance was anything to go by, the afternoon should finish with a five point lead and a considerable improvement in goal difference.
Mancini reverted mostly, to the team that beat United six one with a couple of exceptions. Kolarov came in for Clichy, Nasri in for Milner and Dzeko replace Balotelli. One important stat for this game was the fact that Micah Richards was making his 200th appearance in a Blue shirt. This team had everything, skill, pace, a team ethic and goals galore. Would the first first team beat Wolves by more than the second first team?
City kicked off right to left with Kun and Silva over the ball and were immediately on the offensive earning a corner on their left after good work between Nasri and Kolarov. First shot on target came on seventy five seconds after the ball was cleared and Nasri volleyed neatly from the edge of the box forcing a good save from Hennessey the Wolves keeper.
City were putting together some great passing and movement as they earnt another corner in the fifth minute and although it was cleared, the portents were there. Even with the Wolves midfield was packed with five players, City were playing the ball through them with ease and when Wolves were in possession, a Blue shirt was constantly snapping at their heels forcing mistakes and regaining possession.
City put some lovely link up play on the left side of attack as Silva and Aguero interchanged passes that sliced through the nervous Wolves defence. Suddenly Aguero found himself free of his marker on the edge of the box. He unleashed a powerful shot with his right foot which went high and wide. The omens were there for Wolves, as this was City starting slowly as they have all season.
Thirteen minutes in and City were exerting almost constant pressure on the opposition defence. Passing and probing, holding on to the ball and feeling their way round the midfield and attack. This was beautiful football, the way the game should be played, the players working for each other.
Two minutes later and Richards broke down the right on an overlapping run. Dzeko played the ball perfectly between centre half and full back to find the run. One look up and the ball was played across the face of goal to meet the outstretched foot of Dzeko who couldn`t finish.
Wolves won a corner on nineteen minutes which was well defended by City and cleared quickly for a break upfield which once again had Silva at the centre of it things. This was what we wanted to see. Seconds later and Barry was the recipient of a yellow card for a late tackle.
On twenty two minutes Silva intercepted a pass and with a neat turn had played Aguero in. The stocky Argentinian took one step and unleashed a looping volley which was only just pushed round the post by the Wolves keeper. The four pronged attack was starting to purr and the Wolves defence did not know who to mark.
Within two minutes City were attacking again, first Dzeko running on to a pass from Kolarov to cross into the box and then seconds later Richards putting in a cross which Aguero really should have scored from.
City were playing well and were creating the chances you would have expected them too, but the goals just weren`t going in today. Both Dzeko and Aguero had been guilty of profligacy in front of goal in the opening half hour and whilst Hart hadn`t yet been tested, the fans were becoming very subdued. Although since twety five of the thirty two goals scored by City had come in the second half so surely more was yet to come.
Wolves were trying a new tactic of theatrically diving to the floor each time they were tackled. The ref seemed to be buying this especially from Karl Henry who seemed to be made of feathers.
City should have scored on thirty six minutes after wonderful work by Nasri and Silva, culminating in a powerfully struck shot from Silva ten yards out on the City left. It looked like a goal until a diving defender managed to get an outstretched foot to the ball to divert it away from goal.
Whilst the plaudits had been mainly for the attacking players, one man on the pitch was beginning to look outstanding again. Might Micah Richards was playing a perfect attacking full backs role, breaking rapidly and putting in some wonderful crosses. Without doubt he has been the outstanding right back in the premier league this season.
With five minutes of the half left, City broke quickly again as Silva found Dzeko beyond the last defender. Two touches took the tall Bosnian into position. He struck a wonderful shot which looked goal bound until the outstretched fingers of the excellent Hennessey pushed it wide.
The ref was having a nightmare today. Issuing free kicks against City for fouls that simply didn`t occur and affording David Silva little protection as the Diminutive Magician was kicked from pillar to post. He also missed a dead cert penalty as one of the Wolves defenders tried to rip Dzeko`s head clean from his shoulders during a City corner.
As the half drew to a close, one could say that the effort and application was there from City. The final ball in had been there as well, the one thing missing was the finishing. Dzeko, Silva, Aguero and Nasri all had chances to score but Hennessey had been up to the task on each occasion and was rapidly becoming the Wolves man of the match.
The second half kicked off with Wolves in possession as the City faithful waited for the onslaught that would surely happen. Silva and Nasri had swapped sides as Silva moved in front of Richards and Nasri ahead of Kolarov.
Two minutes into the half and Dzeko picked the ball up on the edge of the Wolves box, playing Nasri through. The Frenchman found the by-line and cut a lovely ball back to Silva. Although off balance the Spaniard managed to get a shot in which went wide. It was noticeable that Aguero had moved into a more advanced position alongside Dzeko rather than sitting in the space behind him as he had done in the first half.
First yellow to Wolves came as Lescott brilliantly took the ball from Doyle and advanced across the half way line. Doyle`s attempted rugby tackle brought Lescott to the floor and earnt him a severe remonstration and a booking. This seemed to be the tactic of the day for Wolves.
First goal for City came on fifty one minutes and was scored by Dzeko. Aguero closed down the keeper after a back pass. The attempted clearance ricocheted off Aguero into the path of the on rushing and unmarked Dzeko. With the keeper still on the floor, Dzeko took one touch and passed his twelfth goal of the season into an empty net. One nil.
Goal aside, the ref was still having a nightmare, after two more awful tackles by Wolves players within ten seconds he waved play on affording the Midlands side an attack which ultimately led to a corner.
Second yellow of the game was awarded to Dzeko for a weak tackle that seemingly poleaxed the Wolves midfielder. Innocuous though it may have seemed, the woeful ref deemed it worthy of a booking when a number of tackles from behind had gone un-noticed.
First sub of the game came right after the yellow on sixty two minutes as Dzeko was withdrawn and replaced by Adam Johnson to inject some wing trickery and pace into the game. Aguero moved forward into the out and out forward position with Silva sitting just behind him, Johnson on the right and Nasri on the left.
Silva and Aguero played some lovely football down the City left on sixty five minutes. Passing the ball with ease between each other all the way into the opposition box. The play ended with a wild Aguero shot which did not even make the corner flag but the exchange was a wonder to see.
Second goal came with seconds of this as Johnson spied the run of Aguero down the right side. Aguero crossed into the box to Silva who shot with power at Hennessey. The otherwise brilliant keeper only managed to push the ball straight into the path of Kolarov who said thank you very much and passed the ball with ease into an unguarded and empty net.
Mancini made his second change on the stroke of seventy minutes as the fans hero Mario Balotelli was introduced and Nasri withdrawn. This came as the Wolves shell shocked defence were seeming to tire. Balotelli`s first touch of the ball was a shot from the edge of the box as Aguero breezed past three Wolves defenders before cutting the ball for Balotelli who had found space with ease.
Seventy three minutes in and disaster struck for City as Vincent Kompany brought down Doyle in the box as he was through on goal. This after an awful save by Hart who only managed to push a shot from distance straight back into play. Up stepped Stephen Hunt who sent Hart the wrong way and put the ball to his right and into the net.
Mancini responded immediately by withdrawing Aguero and replacing him with Stefan Savic as City went with one up front. Fifteen minutes to play and a man down, could City show the mettle needed to hold on and win to keep up the five point lead they had had at the beginning of the day?
The ref was going from the ridiculous to the inexplicable as the game went on, as Balotelli suffered from being climbed over each time City sent a ball up pitch and each and every time the foul was awarded against the City player. This was quite possibly the worse performance by any ref at The Etihad Stadium this year. His ridiculous decisions went on and on as first Balotelli and then Silva suffered at the hands of Wolves rough house tactics and neither were afforded any protection
With Six minutes of regular time left Wolves replaced Hunt and Geuadiola with Jarvis and Ebanks-Blake as they attempted to make their one man advantage count. Within seconds of the change, the ref was once more at the centre of things as Balotelli was pushed to the floor off the ball. The Atwell waved play on and allowed Wolves another attack that should not have taken place. Some woeful decisions from a woeful referee who really didn`t look up to taking charge of matches at this level.
Just as the clock ticked over ninety minutes, Balotelli broke on the left side, taking the ball from inside his own half to just outside the opposition penalty area. He cut the ball back to Silva who found the advancing Johnson. The Wolves defence couldn`t cope with the pace of this attack and not one of them had marked up. Johnson took two steps and unleashed one of his now familiar shots which curled past the keeper and into the Wolves goal. Three one.
City finished the game with a five man defence as Richards moved inside to form a back three with Johnson playing right wing back and Kolarov left and whilst they were down to ten men, their better fitness levels and overall skill made it seem eleven vs eleven.
One point of interest to finish with. City had broken another record today, becoming the first Premier League side to score two or more goals in all their first ten games of the season!!!
Joe Hart – 7
Didn’t have much to do but was at fault for the Wolves’ goal as pushed the ball straight back into play, something he has been guilty of a number of times.
Micah Richards – 8.5
A great performance once again from the best right back in the country.
Vincent Kompany – 6.5
Better to let them have a shot than get sent off and a player of his ability should know this.
Joleon Lescott – 7.5
Looked good once again and put tackles in when needed and played the ball when needed.
Aleksandar Kolarov – 8
Scored a goal and played some brilliantly attacking wing play. Doesn’t defend quite as well as Richards.
Yaya Toure – 7.5
Not his best game in a City shirt but not his worse. Has a great engine though and ran till the very last.
Gareth Barry – 7.5
Tackled well and passed the ball to Blue shirts nearly every time.
David Silva – 8
Kicked from pillar to post and afforded no protection at all from the ref. Not his best game but then again he was probably hurting all over.
Samir Nasri – 7.5
Combined well with Kolarov and Aguero but couldn’t find that killer ball today.
Sergio Aguero – 7.5
Had a few chances to score but didn’t have his shooting boots on today. His movement and all round game were excellent.
Edin Dzeko – 8
Scored a goal and would have had more had it not been for the first half performance of Hennessey.
Adam Johnson – 8
Scored a goal, had a hand in a goal and ended up playing right wing back. Not bad for twenty minutes.
Stefan Savic – 7.5
Shored up the defence after the Kompany sending off. Put in some decent tackles.
Got kicked all over the park when he came on but kept his cool and let his football do the talking. Mario is rapidly becoming a crowd favorite.
Roberto Mancini – 8
Once again won the day and saw his side score more than two in each of their first ten games of the season breaking another record.
Mick McCarthy – 6
I like Mick, but his rough house tactics were woeful to watch.
Ref Has An Awful Game
Terrible performance by the ref today. I don’t normally comment but Atwell was poor. City faced some nasty tactics and the ref gave them no protection. He didn’t look up to the occasion today.