Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Monday October 3 2011
There was no Oktoberfest hangover as October the first brought an almost tropical day to Ewood Park. The Darwen End had not been adorned with so much Sky Blue and White since City destroyed Blackburn to reclaim their place in the Premier League eleven years ago, but after a tough trip to Bavaria earlier this week, the Blues probably didn`t expect a similar demolition of a team that recently beat supposed Champions League contenders, Arsenal.
Mancini or Tevez? Well the voices were out in full and in favour of the Manager as support for Mancini range out from the terraces alongside a song of deprecation, which although didn`t mention any players` names was certainly targeted at a disaffected Argentino.
Changes to the starting eleven were inevitable and it was all change along the back four with only Captain Kompany retaining his place. Lescott was restored alongside him with Zabaleta and Kolarov in the wider positions.
The team was set up for width and attack with Johnson restored to the right wing and a selection of Silva, Balotelli, Milner of Kolarov detailed to play wide on the left. Aguero was to provide the mayhem up front supported by Balotelli, no doubt chomping at the bit at the prospect of a start against the background of the "start the week" activities.
In his luminous boots, Kolarov looked like a fog inspector, almost leaving double yellow lines down the left wing.
City got down to business straight away, with master magician, Silva forcing a parry from Robinson, but unlike Gomez at the Allianz, Balotelli was not quite as sharp and cleared the bar.
Excellent all round movement from Silva, Kolarov and Aguero resulted in an effort by Silva being blocked by Samba, probably Rovers` best player.
At the other end the timbersome Yakubu was going to have to feed off scraps and chase lost causes down blind alleys, but still caused Lescott to have to clear from Pederson as the Yak lurked in a dangerous area.
More danger came about with Milner`s misplaced pass forcing a powerful run by Hoilett who was tackled as he teed up a shot by Milner himself and the situation was tidied up by Lescott.
Balotelli, Aguero and Silva started to tick but the Blackburn bodies closed in around Silva and nothing really went Balotelli`s way as he scorned a couple of chances and then hit a post with a delightful curler which Robinson could only admire. Patience was going to be the order of the day, not only for Mario but for the team in general.
N`Zonzi tried hard for Blackburn in midfield but he was up against Toure and Milner. Goodwillie was a willing runner but didn`t bring much else to the match having to contend mainly with Kolarov and Silva, who was dropping deep in a bid to start off more attacking play from the inside left slot.
Sadly at just about the time that City were getting going Aguero pulled up with a groin injury a loss that for me will be much more serious than Tevez at this juncture of the season. So Nasri, no doubt left out following form over the last couple of matches that was not exceptional, got an earlier than expected introduction and his job was to follow Silva in trying to light the City fires. Balotelli was now the lone striker.
The near misses came and went. Nasri went close but with Zabaleta and Johnson better placed and Balotelli was starting to find his range as his shots got closer to producing a goal. This included an attempted overhead kick which was off target.
But Blackburn`s back four stood resolute for the rest of the first half and if anything the luck went their way. As they headed for their half-time respite they were perhaps fortunate that City hadn`t quite clicked through the gears although there were signs that it would come.
And things were to change quite quickly as the second half got under way. The tempo increased and the interplay in that valuable inside left space was starting to open up Blackburn`s defence. The inevitable Silva went close only to find the rock that is Samba in the way. Big Chris was also in the way of a Kolarov effort which resulted in a corner on the left for City.
Kolarov took this himself, his range-finder headed out, but only to Johnson in acres of space in the inside right channel on the edge of the box. He had enough time to size up the distance and whip up one of those exquisite curling shots that starts off heading for a throw-in but bends ninety degrees to enter the goal just under the bar and just inside the far post. At last the Darwen End exploded.
Barely had the celebration subsided when incisive inter-passing between Silva, Kolarov and Nasri ended in the delivery of a pin-point pass from the Frenchman. Balotelli got in front of his adversaries this time to volley a gem of a goal. This is the type of strike I expected Balotelli to produce regularly for City and I hope this is the trigger for him.
As "Kean Out" started to ring around the home sections it was more of the same for City. Another move in the favoured inside left route brought out passes between Silva and Nasri, who finally saw enough of the goal to fancy a shot which with the aid of a deflection wrong-footed Robinson.
Would the Blackburn fans stay around long enough for the anti-Kean sit in? Certainly they would only be inviting themselves to suffer more torture as the Yak got in their first serious shot on goal after 75 minutes which actually forced Hart into a save.
At least the Yak didn`t give up, but as I said earlier it was a day of lost causes for him.
Back at the other end, Silva was brought down by Lowe. The resultant free kick didn`t yield anything although Balotelli`s shot wasn`t far away. However in the next move Kolarov won a corner after an neat rick and flick. Nasri`s delivery was once again on the button and Substitute Savic shook off his marker to plant a firm header into Robinson`s net
Although 4-0 to the good as we entered stoppage time, City still produced two chances for Blackburn as they switched off. The Yak again went close as did N`Zonzi, but in the end the final whistle couldn`t really come soon enough for beleaguered Blackburn.
What we discovered today was that the rotation system deployed by Mancini is producing the desired results. Footballers that I have criticised for non-production have suddenly realised you have to take every chance you get if you want to stay in as a starter. Today Kolarov really took the game to Blackburn, Milner`s energy was finally unwavering as he patrolled box-to-box supporting Toure one minute and the forwards the next. This is precisely why Mancini wanted his signature.
The restoration of the Kompany/Lescott axis to the centres ensured that Lescott stepped up to the plate, but for me his fears should be in the direction of Savic rather than Kolo. Savic`s cameo showed once again what an accomplished footballer this man is and his well taken headed goal was icing on the cake.
Balotelli clearly knows he has the chance. With Tevez effectively off the radar, Aguero now injured and Dzeko not looking as effective as he did at the start of the season, his ability to do the unexpected, plus the class that he oozes gives him the opportunity to stamp his mark on the season. He treated the close attention of certain Blackburn players early on with disdain, didn`t let his head down even though his first half chances went against him and generally produced a majestic performance whether out wide or in the centre.
Although Rovers perhaps tried to emulate the exertions of Everton last week, they do not have the drilled seasoned campaigners that Moyes parades and although they were tight for much of the first half they still allowed City chances which on another day would have seen the scoring opened sooner.
As the fans started to call for their Manager`s head, the reality of the matter is that there needs to be more investment in that team. Their talisman, Samba, deserves something better. He digs in week after week when more often than not those around him wilt. It looks like Wenger missed a trick in not getting him on the books in the close season.
From the Darwen End we actually saw a "Tevez Out" sign. A sad indictment to the man whose goals has laid the foundations for what we have witnessed so far in "the project" of which he probably won`t be part. The Blue Mooners are a forgiving group and who knows what a fully fit goalscoring Tevez would have brought to them and the Club? I suspect that it will not happen now. The team has already moved on and I would not be surprised to see another top class striker added to the roster in January.
The goal difference at the top is now down to one and the Blues are looking the ticket. The future is Blue, the future is City.
Date:Monday October 3 2011
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