Sunday, 7 November 2010

West Brom 0 - 2 City

  • What a response. After a week of whispers and innuendo, and the annual bestowing of the 'crisis club' label upon us, the players produced possibly their best performance of the season. Maybe beating Chelsea was better. But this felt braver, I think, marginally controlled, more dramatic, less a product of Roberto Mancini's plans (althought it certainly was a tactical triumph); it was a battle, a show of strength, a message sent and a proof of force and clarity that the players and the fans remain loyal to Mancini and his approach.

  • The plan was fairly simple: keep the ball, slow it down, impose our will on the game in a way that we could not at Molineux last week. Remeber the second half at White Hart Lane in August? Well this was, for the first hour, just like that. With Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré all at the top of their games, we hoarded possession in a way that no many away sides manage to do in the Premier League. With David Silva and Carlos Tévez dropping into midfield alternately we passed the ball with real precision and imagination.

  • And it was those two, our two impish conjurers, that created the goals for Mario Balotelli, who shares some of the qualities of Silva and Tévez - ability, competitiveness, imagination - if not impishness itself. (I feel like I ought to write at length about Balotelli's performance yesterday, because it was unlike anything I've ever seen in my life. Honestly. And as one of the 23,013 people there (and as someone who writes about football as a matter of course), I do have a duty to describe it as best I can. But I don't think I can do it tonight.) The first goal came with Silva playing a genius pass into the channel to Tévez, who fired across goal to Balotelli. The second goal started with Silva, who chipped in Balotelli, who shrugged off and spun a defender and fired into the bottom corner.

  • The second half was never going to be as easy as the first. West Brom came out stronger: tougher in the tackle and more direct on the ball. The fact that we reduced such a good footballing side to such tactics is an achievement in itself. They did look close to scoring, hitting the woodwork once from distance. But for the most part Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany were as commanding as ever - I hope that our defensive blip is now over - and we resisted. These pressures were exacerbated when Mario Balotelli was sent off; for just over 20 minutes we had to play short-handed. As against Arsenal we fought hard in difficult circumstances, and while we were given the occasional scare it became increasingly apparent that we would come through.

  • Three of the best points we'll take this season. This takes some of the edge off Wednesday night (it's inconceivable that there will be serious rumours of Mancini's dismissal even if we lose), as well as making us more confident of a positive outcome. There were some excellent individual performances, but looked most like a team showing, in difficult circumstances, that they have a bit more unity and cohesion than they sometimes like to show us.

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