Date: 7th October 2012 at 8:46am
Written by:

Maybe just maybe the stuttering Etihad juggernaut is coming back to life.

Roberto Mancini yesterday took a scythe to the team outplayed in the Champions League on Wednesday, bringing in not the megamillion pound toys, but…Englishmen! Captain Kompany was rested as it is clear that he has been playing injured for the last couple of matches. He was replaced by the returning from injury Micah Richards. In came Joleon Lescott.

Garcia was consigned to a day off, Nasri and Dzeko to the bench. Along came the industrious Milner and the integral Barry. Balotelli was given an opportunity by the Manager who loves him.

For many years I have been critical of Richards as a centre back, but against the likely lads from Sunderland, he showed us why. He was commanding one minute, not commanding the next minute, barnstorming into the opposition box for set pieces and indeed coming up unlucky on more than one occasion.

Today he was up against probably the most toothless forward line that we have seen this season. Yet it was one that contained Sessegnon who, readers will recall, produced one of the best opposition performances at the Etihad last season where he dominated City’s defence, and Fletcher, eulogised by TalkRubbish hosts as the bargain of the century for scoring five times in seven attempts. Was it not true that he had scored all of Sunderland’s goals this season? Well, not today Josephine.

City got off to the start they needed after only five minutes after Cuellar somehow got away with a yellow card after literally chopping down Tevez at the corner of the box. Tell me again, why was Kompany sent off for not touching Nani? This was perhaps Mr Probert chickening out too early.

At least City made Sunderland pay. When all the world looked towards Balotelli’s right foot, in stepped Kolarov to unexpectedly hit, bend and dip the ball into the near post top corner, much to the surprise of Mignolet. If Hart could keep a clean sheet then the job was already done.

And that never looked in doubt as Sunderland were denied any space to get going and City did the sort of things that won them the title last season.

Barry sat himself in front of the defence in search and destroy mode. He enabled Silva and Yaya to play further forward than they have all season and immediately we saw order restored to Silva who was exceptional and Yaya who was devastating in the way he punished Sunderland at every opportunity.

The programmable Milner worked tirelessly and neatly in tandem with this season’s most consistent performer, Zabaleta, as City always looked a threat down the right. Zabaleta’s diagonal runs into the box continue to look dangerous and he was unlucky not to trouble the scoreboard as Mignolet somehow blocked a great chance.

Silva was getting into his favourite places and was rolling the ball into the slots for Tevez and Balotelli, neither of which could profit. Tevez did everything but score. He was quite magnificent. Balotelli was in a more enigmatic mood, looked a bit sluggish off the mark and not one who would take his chance to stake a claim for regular selection. Indeed a cynic might say that the fastest he moved was down the tunnel when replaced to again fuel the day’s discussions.

He failed by an inch to get on the end of a whipped cross from Kolarov, who was having his best ever game in a City shirt, and before he dragged himself up off the floor, his number was up.

On to the field came Aguero. Almost immediately some delicious work down the left saw interplay between Yaya and Silva before El Magico’s newly shined wand sent Kolarov charging away on the left wing. An identical whipped cross found Aguero hunting in a more awkward position, but he delivered a quite sensational touch to divert the cross into the net. Sheer quality.

Sunderland were done. They had nothing going on up front, couldn’t keep the ball, were getting rings run round them in midfield and if not for Mignolet would have been on the end of a hiding. Adam Johnson, with a chance to prove his former employers wrong simply didn’t and was withdrawn while scorer-in-chief Fletcher never really got a sniff as Richards and Lescott battened him down.

With seconds left another poor tackle by Gardner on Kolarov at the left corner of the box gave City yet another free kick. This time Milner stepped up and simply drilled it straight into the net although it might have shaved someone’s hair as it flew past Mignolet. This was no more than Milner deserved today. This young man is always ready to play, no tantrums, no wobblers. When the call comes he does not let you down and today he enjoyed himself and got himself a deserved goal. Adam Johnson take note.

With there being no danger spark up top for Sunderland, for once the City backline was in command and never looked in danger. At last a clean sheet.

The midfield had much more balance. Barry sitting tight and moving the ball to the more creative Silva and Toure who also had the luxury of Milner and Kolarov out wide. A delightful second half chip by Silva deserved to visit the netting rather than clip the crossbar

Tireless Tevez was outstanding and deserved probably a hat trick. It wasn’t to be his afternoon today. Only Balotelli didn’t pull his weight and may now be pulling his suitcase to pastures new as he showed no respect to his colleagues when replaced and had his car called at the first opportunity once the match was over.

Richards had an accomplished game in the centre but would have been troubled by better quality forwards, yet it was another timely reminder to Roy Hodgson that he has versatility some of the others selected for the upcoming internationals don’t.
The Blues are marching closer to the pinnacle and are at last showing how they did it last season. They can use the international break to get players fit and firing and ready for the next series of matches beginning at the Hawthorns which is always a tough place to visit before Swansea arrive at the Etihad. Two eminently winnable games which could see City continue their march.

all times East Manchester

Sa 20 Oct 15h00 West Brom, The Hawthorns, PL
We 24 Oct 19h45 Ajax, Amsterdam Arena, CL
Sa 27 Oct 17h30 Swansea City, The Etihad, PL
Sa 03Nov 17h30 West Ham, Upton Park, PL
Tu 06 Nov 19h45 Ajax, The Etihad, CL
Su 11 Nov 13h30 Spurs, The Etihad, PL
Sa 17 Nov 15h00 Aston Villa, The Etihad, PL
We 21 Nov 19h45 Real Madrid, The Etihad, CL
Su 25 Nov 16h00 Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, PL
We 28 Nov 20h00 Wigan, DW Stadium, PL


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