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City 1 Bolton 0: Brennan's verdict
Published : 06 Dec 2010 10:38:55
| Submit Comments| Comments (19)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapYaya Toure is tackled by Zat KnightFights, rows, rebellion, rampant disorder. It makes you wonder how Manchester City?s players and management can even get on the same bus together without World War Three breaking out. The wide-eyed softies in the media watched in horror as the Blues went at it tooth and nail again this week, Jerome Boateng and Mario Balotelli squaring up in training and then Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tevez exchanging harsh words on the pitch. Yet, at the end of another week in which City have been portrayed as a family more dysfunctional than the Simpsons, the Blues moved within three points of top spot. And they did it with some bright, entertaining, attacking football and some bloody-minded, resolute defence. So how can this wild bunch of in-fighters and ne?er-do-wells have embarked on a run of seven unbeaten games which have them firmly on course for the Premier League top four and comfortably into the knockout stage of the Europa League? The answer is simple. Because they are a feisty, fighting, single-minded set of winners. Anyone who has played football, at any level, would recognise that. Two players clash in training because training matters, they swap a couple of blows then it cools down and everyone is pals again. Mancini looks on and, while things cannot be allowed to get out of hand, quietly he approves, because it proves that he has winners. The difference between City and the other leading lights of the Premier League is a simple one ? their training ground is visible from public areas so photographers can snap the action when things get competitive. The same things goes on at United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and the rest but they are hidden away. Bust-ups Don?t pity City for their bust-ups, pity those teams that don?t get stuck into each other, physically or verbally. They are the ones who will be dropping through the trap-door at the end of this season. Tevez was furious when he was substituted late in the game, making his feelings plain to Mancini, the rest of the bench and the fans in the stadium, and he was panned for it. When the lad is quoted as saying he is tired of football, and hints at returning to Argentina at a future date, he doesn?t care, apparently. When he passionately wants to stay on the pitch to see the victory through, and makes that passion plain, he doesn?t care, say the same people. The shame of this charade is that the trumped-up controversy detracted from a lively, attractive Greater Manchester affair which blew away any lingering stereotypes about these two teams. Bolton, under Owen Coyle, have proved they are far more than a physical outfit which relies on the muscular attributes of Kevin Davies. While they ended up resorting to long-ball stuff as they chased the game, they had also added their own twopenn?orth of decent football to the mix. And City, who are meant to be as boring as they are prone to civil war, created enough chances to have won several matches. All credit to Bolton for believing they could go to Eastlands and take on City on equal terms, rather than set out to stifle and crush, as Birmingham, Blackburn and United had done before them. But such an enterprising approach played straight into the hands of Tevez and Co. Within four minutes the pattern of the match was set. Yaya Toure, having one of his most powerful and influential games for the Blues yet, stormed forward ? the first of many barnstorming runs ? and then slipped a delightful pass though for the marauding Tevez. Tevez opener The little Argentine raced away and slipped his shot past Jussi Jaaskelainen. Had referee Andre Marriner and his officials been on form, the Blues would have been out of sight by half-time. David Silva?s shot, after another gorgeous sweeping City move, cannoned off Gary Cahill?s chest and onto his outstretched arm. Referees tend to decide on such cases on whether the arm is in an unnatural position when the ball struck it, and Cahill?s arm was stuck out horizontal from his body. It should have been a penalty. Then when Silva ran from an onside position to pull the ball back for Tevez to score, a linesman?s flag had been raised against Gareth Barry, who had been offside but had not touched the ball nor interfered with play. It should have been a goal. If the officials were doing their bit to stop the home side from extending their lead, City?s profligacy was also playing a part. Tevez?s lovely lob for his countryman Pablo Zabaleta sent the full back clear, but he tried to scoop the ball to Mario Balotelli rather than putting his foot through it. Tevez was also wasting chances, and Bolton were doing enough at the other end ? aided by occasionally sloppy defending ? to suggest City could still blow this one. The Blues stepped it up in the second half, Yaya the driving force, Barry putting in an all-action, rounded midfield display, Tevez and Silva providing the torment and full backs Zabaleta and Aleks Kolarov turning into the attacking forces which Mancini has envisaged for his team. Balotelli hit a post, Silva hit the bar, Kolarov smashed one into the side netting and Zabaleta and Balotelli forced a fine save from Jaaskelainen. We thought we had seen some bad conditions over the past fortnight, but it was nothing compared to the heavy weather which City were making of winning this match. And with just one goal between them there was always the possibility of City messing it up, a historical trait which Mancini is starting to eradicate. Joe Hart almost harked back to the bad old days, racing out to grasp Sam Ricketts? free kick and letting it through his hands, only for the brilliant Vincent Kompany to kick the ball off the line. Suitably encouraged, Bolton stepped up a gear, only to find Kompany and sub Joleon Lescott in uncompromising mood. Even when City lost Kolarov for an unfortunate second yellow card, Bolton could not find a way through as Lescott produced a fine block to deny Kevin Davies and Kompany was a model of timing and anticipation. What should have been a cinch turned into a fight ? but City know all about fighting these days! What do you think? Have your say.