Date: 22nd January 2011 at 7:48pm
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I have to say my heart sank right from the start when ‘the Equaliser’ MBE turned up with his whistle. The over-rated Yorshire Cop does my head in and I felt for certain that the match would be a de Jong witch hunt because Webb missed getting him in the World Cup Final.

Villa started brightly without really troubling City’s goal. Webb’s first test came when Clark went into Tevez ankle and escaped the paperwork.

Barry must have been confused because a couple of his early passes from promising positions found his old team-mates rather than his current colleagues. After 15 mins City started to retain the ball better and Villa’s promising 4-2-3-1 retreated to a five man midfield. Tevez should have scooped in a Kolarov corner after 17 mins and then one minute later the inevitable happened with Bent getting his customary debut goal leaving City with an uphill battle. Hart should have done better.

Villa were playing more like they did against Chelsea than when they played City and started to live dangerously but City were lacking penetration, keeping the ball but without any visible movement off the ball.

Having already ‘done’ Tevez, Clark whacked Dzeko and deservedly caught another yellow card. The Equaliser was getting warmed up! He warned Boateng for a late tackle.

By the half hour City had double the possesion afforded to Villa but hadn’t had a shot at goal and were trailing 0-1.

Dunne was keeping shackles on Dzeko and Cuellar was keen to get to the ball ahead of Tevez in a clear case of ‘me and my shadow’. The match really needed Adam Johnson to provide City with width and perhaps an alternative route to getting the ball to Dzeko.

Barry was doing nothing against his former team but pass to them. A disappointing evening was looming for him.

The ‘Equaliser’ should have been busy following Tevez foul on Agbonlahor, but let it go. Dzeko survived an assasination attempt and played in a good ball which was cleared by Collins.

A great cross by Boateng should really have ended up in the net but once again Barry was generous to his former boys in claret and blue.

Next up Albrighton showed de Jong what he did in the World Cup Final and he too survived the wrath of Webb.

The first half ended with City well clear in the possession stakes but behind on the scoreboard after a disappointing 45 minutes in which the best player was Kolarov.

So Bent was eulogised at the expense of Dzeko after 45 minutes. Is it really nearly 20 years since City came from behind to win a match?

The second half began with City looking livelier and an early chance fell to Tevez, who couldn’t get it on target. Dzeko was also getting in on the act, but the tempo was still at patient level.

Tevez was starting to get going winning a corner, which Dzeko headed over the bar.

It came as no surprise that Barry was replaced just before the hour with Johnson. Barry was frankly awful and for me is looking at the ‘surplus to requirements’ door. He does not really carry the game to the opposition, slows the tempo and today didn’t find his men often enough in a fashion that could damage Villa.

City started to command with Yaya looking like a quarter back in midfield. A screamer by Boateng rebounded off Friedel but we didn’t have anybody around to cash in. With Tevez deep and Dzeko wide it was difficult to see where a goal would come from, notwithstanding that Villa hadn’t kept a clean sheet since October and have the worst second half record in the Premier League. There was hope for City.

The Equalising yellow card came when Kolarov chopped down a Villa player after 68 mins. Would the equalising goal come? Cuellar’s recovery chop on Tevez went unpunished

More clever play by Dzeko found Yaya but his header wasn’t good enough as Villa’s back line prevailed once again. Villa were now setting about City with Bent and Agbonlahor guilty of fouls. We needed Johnson out wide, instead he was joining the melee in the middle which was already too crowded. He should have been getting at Clark who was one step away from warming the showers. Clark was starting to look like a Blackburn or Everton player as he started wasting time with throw-ins. Collins was throwing himself at everything in the box and twice denied City opportunities with courageous play.

Johnson finally out wide started to cause Villa problems but his passes into the box were hit and miss. The hits inevitably found Collins the misses anyone but a City player.

Tevez was effectively double-teamed most of the evening by Villa, clearly aware of the dangers he causes, but nobody was making use of the space elsewhere. Silva had clearly left the keys to box thirteen in his his track suit today. Kompany was unlucky to see an attempt hit the foot of the post and Dzeko saw another header go wide. It wan’t going to be City’s day. Two chances fell to Kolarov who was unlucky to see one hit two Villa defenders and ricochet across the goal for a corner.

Villa had retreated to 6-4-0 but Young did miss with a breakaway chance after 86 mins. With Villa now devoid of ambition and City devoid of creativity the result was becoming inevitable and so it was.

With the possession statistics so heavily in favour of City, we have got to learn to turn this into goals. We are simply not wise enough early on in matches. Bent, the expensive import, only did one thing in the whole match and that is what stood between the teams at 7.25 pm. Oh and Dunne and Collins!

Mancini, having now got himself an excellent team and probably the best group of players we have ever seen at City needs to see his team play with tempo and stamp their mark on matches. Once we got Johnson out wide this started to happen but there was only 15 mins to go. I would start Johnson in favour of Barry. It seems amazing that Barry and Milner have not really delivered for City, but in the end they played in a Villa team that ‘only finished sixth in the league. Maybe they are not winners.

Hart was a bit shaky today with the goal and may see the figure of Shay Given looming for next week’s cup tie at Notts County. The back four were solid enough and Mancini should use next week’s match for them to play again. We have not had a settled back four for weeks. Midfield should really play with de Jong holding, Yaya breaking forward through the middle and Johnson and Silva wide out. Tevez and Dzeko should be providing the fire power.

With Spuds dropping points today was a good day to put more distance between them and us but their point now looks a good one for Redknapp’s boys. I would prefer it if Chelsea slip up tomorrow.

Yaya Toure looks good when he is in that quarterback role and we need to move the ball more quickly to wide positions and move it in quickly to Tevez and Dzeko. If that does not happen, we will not beat the big teams.

Villa for their part got ahead and stayed ahead and well done to them after their whacking chez nous a few weeks ago. They rode their luck at the back but their defenders were rock solid and Friedel looked better than he did at Eastlands.

They have now beaten City and drawn with Chelsea in recent weeks, so they are no mugs.

Having stood up to the plate last week and going top, this week we stayed on the plate and dropped to third. Verdict – not good enough today.

 

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