Monday, January 11, 2010

City 4 Blackburn 1

If a string of draws where points were thrown away ultimately did for Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini is quickly proving that the decision to trust him to take City to the next level was a smart one.

A home game against Blackburn, dogged and doughty opponents in games past, was the type of fixture that saw the wheels begin to come off under Hughes during the months of October and November. No mistakes under Mancini so far though as a far from full-strength side comfortably brushed aside the challenge from their near-neighbours and continued his 100% record at the helm.

Mancini had sprung something of a surprise with the line-up, with Garrido and Benjani coming into the side from the one that started against Wolves meaning an adventurous looking formation with Bellamy and Petrov supplementing Tevez and Benjani, with Barry and de Jong providing the steel in the middle.

Benjani's inclusion caused the most consternation, but his inclusion made sense given the formation Mancini fielded. He clearly wanted a target for Tevez to play off and with Adebayor unavailable and Santa Cruz not fully fit, Benjani was the option as opposed to trying to force another player into that role. Bizarrely, Benjani came away with three assists, and despite a lack of quality took up some important positions that let others play around him.

And it was a performance deserving of such a convincing scoreline. From the moment Tevez turned in Benjani's mis-hit shot after Blackburn failed to clear a corner, there was an efficiency about the play that has quickly become the trademark under Mancini. Neat, crisp passing, superb link-up play between Tevez and the wide duo of Petrov and Bellamy. Strong defensive play too, with Micah Richards particularly impressive, and it was he who was the dominant of the central pairing and showed his attacking prowess with the way he marauded forward to score the second of the night.

Noticeable too was the way in which the team defended, with the speed of players tracking back and supporting the defence when we didn't have the ball key in thwarting Blackburn's ambition. Evidence therefore of the work that has gone in on the training ground, and something players have been queueing up to praise over the past week.

But it was the attacking element of our play that shone brightly. Make no mistake, Blackburn were not a quality side and did not provide the stiffest of tests yet we were lively and creative going forward. Central to this was Carlos Tevez. He provided his usual energy and effervesence, but continued his recent goalscoring form which is silencing the doubters who suggested his goal return is not good enough at this level. My own view is that at the start of the season he was not quite fit enough and is now enjoying the benefit of a regular run of games - something that Robinho (looking unfit and a little overweight) must desperately crave.

Fittingly, it was Tevez - crowned player of the month in December - who capped the victory with a strike that curled beyond Robinson to seal his hat-trick and cap an impressive night where you sensed the momentum and confidence since Mancini arrived continue to grow.

vote it up!

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