Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Sunday March 4 2012
Another rainy day at the Etihad got under way with a torrent of flowing attacking football by City yesterday and in reality Bolton could and should have needed snookers from ten minutes in.
Mancini rang the changes resting his midweek international heroes Silva and Aguero. Richards and de Jong didn't feature, Milner was on the bench and Johnson once again got a chance to see if he could deliver.
For once City got into gear immediately with chance after chance falling to Balotelli and Nasri.
A first minute attempt by Balotelli beat Bogdan but struck a post and should have been turned in by Nasri who was too static and offered it up to a grateful keeper.
With Pizarro given a chance for us to see what he looks like as a starter, the next move began with him sending Johnson clear down the right wing. His cut back was behind Balotelli who scooped it just wide. Again a golden chance to get the scoreboard moving early.
For the first fifteen minutes it was almost one-way traffic as City slickly moved through the gears and through what looked like a non-existant opposition. It was only a matter of time wasn't it?
In the next move, receiving the ball from goal Pizarro had spotted Balotelli alone in the inside right slot. His inch perfect pass beat the offside trap but Mario clearly expected to be flagged but by the time he realised he was onside Knight had recovered ground and snuffed out another gilt-edged chance for the Blues.
When was Mario going to get on the scoresheet? When was anybody? Anything that fell to Nasri saw him constantly make the wrong decisions, taking that typical Arsenal extra touch and then getting robbed by a disbelieving opponent.
Yaya and Pizarro were combining as though they had played together forever and finally after 23 minutes the breakthrough came, fortuitous though it was.
On the edge of the box, Barry was surrounded by Bolton defenders. He played in back to Pizarro who again had already spotted Clichy's run down the right. Nasri's intelligent movement out wide caught out 2 Bolton men so Clichy went for it and launched a rocket at goal. The shot hit Steinsson, wrong-footed Bogdan and finally hit the back of the net. Cue another City onslaught.
A second goal was not immediately forthcoming and fair play to Wanderers they did give it a go but not seriously troubling England's number one. N'Gog and Miyaichi did create chances but they were never threatening.
Miyaichi did force a good save from Hart in the second half though and this seemed to reawaken City who then started to motor on in search of a clinching goal.
First Balotelli was unlucky not be given a spotkick hitting the grass under challenge from Knight, Mr Clattenberg keeping his hands by his side.
But with 20 minutes to go, I was saying to the guy next to me that Johnson had once again not contributed much, when he cut inside into a seeming cul-de-sac, got lucky with the run of the ball following a good tackle on the Bolton defender. Johno chased the ball to the line and executed a neat back heel which foxed the defenders around him but not Balotelli. Mario was on it in a flash and hammered home the second goal.
The sense of relief around the stadium was measurable and instant. There was no way on earth that Bolton would get two goals but at 1-0 there is always a chance.
City saw it out at 2-0 and were happy to get off home with the three points.
It wasn't a bad performance. It was a get-the-job-done performance. One or two got an opportunity to stake their claims but for me the plaudits were in the engine room. Bolton can be intimidating opponents but they were a little toothless without Kevin Davies.
Conversely the quality offered by Pizarro and Yaya Toure can not be underestimated and you can see why the man from Roma was brought in. There was no weakness in this team despite Silva giving his battered ankles a week's relief.
Yaya was typically immense. As usual he won and moved the ball quickly, was powerful in the centre and was launched regularly as Barry played sit-and-destroy.
The backline didn't put a foot wrong and until his injury Zabaleta was simply outstanding.
Ploughing a lone furrow although backed by Nasri, Balotelli was unusually profligate, missing a first-ten-minute hat trick and for that matter Nasri was no better. But he is improving. He makes intelligent runs off the ball to create space but he does need to take more risks with his shots on goal. The odd first timer here or there will produce results for him.
So City once again moves five points clear as Streford head to the capital to face Spurs. I'm sure all things City are looking for them to drop points today but as we all know the lily-livered lily-whites, will be getting out their lily-white flag once again.
If City are to take this title they will will have to do it the hard way and that means beating Arsenal away. The Chelsea home match in still in the pot as we await the outcome of the FA Cup replay. Who knows it could be Stretford and Chelsea at home in the same week later in the season.
Date:Sunday March 4 2012
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