Middlesbrough 0 Man City 1: Benjani strikes to send City into fourth round

02 January 2010 11:22
If timing was the essence behind Roberto Mancini's carefully programmed induction as manager, then you have to hand it to chief executive Garry Cook and other Manchester City officials - they certainly knew their stuff!

Whether it needed the Italian import to steer the side through the choppy waters of Stoke, Wolverhampton and now Middlesbrough is debatable.

If, with roughly £200million-worth of players as well as Sheik Mansour's open chequebook at his disposal, the carefully-coiffured Mancini had been troubled at the tiller then they would surely now be asking questions.

City slicker: Benjani scores at the Riverside Stadium

Included in the parade of cushy matches over the next six weeks, are a couple of jousts against the neighbours.

As a warm-up for next Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final againstUnited, Middlesbrough provided the perfect workout. Will we then seewhat the new boss is really made of in that first leg at Eastlands?

The blue and white scarf which Mancini presumably sleeps in was anecessary antidote to the freezing cold rather than a lucky adornment.

His winter of content continued with a no-frills victory over a Boroside which, apart from a token flurry near the end, provided scantopposition.

Delight: City are safely into the fourth round

Having taken the lead through Benjani in first-half added time, Citywere rarely ruffled in maintaining a run of not conceding a goal sinceMancini's arrival.

At least he afforded the home side respect, naming Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy among his subs.

From their point of view, being temporarily mothballed had itsdrawbacks. Sitting out a match at a Riverside Stadium at the mercy ofthe Arctic conditions must have been damaging to their circulation -but no more so than for the 12,474 fans who had paid to watch.

Barry and Tevez had the chance to warm up when they came on, butthere was no such luxury for the frozen few scattered among thousandsof empty seats.

Perfect start: City boss Roberto Mancini

Hundreds of City fans did not turn up because their coaches had beenturned back on the M62 but home fans have long given up on their team -and blizzards blowing in off the North Sea did not change their minds.

Injuries to key players like Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge havestretched City's formidable dressing room to its limits, and VladimirWeiss and Dedryck Boyata starting their first senior match in midfieldand at centre-back respectively.

It was an opportunity for Middlesbrough to make the stay-at-homeswish they had braved the elements but the likelihood of that happeningwas reduced when Adam Johnson limped off with a recurrence of hamstringtrouble in the 32nd minute.

Bejani's decider left them with an even steeper mountain to climb. His goal underlined the chasm of talent between the sides.

Martin Petrov picked the ball up in his own half, strode forwardunchallenged before picking out Benjani's intelligent run between ChrisRiggott and David Wheater with a superb pass.The Zimbabwean's control made the job of shooting past Danny Coyne easy.

The home fans felt they should have a penalty when Gary O'Neil wentdown under Sylvinho. Instead, referee Stuart Attwell penalty when Garyunder a challenge from referee Stuart Attwell booked the Boro skipper.

Luke Williams, who became Middlesbrough's youngest first-team playerfor 104 years, when at the age of 16, he came on against Barnsley lastMonday, was given another chance when he replaced Julio Arca after 70minutes but his glory is of another day.

Tevez had a couple of efforts which came to nothing and Bellamy, whocame on after 74 minutes, did not threaten either. It was just a caseof whether the Premier League side would be careless enough at the backto allow Middlesbrough's late pressure to prevail.

There was not much likelihood of that. Boro boss Gordon Strachan stressed the need for new blood.

'We'll have to bring in players to help these lads; players who want to play for this club,' he said.

While pleased with the result, Mancini admitted he was hoping tohave several players fit for the United tie. 'We've a problem withinjuries. That's why I left Tevez, Barry and Bellamy on the bench,' hesaid.

'We're hoping to get them and others ready for the United game.'And after that, apart from the Carling Cup Old Trafford return leg,it's back to the normal league routine - Blackburn, Everton, Stoke,Portsmouth, Hull and Bolton. Full steam ahead for an 18-point maximumsurely?

 Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini praises 'world class' Carlos TevezManchester City boss Mancini lines up big moves for Ibrahimovic and MaiconMANCHESTER CITY FC

Source: Daily_Mail