Saturday, 1 January 2011

City 1 - 0 Blackpool

  • Not as fun as the Boxing Day win against Aston Villa, and certainly not as easy. But we're out of the Christmas session with nine points from three games, which is probably two more than I would have settled for. Given our record this season we can only be happy with a home win. We made this harder for ourselves by not scoring a second goal; the final fifteen minutes were much less pleasant than they ought to have been. Our play was good at times, the issue was with the finishing.
  • Roberto Mancini went for a stronger team than I expected. With Arsenal in mid-week I expected Yaya Touré to be rested, with starts for Jô and maybe another fringe player or two. Instead, we got the strongest possible side. David Silva played from the left, allowing Adam Johnson on the right. Blackpool came out as we expected them to: with their charmingly cavalier 4-3-3. You'd call them naive if they weren't in the top half. Their open expansive enthusiastic football was refreshing after months of parked buses at Eastlands.
  • Naturally it was an open game. Tévez slid the ball wide after 21 seconds. There were chances at both ends for the first twenty minutes, we threatened to overwhelm Blackpool at times, but ourselves looked flustered by a team that attacked with more gusto than we are used to seeing at Eastlands. Our superior quality started to reveal itself in the play; Tévez and Silva missed the best chances. Just when a sense developed of an opportunity being squandered, we went ahead: a corner came out to Adam Johnson, under no pressure, and his 20 yard shot deflected past Richard Kingson and in. In itself fortunate, within the context of the game probably deserved. Pushing for a second, Yaya Touré was pulled down in the box by Luke Varney. Carlos Tévez hit his penalty kick wide - the first time he's failed to score, from seven or eight attempts.
  • But the longer we went without scoring a second goal, the sharper the sense of nervous frustration. There are teams against whom you can be comfortable with a one-goal lead, but Blackpool are certainly not of that category. As the second half progressed, momentum transferred to the visitors, a process catalysed by two substitutions. At half-time, Blackpool brought on Matt Phillips on the right wing. He was quick and fearless, and provided a new attacking threat. He went past Aleksandar Kolarov that the Serb had to be withdrawn. The second change was the enforced replacement of the injured David Silva by James Milner. This was a football lobotomy. As well as losing an extra man in midfield, we lost any understanding of how to keep the ball, or an ability to pass through Blackpool, who started to dominate the ball. In the 64 minutes before Silva's injury, we outpassed Blackpool 336-240. In the final 26 minutes they outpassed us 125-87.
  • So it was a nervous finale. Joe Hart had to make some saves, but Blackpool could not convert their territory into chances as well as they might. Our defence was uncharacteristically panicky - both Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott resorted to launching the ball up the pitch to no-one in particular. Most of our players looked exhausted. But they held on for another satisfying three points. That late regression, though, was a worrying portent of what a Silva-free City side looks like. We have a definitive match at Arsenal in mid-week; without him we have very little chance.

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