City 0 - 0 Birmingham: Mancini hot under the scarf
Saturday, 13th November
That was yet another opportunity missed by Mancini and his team, United could only draw at Villa Park meaning a City win against Birmingham could take us within one point of our city rivals. But it was not to be. It was a poor match, in the first half we were dire - it was the most boring 45 minutes of football I have seen from City in ages and it was no surprise that the players left the pitch at half time to a chorus of boos. We picked things up in the second half but why oh why did we only give ourselves 45 minutes to win a football game, especially when you`re at home.
Not too long ago Eastlands was a fortress, every team hated coming to play us on our home turf because we used to play expansive football and take it to the opposition. And despite the crowd`s calls for Bellamy to return and for Mancini to be axed; those days are gone. Admittedly, we play a much more conservative game these days but we are harder to beat and don`t leak goals like we used to. Never the less, I`d don`t like this 'we set out not to lose` mentality. We must loosen the reigns and believe in our attacking talents.
One astounding statistic that I heard today is the following - Manchester City have not scored a home league goal in 4 hours and 45 minutes, our last was Adam Johnson`s late strike against Newcastle on 3rd October. Also interesting is that we mustered 11 shots on target today with 21 efforts in total. But I was at the game and I cannot remember one guilt-edge chance bar Tevez`s disallowed goal. That statistic suggests that we peppered Foster`s goal but we didn`t at all. The majority of our shots were feeble; aimed directly at Ben Foster.
Mancini made two changes from the derby, in came Aleksandar Kolarov and Adam Johnson for Pablo Zabaleta and Gareth Barry. He switched the formation to a 4-2-3-1 with de Jong and Yaya anchoring, Milner wide left, Johnson wide right and Silva floating in support of Tevez. Despite this relatively attacking formation Tevez got very little support - he was often surrounded by hungry Birmingham defenders with no team mate anyway near him. And it was obvious to me that again, he wasn`t fully fit. He has trained only sparsely this week and has not fully recovered from a dead leg, this showed today as his shooting was off-target and when the Argentine isn`t firing all cylinders, City look drastically short of ideas.
The game started slowly. Birmingham were content to let City have the ball as we continued where we left off from the derby - holding possession but doing absolutely bob all with it. But the Blues` first chance came on 20 minutes when Tevez`s blocked shot fell to Kolarov who could only blaze his shot wildly over the bar from outside the box. Then the complacency set it - our passing became stray and our movement turned sloppy. Our midfield kept giving the ball away in key areas and the fans were getting restless.
But then just before the break City found the net and Tevez wheeled away to celebrate. But it was not to be. Mike Jones disallowed the goal for handball and in fairness; Tevez did relatively little to protest suggesting he too thought he had handled it. I was lucky enough to have a replays screen right in front of me and the one brisk look I managed to get suggested to me that it rebounded off his shoulder. Overall then it was an appalling first half, the final ball was found lacking on so many occasions.
Thankfully, we emerged from the tunnel with a different mentality and Milner came so close to scoring only seconds after the restart. His shot was bundled off the line by Carr who did brilliantly to clear. The crowd reacted to this and really got behind the team as City camped in Birmingham`s half for around ten minutes. But the crowd turned, the faithful were becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation as McLeish`s side began to see more of the ball. But City broke through Kolarov and Yaya Toure had a great chance but was unable to find the target, the same applied to Tevez minutes later before Johnson`s goal-bound shot was blocked by Milner.
Little then happened in terms of goal mouth action but the really heated point of the game came next: Mancini substituted Carlos Tevez for Gareth Barry with 10 minutes to go. Tevez left the pitch to a standing ovation but Mancini was the subject of much criticism as his decision was heavily booed.
Overall, we didn`t deserve to win. We didn`t create enough meaningful chances. And now Mancini really has the fans on his back! But without Tevez we looked clueless, soulless, empty. Our little talisman is so important to this team and without him we simply don`t cut it, and this really shone through today. No one was willing to stand up and be counted for. But on we travel. Fulham is now a must win.