The Ped Report - Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-5 City
A much changed City team took the field against Wolves in the Carling Cup earlier this evening. Those who missed the historic and enthralling Manchester-Stretford Derby on Sunday were given starting berths as was il itliano Scapuzzi, Romanian Pantilimon and Razak, the Ivorian!!
It was not a "fluid" looking line-up but one Mancini clearly though could get the job done on the night. And we do have to trust our manager these days don`t we?
Molineux was only half full but those in old gold and black declared their love for their club and indeed their manager following the displeasure that they displayed on Saturday.
The early exchanges saw Savic yellow carded for shepherding Henry out of the way. The resultant free kick was blasted against the wall by Milijas. This clearly left us wondering whether we would end up short-handed as we have in the past when confronting Black Country opposition in this competition.
Wolves early objective was to send bombs into the box and look for scraps from Kolo Toure and Stefan Savic. They were getting joy against Zaba on their left and Mancini needed to ensure that Johnson provided the same kind of shield that Milner did on Sunday.
The absence of Yaya Toure and magician-in-chief David Silva was evident immediately as Razak and Nasri do not exactly provide the same springboard from which City can launch their waves of attack at least in the early stages.
It was 15 minutes in before City got a sight of the Wolves goal but Johnson`s shot from well outside the box was headed over for a corner. In the next move Savic looked as though he had been eating raw steak delivering a lunge that saw him get the ball first just in time. If he had missed the tackle his night would have been over. Kolarov then survived a good penalty shout guiding the ball for a corner off his arm.
In the next Wolves move, City didn`t clear a routine poor cross and Milijas once again pounced to make it 1-0 after 18 minutes. A deserved goal for the hosts. From the restart Chopper Craddock scythed down Dzeko and ended up in the book. Kolarov`s free kick would have looked good in the Rugby Union World Cup Final.
De Jong needed to work hard to keep it together in the midfield and to try to release Razak and Nasri. The former had a chance after 23 mins, the latter looked as if in he was in a post-Arsenal slumber. We are not getting enough from Nasri. He has an air of Arshavin about him at present. He needs to display the hunger if he wants anything like a regular starting place in this team. Dzeko was looking a little leaden and isolated, his first touch awful.
There was no real threat to Wolves for the first half hour, their defence mopping everything up with relative simplicity. City`s build-up was laboured rather than patient and when the chance came on the half hour Scapuzzi couldn`t make it count after good work by Kolarov down the left.
As the first half was drawing to a close City were at last starting to get into their stride and retain the ball as Wolves withdrew a little deeper. Out came the triangles and the movement and after 35 minutes a sharp raid from back to front saw Dzeko set up Adam Johnson to rifle in the equaliser.
Almost immediately City once again turned defence into attack and a slide rule pass from Johnson , 10 yards inside his own half picked out Nasri`s run and his early first time shot rocketed into the back of the net. At last he was out of his reverie.
From the restart City went after it straight away again. Johnson`s cross to the far post was planted goalwards by the impressive Scapuzzi, was saved by the keeper, only for Dzeko to clip in the rebound.
This left the travelling fans who hitherto sounded like the Villareal following at the Etihad last week singing "We are Man City, we`ll score when we want". Oh, please don`t get arrogant!
Wolves early promise was deserting them as City once again turned from a labouring engine into a well-oiled machine which again started to look as though they could score at will. Wolves were on the retreat and you could see five at the back as City raided once more.
Kolo did try to help them causing his usual confusion when getting caught out of position, but the well-rehearsed free kick didn`t trouble Pantilimon.
The half time scoreline effectively showed the difference in class. Workmanlike Wolves started well and took City on in the time before the Blues could find their feet, but once the midfield found their range, even though it took half an hour, and went up a gear, the outcome was starting to look assured.
The first chance of the second half fell to Wolves. Hunt missed a real sitter from the six yard line, leaving him with his head in his hands. City immediately sprang to the other end and Kolarov`s pass was just too far in front of Dzeko. But almost immediately another cross from Kolarov found Nasri who shot was well saved by De Vries but it squirted out to Scapuzzi who squeezed it home via a couple of snooker like cannons. Seconds later Dzeko should have scored again but was again thwarted by the brave De Vries.
It was at last looking like a long night for Wolves as virtually all of City`s players tried to get in on the scoring act, Johnson, Razak and Dzeko all went close before a sweeping passing move along the edge of the of Wolves box involving half the team, presented Dzeko with a tap-in on 62 minutes. Barcelona eat your heart out.
Almost immediately super-sub Jamie O`Hara made it 2-5 with more or less his first touch as City switched off. A well placed shot giving Pantilimon little hope. Would this inspire Wanderers or simply reignite City? Early signs were that there would be even more endeavour from the hosts, but doors were closing all around them as City defended in numbers before attacking once again in the same numbers.
The old gold brigade were getting some joy wide out as they did early on, but the crosses which found their front two at the start were comfortably dealt with by Kolo and the much improving Savic, who was by now looking very accomplished.
It was time to introduce David Silva mark 2 in the shape of Denis Suarez, Nasri heading for the dugout. Rekik then replaced Scapuzzi as Mancini blooded his young lions for the last twenty minutes. Brave stuff from the Messiah and valuable match time for these talented individuals. The improvement of this exceptional group is great to see when you take into account the meek surrender last season in this part of the country and to answer an earlier question, yes we do have to trust Mancini. His tactical sense has evolved from getting his team into the Champions League at whatever cost (and slipping in the FA Cup for god measure) to the production of a mesmeric attacking force of the like never before seen on these shores, although Ashburton Grove and Stretford`s finest have come close.
Never before has a City "second string" set about and destroyed Premier League opposition away from home in a competition that generally heralds an early exit. At 5-2 the foot did come off the gas. Both teams seemingly settling for their fate. Wolves did get a couple of shots on goal that could have troubled Pantilimon but the Blues looked to have settled for five, no doubt terrified of being told on Sky News tomorrow morning that they lack class for scoring too many goals. Dzeko should have potted his hat trick on 83 minutes but his shot lacked conviction and was easily blocked.
O`Hara could then have reduced the deficit bringing and excellent diving save out of Pantilimon. Cue the entrance of Milner for Razak who once again had performed well, but ran out of steam at this level following a knock a few minutes earlier.
Johnson was a bit unfortunate not to get a spot kick award when bundled over during one of his mazy runs. It was good enough for me but no doubt Eamonn Holmes was whispering in the referee`s earpiece "Too many goals!".
City effectively closed the game off at more or less a snail`s pace, without urgency and without threat. A solitary pitch invader introduced an impromptu drinks break whilst the Stewards assisted him to the Reception Vehicle that would deliver him to the arrest suite at a nearby Police Station.
This was comfortable business for City. The sprinkling of youngsters all enjoyed their outing and at the end didn`t look to have weakened things and the "old stagers" in amongst them looked too strong in the end for a robust Wolves team built in Mick McCarthy`s own image. It has some flair bur clearly not enough to overcome what in the end was a classy City performance, emphatic in its execution once the engine warmed up. Not a classic but a cup tie well won by a team that looks unstoppable right now. It was not a 10-star performance all round but it was convincing enough to keep the shockwaves reverberating around the country and the continent. And with Villareal conceding three in the first half hour at the Bernabeu, surely with Balotelli available, City should be able to finally stamp their mark on the group in the Champions League.
It is difficult to believe as we watch City that there will be nothing on the sideboard this season. Like all of you I just wonder what variety it will be.