Monday, April 12, 2010

Manchester City moved four points clear of an Spurs

**One down and five to go! The glittering prize of Champions League football is a step nearer.

The Blues moved four points clear of an otherwise engaged Spurs and bolstered their goal difference too thanks to another clinical mix of organisation and flair.

Roberto Mancini’s side again managed that heady balance that allows a perfect marriage between rapier attacking thrusts and the broadsword of uncompromising defending.

It is a mix of ingredients that has now served up three successive league wins at a time when all about them are finding the going tougher than they would like.

Victory was not really in doubt from the moment the habitually stubborn Birmingham defence – minus on loan City keeper Joe Hart – was finally breached in the 38th minute.

The previous largely less than inspiring sparring was suddenly rendered irrelevant as the home side landed three telling knockout blows in five minutes.

First Carlos Tevez converted from the spot with aplomb after Emmanuel Adebayor had been felled by Scott Dann, then Nedum Onuoha planted a header – Via Tevez big toe - past Maik Taylor and finally Gareth Barry sent Craig Bellamy to the by-line from where he presented a tap to Adebayor.

In between times, just to add some spice and surrealism to the last seven minutes of the half, Cameron Jerome benefitted from some poor marking to nod one back for Birmingham.

It is not often that a manager sees his side win on the road 6-1 and then changes the eleven but that is what happened here as Mancini’s hand was forced by a calf injury to Brazilian defender Sylvinho and then a problem in the warm up with Patrick Vieira.

Javier Garrido replaced Sylvinho and Nigel De Jong stepped from the bench to take the Frenchman’s role.

The late switch opened the door, too, to another new face, 19-year-old midfielder Scott Kay who hails from Denton and is an FA Youth Cup winner, was amongst the subs.

Indeed statistics, which are creeping more and more into English sport, strongly suggested this would be a home win. Manchester went into the contest in a rich vein of attacking form having scored an average of 2.67 goals per game in their past six matches – one figure they enhanced.

Birmingham, meanwhile, chugged up the M6 having gone five Premier League games without a win, their worst run since May 2008.

For all their decent home record against the top teams and a league position that allows them more a comfortable final month of the season than most, they have only won three matches in the league in 2010.

Alex McLeish’s side’s only clean sheet in their last 13 games came in a 1-0 home win against Wigan in February!

That additional touch of class showed all over the pitch particularly out wide was where the game was won and lost. Once Adam Johnson and Craig Bellamy got their eye in and the after-burners turned on, the home side looked unstoppable and full of menace.

Gareth Barry’s contribution in midfield was brimming with classy touches and clever possession of the ball and some of Adebayor’s footwork was eye-popping. And a bonus was that DeJong came through uncarded and is now free of a tenth yellow bringing a ban.

As far as scoring chances after the break there were several but the keepers came out on top with Taylor denying Tevez with a fine diving effort from a free kick and Given’s legs protecting the home side’s lead when Fahey threatened.

The Blues finally put some gloss on the final score in the 76th minute when Onuoha proved his pedigree in the opposition box sashaying beyond the Birmingham before Adebayor also made it two for the afternoon sliding home a one-on-one fifth three minutes from the end.

Teams :

Manchester City:
Shay Given; Vincent Kompany, Kolo Toure, Javier Garrido, Nedum Onuoha, Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong; Craig Bellamy (Phillips 81), Adam Johnson, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez (Cruz 87).

Birmingham City: Maik Taylor; Scott Dann, Roger Johnson, Liam Ridgewell, Stephen Carr, Lee Bowyer, Barry Ferguson, James McFadden, Keith Fahey (Phillips 66), Craig Gardner, Cameron Jerome


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