Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Monday April 25 2011
Billed as the battle between a team with aspirations of Champions League football against a team in danger of relegation, an interesting interface was promised at Ewood Park tonight.
Mancini for once making no changes to the team that saw City through to the FA Cup final sent them out in 'second half Wembley' mode with a clear brief to get an early goal. He should have had his wish as early chances fell to Silva whose shot had 'goal' stamped all over it until a post got in the way. Barry's header from a corner was cleared off the line and a long range effort from Johnson almost found the top corner.
In his pre-match, Steve Kean said he intended to send his team out on the front foot to make their mark on the match and to try to press the Blues. The reality was that his team didn't see the ball for twenty minutes and spent all of that clearly on the back foot. They had no answer to the wizardry of Silva, but City just could not make the breakthrough.
With City failing to make the most of the early pressure it was perhaps inevitable that something should fall Blackburn's way and their first meaningful attack produced an 'I've seen them given' moment and if Roberts hadn't offered such a theatrical dying swan, he may well have earned his team a penalty kick under challenge from Kompany.
Rovers weathered the City threat and tried to make things happen but it didn't quite work out for them in the first half as City kept a grip on midfield. A neat head across goal from Barry would surely have been converted had Balotelli not slipped as he prepared himself for a simple nod home.
The first half duly ended with all the stats in City's favour including a yellow card for Barry for robustly blocking off Olsson, although Blackburn did end the half stronger, having seemingly overcome their early shortcomings.
The second got under way much the same as the first and an early headed chance fell to Toure with Robinson alert and tipping it over.
Blackburn then looked dangerous for a couple of minutes but City's next attack saw an exquisite Johnson pass find Toure out wide right. He was literally felled like an oak tree by Jones who was awarded a yellow card for his trouble. The resultant free kick saw a scramble in the Rovers box but it came to nothing.
Blackburn then got away with some neat passing. The cross fell to the unmarked Roberts who fluffed it and Olsson almost crept in at the far post, also unmarked.
Balotelli chalked up another yellow for chopping down Givet.
City need to stop giving away cheap free kicks. Stoke will love them at Wembley when they will be able to load the box with their artillery.
Rovers work ethic in the early part of the second half was teaching City a thing or two. They were certainly getting stuck in but this City team can look after itself as de Jong showed when after a poor pass by Johnson, Blackburn broke away leaving Nigel to 'take one for the team' and another needless free-kick. Another yellow for Nigel.
City's passing became wayward and Rovers took up the challenge as their manager had instructed them so to do and more of the match was being played in City's half of the field. The backline needed to be on their toes to offset the aerial attack from Rovers.
An untidy challenge by deJong gave Rovers a corner-of-the-box free kick, which Silva blocked. It opened up for Givet from the resultant corner, but Zaba tidied up.
Emerton got himself in the book for chopping down Kolarov.
Toure hadn't found City player with a pass for about the first twenty minutes of the second half, which is worrying.
The substitution of Johnson with Dzeko looked a bit odd - the crosser off, the header on but with his first touch he broke his premier league duck with a well worked and well struck shot after 75 minutes. Long time coming. Could City keep it together for the last 15? It was probably against the second half run of play but how many times has that happened against City?
Didn't the clock slow down suddenly for those last few minutes. Rovers didn't give up and credit to them for that. Nerves were fraying and nails getting chewed in the Darwen End as City surrendered ground and Rovers kept chipping away, so it was time to bring on Vieira to shore things up, this at the expense of Balotelli.
City's passing still had 'A & E' written on it and they were still conceding free kicks in and around the box. Tony Pulis must have been rubbing his hands.
Jones then worked his studs down Dzeko's thigh. No free kick, no admonishment.
Toure should have given City some breathing space one-on-one with Robinson but he didn't keep composed enough to trouble the ex-England man.
City then survived another penalty shout following Barry's push but as has become more of a norm these days City did hold out to win 1-0. Rovers did try hard but there is no real class up front for them and even the best struggle generally against Kompany and company.
It is difficult to nominate a man of the match for City, but Silva must be close for his endeavour, his ability to lose his marker, his two near misses and sheer skill.
Anything Torres can do..Dzeko can do better. Well done Edin..let's have more of the same.
Date:Monday April 25 2011
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Manchester City v Middlesbrough - Team Line-Ups (Saturday January 24 2015)
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Team News - City v Middlesbrough (Friday January 23 2015)
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Pellegrini - We Need To Return To Our Best (Friday January 23 2015)
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