Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Sunday November 18 2012
Business as usual is gradually getting restored as Manchester City found themselves back at the top of the tree following the outcome of this weekend's fixtures.
The weekend's written and broadcasting press have started to eulogise about the Blues and the truth is that City won this match easily without having to break sweat against a Villa side that looks bound for re-classification on the evidence of their performance.
Gone was the fire that they showed against a team from just outside Manchester less than a week before this match. Instead there was a demoralised disbelief that success would not be theirs in a stadium where they had won in the Capital One Cup sometime earlier this season.
Having said that, it could have all been a bit different if things had gone their way. From the outset City did not really look in any trouble as they loaded the stat attack heavily in their own favour. Then out of nowhere, Villa's most potent striker today, Vincent Kompany, forced a world class save out of his own goal keeper to keep the scoresheet level.
Shortly thereafter it was again the attack of the Belgians as Benteke, who looks as though he can play at a higher level than Villa, forced another top save out of City and England's under fire number one. It stayed out and that was more or less it from the Midlanders.
The Blues started to turn the screw and architect-in-chief was David Silva. The magician must play more "blind" passes than anyone else in the division as he seems to know exactly where everyone is all of the time. He keeps the midfield moving, bringing everyone into play at different times and leaving the opposition totally uncertain as to which point of attack he will deploy next.
But somehow, Villa's all hands to the pump defence kept City at bay for a long time, surrendering the level playing field just ahead of half time. When it came the goal looked like something from the Keystone Cops. Nasri's corner did not trouble the defence as Stevens headed it away, but only to Kompany. His effort was not as good as the one that troubled Hart earlier and was more out of the Shaun Goater Book of Excellence as it headed toward Tevez. Carlos too picked up the baton as he hit an airshot and the ball seemed to be looking for someone to turn it into the net. Although Nastasic and Yaya were in attendance, up stepped Silva to thump it home.
A sigh of relief swept around the Etihad as half time came around. The general belief now was that it was a matter of how many with Villa looking not even a shadow of the side that ran the Stretford's close last week, but the killer goal when it came was simply ridiculous.
Silva's corner on the right passed the outstretched hand of Villa defender Weimann, hit Nastasic on the back of the head, squirted across the face of the goal, hit Yaya plus a Villa defender and went over the bar. City didn't even appeal for a corner. But somehow, the referee's assistant put his flag across his chest, murmured something into his earpiece and the ref pointed to the spot.
There was absolutely no infringement to the laws of the game but who is Kun Aguero to turn down the gift horse. Paolo Di Canio might have struck this penalty into the seats out of sympathy, but not the Mighty Atom. Despite a brave effort from Guzman, Aguero promptly found the corner of the net for 2-0.
Ten minutes later, Silva once again found space down the right and tried to slide a cross into the six yard box as Bannan tried to slide in a tackle. The ball got caught Jeff Whitley style between his arm and his body and the same assistant once again put his flag across his chest for, this time, a certain spot kick. To confuse the issue, Tevez it was who stepped up this time to drill home for 3-0.
Villa now looked like babies in a play pen as City ran rings around them and nothing at all worked for the visitors. Two minutes later the Argentine Ground attack once again had them reeling as Tevez fed Aguero and darted unmarked into the box for the return. Sergio had other ideas, spun and shot beating Guzman in QPR fashion. This super-human effort earned Aguero the red lights as Edin Dzeko was called on in case City got another penalty.
Dzeko's main contribution came after 75 minutes when he played in Nasri, who in turn played in Tevez who promptly side-footed home with ease.
Poor old Villa were shell-shocked and to me look like relegation fodder. On a day when it looks more and more as though Mark Hughes will get his triennial Christmas Present of the sack plus a big pay-off, the once proud Champions of Europe really do look as though, unless sensible investment is made in January, they will be playing Championship football next season.
I am not a fan of Lambert but I did have some sympathy with him as far as City's second goal was concerned. But then I thought of the dodgy penalties given against City, especially since the project began and I got round to thinking "Yeah, we'll take that".
We have been saying for weeks that someone is due to cop it from the Blues, but for that to be Villa whilst City looked to be on a Sunday stroll is a sad indictment of this exceptional football club.
In their own ways Chelsea and Stretford have provided some scintillating moments this season with some excellent football and a volley of goals. City seem to have started slowly, or do they? Their leaky defence is the joint best in the division and only Stretford have scored more goals.
The writing is slowly appearing on the wall as Mancini's engine is firing again. And the key firing pin is one David Silva. City have stumbled from one set of three points to another with the occasional draw. But England's only unbeaten team is once again worrying teams and with Chelsea hitting the buffers a bit of late, they will hope to add to those woes when the teams meet up on Sunday.
No doubt Mancini will go about his business cautiously as his team enters a defining period of the season with Chelsea and Wigan away followed by Everton and Stretford at home. If City are still unbeaten at the end of that, ladies and gentlemen we will be watching the Champions Elect.
As City look to be destined to end their interest in the Champions League over the next 3 weeks, they must ensure that they do not end up in the Europa League. If they successfully avoid that they will enjoy only one game a week during the second half of the season when United and Chelsea will maybe endure 6 a month. If that's the case, I'm looking at the double for the double.
The centre backs looked more solid against Villa, the main danger being one of their own. Clichy who went home on crutches had another superb match and Maicon added a new dynamic, playing like Richards with brains.
Yaya and Barry were at their majestic best, as were Silva and Aguero. But for me today Tevez was a masterclass. His undying ethic for work is quite incredible and there is a smile and swagger about his football now that is a clear danger for opposing teams. He may not be able to save City in the Champions League as he is not always selected in that competition, but I can certainly see him steering City to the retention of the Premier League.
Balotelli wasn't seen around the Etihad, although his box was in use by guests and there was a fair old ding-dong between Lambert and the ref in the tunnel at full time, but his pressures are substantially different than those facing Mancini.
City have now usurped United's former slight goal difference advantage as well as taken their place at the head of the top table. But you are there to be shot down. City will not win every match this season, but I can't see them losing five, so Stretford only have two more defeats to go...that might be too many...and they have to play City twice!
all times East Manchester
We 21 Nov 19h45 Real Madrid, The Etihad, CL
Su 25 Nov 16h00 Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, PL
We 28 Nov 20h00 Wigan, DW Stadium, PL
Sa 01Dec 15h00 Everton, The Etihad, PL
Tu 04Dec 19h45 B Dortmund, Signal Iduna Park, CL
Su 09Dec 13h30 The rags, The Etihad, PL
Sa 15Dec 12h45 Newcastle, St James' Park, PL
Sa 22Dec 15h00 Reading, The Etihad, PL
We 26Dec 15h00 Sunderland, Stadium of Light, PL
Sa 29Dec 15h00 Norwich, Carrow Road, PL
Date:Sunday November 18 2012
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