The Ped Report Bolton 2-3 City
Bolton started the match in typical fashion with Davies setting out the intent immediately clashing with Kolarov and Kompany. Clearly the game plan was to get amongst City and to try to stop them from pressing.
The first 15 minutes was end to end. City did get some flowing moves going whilst Bolton weren`t shy in coming forward, forcing a number of set pieces from corners and free kicks.
City brought Kolarov in for Clichy, Milner for de Jong and Aguero for Johnson and once the hurly burly of the opening quarter hour had subsided, the Blues got into their stride. The source of much of their excellent football was inevitable David Silva.
Knight and Cahill initially looked reasonably comfortable against Dzeko and Aguero, but their movement soon became problematic with each one popping up all over the front line, prompted and served by Silva and also, today, Milner.
Aguero could have been taking the ball home by half time, but two glaring misses and a goal disallowed for a push on City old boy Petrov in the build saw a well-taken goal chalked off.
Shortly afterwards a move that started with a throw-in saw some neat work between Richards and Milner and as the Bolton markers retreated to the six yard box, Richards squared the ball to Silva who opened the door and struck a swerving shot which outfoxed Jussi whose attempt to stop the shot looked as though he has been reading the gospel according to David De Gea.
The Blues then stepped up to another level. Dzeko`s front play was exceptional and unselfish and he set up chances for Aguero, Silva and even midfielders loading the edge of the box. One such delivery found Aguero unmarked with a free header but he couldn`t steer it inside the far post.
Soon after, a corner on the right for City. Once again Bolton lined up six yards out. Milner played the corner to Barry who was 25 yards out and he struck a lethal shot into the top corner.
That should have been that and the score should really have been 4-0 by now. But as is their wont and as we saw at Wembley a moment of lack of concentration let Bolton back into the game.
Richards who had been lively on attack and robust in defence but he wasn`t tight enough to Petrov, giving him room to fire off one of his trade mark inch perfect passes to Klasnic, who left Lescott and Kompany in his wake to hit a superb first time shot through Hart`s legs from close range.
This set up the rest of the half as Bolton tried to squeeze and equaliser and City were content to see the half through. Late on there were two yellow cards, one for Davies who had been combative all half and one for Muamba.
So would City shut up shop as they came out for the second, surrender territory and invite Bolton forward, or would Mancini`s new edict of livelier football come to the fore?
The answer came within 100 seconds of the re-start when a flick from Milner found Dzeko who out-muscled Knight and drilled an unstoppable shot from 15 yards giving Jussi no chance.
Bolton started to look deflated and City now dominated until Davies milked a free kick 25 yards out. When it was delivered he outjumped Lescott and pointed a header just inside the post and out of the reach of Hart. This was poor from City and helped Bolton get their tails up forcing an early corner to put more pressure on City`s back line. For Davies it was his first goal against City. Davies and Eagles had clearly targeted Kolarov and continued to weigh him up with robustness and speed and City for a while were back in last year`s routine of getting behind the ball and letting Wanderers have a bit of space. They do have the capability to make life difficult as QPR discovered last week and Mancini replaced Aguero with Tevez. He was in the action straight away setting up Silva whose shot was well blocked by Knight.
Richards once again gave Petrov too much room and he once again delivered a superb cross which was nodded back to Hart. That said twice Richards blocked potentially dangerous crosses from Petrov with superb defensive positioning.
By the 70th minute Bolton were playing more in City`s half and there was air of "keep them out" about it although moving forward City did look crisp and still likely to add to the scoreline. Without de Jong patrolling midfield there was room for Bolton to penetrate.
Toure presents a different challenge as holding midfielder, more like one of the pillars of Hercules, but he does like to range forward and be a bit more creative that our hero Nigel.
Coyle took off the toiling Eagles for Pratley and Mancini countered by taking off Dzeko and restoring City to last year`s formation with Johnson providing width and Tevez going one-out up front. The idea was to keep Barry, Milner and Toure tight in midfield and effectively surrender their air of authority.
Bolton tried hard with Mark Davies twice linking well but unable to get in behind Kompany. Kevin Davies continued to create uncertainties in the City defence but as with many matches last year City closed out the win . There was even time to give man of the match Silva his accolade when replacing him with Zabaleta as the match headed for stoppage time.
Tevez may or may not be headed for the exit door but as we expected, when called upon he did not let City down, working hard on his own and could have scored had he anticipated that Johnson`s cross-shot would be off target.
So a 3-2 win and for now still top of the league, at least until spurs wave their lily-white flag, as per usual at Old Trafford tomorrow.
What did we learn? Mancini`s tactics this year are clearly for a more exciting brand of football in the mould of Barcelona. And we have the personnel to do just that. Silva was simply tremendous, as was Aguero but for his two missed sitters. Dzeko produced a front line display that really did remind me of Uwe Rosler at his best. He was strong, played in the midfielders, was difficult to mark and scored what turned out to be the winner.
Richards was superb linking with the attack but once or twice nodded off, leaving Petrov and then Davies with space to work. He also did some sterling work down the right hand side.
In midfield if anything City looked even more fluid. Toure in the anchor role played more passes forward than we normally get from de Jong and playing in his old Barcelona role he perhaps puts City in a position to start their attacks more quickly.
Milner had his best game for a year, at last stepping up to the plate. He added to the fluidity of the attack, went wide, tightened up the centre and did the kind of things that are expected of him.He also started the moves for two goals. Barry too put in a good one with a fantastic goal and a solid all round performance, holding if Yaya ambled forward and ambled forward if Yaya was sitting. This is something we don`t get with de Jong who prefers to be the sitter.
Kompany had to be robust under threat from Kevin Davies early on but Davies went hunting for easier targets and found them in the shape of Kolarov and Lescott. A good lad to have on your side.
As an attacking proposition City look incredible and we appear to have goals in us from many angles. We still need to be more alert at the back. If Bolton would have had a striker like Dzeko today, Petrov would have made City pay, as indeed he did for Klasnic`s goal.
Aguero was disappointed to get replaced as he looked to be really enjoying himself out there and only looked a step away from adding to his goal tally.
Mancini got his tactics right in sending out the players to score goals and then when it was necessary change the system to keep what he`s got and snuff out the match.
The Blues did that well despite the fact that you always feel under threat from this combative but nowadays more footballing Bolton side. Owen Coyle did try to liven things up and his team looks well balanced and prepared to work hard for their team. We`ve seen they are capable of scoring and well capable of seeking out free kicks and corners from which to launch their bombardment. There is no doubt that Coyle has improved their fortunes although apart from last week`s win at Loftus Road, they ended last season poorly after their FA Cup exit.
And finally..what more can be said about David Silva. Regular readers of the Ped Report will know that after watching the Blues since a 4-2 defeat by none other than Arsenal in 1962, I have not seen a better footballer than this extraordinary young man play for City. Yes we had the Bell, Lee, Summerbee, era. We had Kinkladze, we had Ali Barnarbia, Anelka, the Goat and others , but if there is a better player in the premier league right now I`d love to know who he is. Martin Tyler summed it up on Sky as he was replaced….Silva is Gold. End of story.
The weekend threw up two players seemingly headed away from their clubs putting in very capable performances. Both of them are to do with City. Tevez cameo what just what was needed at the time to keep them in front against Bolton. The other was Samir Nasri who played a blinder in what looked like a very poor Arsenal performance. Liverpool certainly cashed the Gooners up on Saturday. Both of them are "Should I stay or should I go" situations which we will see played out probably until 31 August. If you examine what the fight for places did to Barry and Milner today, the arrival of Nasri if it ever happens.
Next up 'Arry`s boys. We`ll see tomorrow what they look like against top teams, but I think we know the answer. They never "do it" against the Green and Gold army although the absence of the shirt-pulling thug could give them encouragement.
For today City is unbeaten and top of the league and playing some scintillating football.