Saturday, January 02, 2010

Middlesbrough 0 City 1

Solid and unspectacular it may have been, but given some of the shambolic cup exits witnessed in recent years a routine FA Cup 3rd round win (against a bogey side) was very welcome.

It wasn't a performance that will live long in the memory, but it was a game that we controlled with the instruction to retain possession again very evident. Middlesbrough - brief flashed from Adam Johnson (until he was forced off injured) aside - offered little throughout the ninety minutes. So much so that Shay Given didn't not have to make a save during the game.

Despite comments prior to the game, Roberto Mancini opted for a much changed line-up with Dedryck Boyata partnering Richards in defence, whilst Vladimir Weiss got the start in midfield. Benjani came in from the wilderness to operate as a lone striker and cut an isolated figure for the most part in the first half, but it was his finish that decided the outcome. Petrov, marauding from midfield, cut inside before playing Benjani in behind the Middlesbrough defence for the Zimbabwean to neatly slot home on the stroke of half time.

Gareth Barry and Carlos Tevez were introduced at half-time as Mancini switched to a 4-4-2, and his willingness to alter formation and personnel was something we again witnessed. Petrov and Weiss interchanged during the game and Sylvinho operated as a central midfielder at times, showing that Mancini is not restricted to making changes to counter an opponents threat. The introduction of Tevez of course brought more spark to our play, and we could have added another goal or two with Tevez himself culpable of missing a golden opportunity to extend the lead.

With Wednesday very much in mind, the game really couldn't have gone much better. A winning performance that didn't require too much exertion, key players for Wednesday not playing more than a half and (so far at least) no new injuries to report.

Job done and into the draw for round 4. My prediction? Aston Villa at home.

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