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City 1 Chelsea 0: Brennan's verdict

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27 Sep 2010 09:25:15

| Submit Comments| Comments (73)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapVICTORY SALUTE: Nigel de JongItalian head, English heart. That?s the combination Roberto Mancini, for all his modest pronouncements, hopes can propel City into this season?s title race. And we saw evidence of both qualities in great quantity as the Blues sabotaged the Chelsea goal machine and then beat them with a display filled with tactical nous and Blue passion. In many ways the game resembled a Serie A affair, with Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti striding around the technical areas, like San Siro of old. And yet one little cameo, played out just yards in front of the two managers, told the story of why City won this game. It was nothing to do with tactics, or individual skill, or finishing, and everything to do with commitment and determination. Gareth Barry was the man to fire up the blood, crashing into Branislav Ivanovic ? hardly a shrinking violet himself ? to win a bone-jarring 50-50 ball. The ball sprang loose, Carlos Tevez snapped and snarled at the heels of two Chelsea men like a cattle dog, and then the master enforcer Nigel de Jong arrived like the Amsterdam express to clear out players, ball, the lot. The crowd rose in a roar of appreciation, de Jong pumped his fists and shouted, and Chelsea got the distinct feeling they were sliding towards their first defeat of the season. Mancini has spoken in the past of the need to combine English bloody-mindedness with the more sophisticated know-how of the Italians. This was it, and if the Blues can continue to blend and refine it, they will be a serious force this season. And yet the national media perceptions of City appeared to be a far cry from the evidence out on the pitch. Recent reports, based on the utterings of ex-employees ? be they players or fitness trainers ? speak of a side struggling for fitness, rowing with the manager at every turn, and thinking only of their pay packet, with no team spirit. Clearly it has not been all sweetness and light behind the scenes. Whether you see it as Mancini fighting to change the City mentality, or some player resistance to occasionally unorthodox training methods, depends on your standpoint. But the only way Mancini?s methods can truly be judged is out on that pitch, and on Saturday we saw a team fit, disciplined, fiercely combative and rousingly together. Mancini?s description of his back four as playing like ?brothers? was apt. But it is noticeable that the four individuals concerned ? Dedryck Boyata, Vincent Kompany, Kolo Toure and Pablo Zabaleta ? already have the kind of mentality for which Mancini is striving. City methods The more the manager?s methods result in victories like this, the more the doubters are convinced and the snipers silenced, and the stronger the unit becomes. What was perhaps most encouraging for City fans was the way Chelsea were out-Chelsea?d. They came into the game as the team that couldn?t stop scoring. As well as their ability and the strategic and tactical acumen of Ancelotti, they are a team that will physically dominate you as well as move you around, then dismantle and destroy. But the sharp-shooting forwards broke themselves on the rock of City?s increasingly impressive defence. When Kolo and Kompany have been in tandem, the Blues have conceded just twice this season in eight games. Didier Drogba trooped off, to be substituted, the most feared striker in the Premier League cowed and neutralised. At the other end Tevez, without the height or weight of his Ivorian counterpart, put in a typically fierce shift, never allowing the Chelsea defence to settle, always on the prowl for a chance or half-chance. When he led a counter-attacking charge, his shot through the legs of the retreating Ashley Cole caught  Petr Cech wrong-footed and nestled in the corner. That was Tevez?s sixth goal in his last six appearances against Chelsea ? he is a big-game player par excellence. Even last season, when they completed a league double over the pending champions, City found Chelsea a physical handful, and had to win the games through the guile of Tevez, the pace of Craig Bellamy and a couple of unusual defensive failures. On Saturday, they matched the champions blow for blow and outworked and outfought them. Tevez dropped deep to link play, whereas Drogba waited for play to come to him ? and that proved a crucial difference, not least when it came to the goal, when Tevez drove from inside his own half. Drogba was waiting in vain, as the tenacity of Barry and de Jong cut his supply lines. Chelsea?s caution also cost them the chance to try to exploit Boyata?s inexperience at right back. Protected only by David Silva, he looked wide open to the forays of Florent Malouda and Cole ? but Cole dug in, Boyata was superb and that channel was closed. Kompany picked up the man of the match honours, but it was one of those games ? like Liverpool ? when  more than half of the team were candidates. Barry had one of his best games in a Blue shirt, de Jong added some shrewd passing to his uncompromising nature, Kolo Toure?s tackling was as accurate as it was thunderous, and Boyata played with a maturity beyond his years. But Kompany exemplified all that Mancini wants his City team to be. He was powerful without ever being clumsy, subtle without taking risks, and fiery without losing his head. If a player of the season poll was to be taken right now, Kompany would surely be the winner. If he, and City, can maintain these standards, this season could yet be that of the Blue Moon. Agree with the verdict? Have your say.| Submit Comments| Comments (73)| Printable VersionAdd A CommentEnter your comments:Sending


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