Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Sunday April 22 2012
The sun was out and the news had come through that Stretford Diving Club had suffered the ignominy of surrendering a two goal lead twice, throwing open the title race once again and ensuring at least that they couldn't win it at the Etihad on Monday week...provided of course that City did not get upset by relegation threatened Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux today.
What were the omens? City letting a lead go last season to snatch a defeat out of the jaws of victory, and did not Wolves beat Stretford when they were top of the league and Wolves were bottom in February 2011?
Mancini put out his best available eleven with Zabaleta in for Richards who is still injured and Yaya in for de Jong, which I thought was a bit harsh after Nigel's heroics last weekend.
For their part Wolves lined-up with a five-man midfield designed to halt City down the middle and break quickly from wide out with Edwards asked to get forward and support the lone ranger Fletcher.
City of course started with the low level ground attack that has provided ten goals in two matches and almost got on the scoresheet directly from kick-off as a Tevez screamer rose slightly over the bar.
Wolves responded forcing Clichy to head out Kightly's cross only for Bassong to hammer one just wide. Their five-man midfield proved tricky for City to manage with Jarvis posing problems down the left and Kightly down the right, but there was little quality ahead of that as Fletcher cut a lonely furrow alone and at times isolated at centre forward.
As City pushed on, the fab-four, as Sky once again loves to call them, slickly poured forward creating chance after chance most of which Aguero failed to accept. A hint of profligacy was in the air as time and again the Mighty Atom, Nasri and Tevez pulled chances wide of the mark.
That was until after 26 minutes when Clichy roared out of defence. Noticing that Wolves were holding a high line and that Aguero was in a hole down the centre, he produced the pass of the match, right into Aguero's path and the Argentine made no mistake drilling the ball past the impressive de Vries.
It was supposed to be a question of how many but it became a matter of how many chances City could fail to convert. As half-time arrived with the score 0-1 to City it should really have been done and dusted with a cricket score in the bank.
But only 0-1 adrift Wolves felt they always had a chance, especially as they did threaten down the flanks, although there was little sign of an end product. City time last week brought a goal for the wrong City (Norwich) and today it never looked as though City would add to the tally in that vital period just after half time.
Indeed with Wolves continuing to probe out wide, Zabaleta and Clichy had their hands full with Jarvis and Kightly, but both were up to it, especially Clichy who I though was outstanding today.
As the hour approached it was clear that the centre of midfield needed bolstering, especially as neither Barry nor Toure were offering up enough to repel the Wolves threat. Enter de Jong and exit Silva. He had been excellent in the first half but looked desolate in the second. Straight away the benefit was felt although Terry Connor saw it as an opportunity to unleash an additional front man in the shape of Doyle. Edwards was sacrificed.
Still the chances came, still City could not take them. Having played for the team last week, Tevez was at times today a little more selfish, but it just wouldn't fall for him. Aguero too, despite his excellent goal was off key with just about everything else that fell his way and believe me there was enough of it.
Nailbiting had begun in the visitors enclosure as Jarvis and Kightly remained dangerous and as nerves entered the fray, an injection of energy was needed. And it came in the shape of a quickly taken free kick on half way with Tevez passing to Clichy, back to Tevez who had spotted a queue at the far post. He promptly found Nasri with a wonderful pass who didn't need asking twice, slotting the ball past de Vries to unfray the nerve ends.
Immediately Mancini replaced Tevez with Johnson, no doubt with next week in mind and it was a Clichy-esque ball from Jonno that found Aguero, once again in the inside right channel and unmarked. But Sergio once again should have hit it first time and gave the defenders a chance to prevent him adding to the score. Mancini went mental.
Lescott was mountainous against one of his former clubs when preventing Doyle getting through. For Wolves, Stearman almost scored an own goal as he did last season, but thankfully for him he was wide of the mark.
It ended 2-0 for City, quite comfortable really but there had been nerves. City had done enough but there were scary times at 1-0 with less than 20 minutes to play, especially as Wolves did get some joy out wide. No doubt the red-nosed knight will have noticed that as he prepares to launch Valencia and Young in the Derby, no doubt supported by that horrible creature known as Nani. No doubt the entire network of divers will be in town at the Etihad, coached to hit the deck at every opportunity and "earn" or really cheat their way to penalty decisions.
That said and although Mr Neville on Sky voted Kun Aguero as man of the match, Clichy put in a great performance for City both in defence and offence today. The major blot for me was Yaya Toure, so often the match-winner on the big occasion since he came to City, he was today...awful. Passes went astray and until the 92nd minute he didn't offer any forward threat at all. It was this reason, with Barry looking a bit overloaded in midfield that Mancini replaced Silva with de Jong.
Hart and the back line were excellent dealing with Wolves' limited threat and the front four were tremendous in the first half apart from the chances they missed. Aguero never lets his head go down. If he misses, he gets up and finds another chance and finally one goes in. That happened today. Tevez grafted well for 70 minutes, moving the ball quickly as he, Aguero, Silva and Nasri sprang up all over the place, Nasri definitely improving as he sees more of the ball in this line up than he does if Balotelli is about.
Barry was seconded to do the dirty work, time and again putting in a needful tackle and getting the ball moving, at least in the first half. The second half was initially a subdued affair with City unable to impose themselves as Wolves went "Monte Carlo or Bust" to seek the victory that might temporarily keep them in the Premier League. But it was not to be for them. They work hard as a unit but simply don't have the class of footballer required at their disposal to keep them up.
Team selection will be critical against the Divers. More is needed from Yaya and City cannot afford to be profligate in front of goal. I suspect movement of this nature will cause Ferdinand problems. I hope so.
A mention if you please for the beleaguered Wolves manager Terry Connor, whose passion in the post-match interview was there for all to see. Close to tears and being probed to answer ridiculous questions he maintained an excellent degree of dignity despite struggling to hide his disappointment.
Finally a mention also for our friends at Hyde FC who yesterday won the Blue Square North title. Well done to them.
So all that is left now at Casa Pedmachine is to open a bottle of Rioja and relax, and hope that a week on Tuesday City's superior goal difference is carrying the day at the top of the Premier League.
Then, who knows? The major step could be taken once again at Newcastle.
Date:Sunday April 22 2012
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