The Ped Report City 4-0 West Bromwich Albion
Nervousness and near disappointment and frustration was the order of the day as the beleaguered fans congregated at the Etihad last night to preside over another potentially tricky fixture in the long run-in to the 2011-2012 season.
For the first time in a long time, Mancini, Yaya`s injury apart fielded the kind of team that the fans had wanted and instructed to perform in a manner the fans have come to love and cherish.
And cherish was the word as once again Silva, Nasri, Aguero and Tevez realised that they quite like having the ball at their feet and generating something positive with it. This was abundantly clear from the off as City tugged and stretched Albion all over the place.
Although a bit narrow, with no natural wide outlet, and at time resembling a blue strip down the middle of the field, City went about their work in ruthless style.
Nasri and Aguero combined in the inside left channel. The Mighty Atom shrugged off the challenges, opened it out for himself and typically struck the ball inside the post after only five minutes. The statement of intent was laid and tonight the Blues were on the march.
Chances came and went throughout the first half. Quite why Silva elected to pass when one-on-one with "England's number five" aka Foster, when he had star-jumped and left room beneath himself for Silva to slot home was a mystery, in some ways reminiscent of Arsenal at the weekend.
Tevez was keen to reinstate himself into the hearts of the faithful who as one would expect treated him as a "gift with reservations" as he set about his business in workmanlike fashion, available and dangerous. His first attempt blazed into the South Stand, but more was to come as the game progressed.
With de Jong holding in midfield and Barry back to his patient probing best the "ground attack" in front of him looked more like a subbuteo team as they swarmed like angry wasps around the jampot that was the Baggies' goal, but astonishingly Albion got to half time only 1-0 down when it if it had been 5-0 they couldn't really argue.. The inter-play between Aguero, Silva, Tevez and for once Nasri was at times breathtaking and the wide pressing of Richards and Clichy kept Albion pinned back.
The second half got under way with the knowledge that City's title rivals had conceded at Wigan and the prompting began from the seating decks. As if by magic, the magic started as Nasri hit the side netting. Next up a move started by Richards found Tevez who slipped in Nasri who finally found Aguero in his favourite channel and his shot once again left Foster stranded and it was 2-0, with 54 minutes on the clock.
City at last scented a big goal tally and literally went for it. There was little if no danger to the back line where Lescott and Kompany were once again mountainous and Long had tried all his tricks to get free-kicks and had come up empty. Hart was almost a spectator trying to find out from the fans in 116 if they had any more news from Wigan.
Another combination of Tevez and Nasri went inches wide. Tevez as always was a willing grafter, popping up all over the place and just ahead of the hour got his rewards. Starting a move that involved Nasri and Aguero who did well to keep a "lost cause" in play which he played to Nasri ultimately found Tevez lurking on the penalty spot and he drilled home his first goal of the season to send the stadium into the sky.
The hour mark proved to be his witching hour as Mancini replaced him with Johnson shortly thereafter. His work done for the night, Tevez left the field to warm applause.
And City weren't finished just yet. Albion just couldn't get out as the blue tide was in full flow and when Aguero robbed Olson in centre field, he cleverly drew the next defender having spotted Silva's overlap down the inside left channel. This proved to be the most successful slot tonight as the wand and the magic returned to David Silva as the magician found the far post inviting his shot with open arms with a neat chipped shot.
It could and should have been more, but after almost converting Johnson's cross, Mancini replaced Aguero.
This was just the kind of performance City needed especially against the background of results elsewhere and the points dropped at Stoke, Swansea and at home to Sunderland now take on a new dimension.
City were as devastating as Albion were woeful. You can only play against what's in front of you and the Blues did that to great effect. We have witnessed some excellent performances from the "ground attack" this season and this was no exception in a match that could have ended in double figures.
Throughout the team there was strength and commitment. Lescott, Kompany and Hart were in total command at the back giving Clichy and Richards licence to push forward at will supplementing de Jong and Barry and enabling City to play effectively with a front four, interchanging play attacking from all angles and leaving the Baggies at times chasing shadows. Tevez was almost back to his best. He toiled relentlessly for an hour and played for the team and not for Tevez.
Replacements, Dzeko and Johnson found it hard to keep the momentum going. Johnson was played at outside left in a change from the usual tactics and almost found Aguero with a deep cross that a little too high but it was a cross that would have created danger for say, Dzeko. That could be something worth considering as a plan B as the season draws to its conclusion.
Virtually anyone could have been City's most valuable player, but as Mancini said, we are at the time of the season where your striker has to take the game to the opposition and win it for you. Balotelli has been unable to achieve that but there was no mistaking the fact that it was Aguero who led the line, bagging two goals against the Baggies and it was he who for me deserves the accolade.
So maybe a door of opportunity has come back to the title race. Mancini is still in concession mode, but maybe his players sense that if another team was to slip up again and that team still have to come to the Etihad…you just never know.
Maybe as Nils Lofgren told us many years ago…the sun hasn't set, on these boys yet!
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