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Manchester City's Carlos Tevez relishes role as fall guy against United in Carling Cup
Published : 28 Jan 2010 07:06:35
But even his dramatic powers are obliged to hold sway in the presence of a master. And Wayne Rooney's last-second intervention in this astonishing Carling Cup semi-final was a piece of timing that simply could not be bettered. The night had begun with Tevez once more at centre stage. It is a rare occasion indeed in the career of Craig Bellamy that the announcement of his name in a team line up does not elicit from rival supporters the most sizeable boo of the evening. But at Old Trafford, the busy Welshman had a fall guy to absorb his usual flak. Alongside him he had Carlos Tevez. And boy was Tevez booed. This time last season the crowd were chanting that he be signed up. A year on and they were urgently insisting he should be strung up. Possibly only the revelation that he is the lost love child of Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer could elicit more loathing here than that to which he was subjected. The forward's crime was not just to head to across town to buff up his bank account. It was to have the audacity to score two crucial goals against his former side and then celebrate them with such gusto. But what perhaps really lay behind the vehemence of his reception was the fact those strikes in last week's first leg had given potent reminder of what United had lost. Tevez was loved at Old Trafford for his effort. And it had clearly not diminished in the transfer: here, eschewing the snood he has been wearing through the cold snap, he preferred to stay warm on a shrill Mancunian night by characteristically threatening to run his legs into stumps. For much of the first half his endeavour was directed defensively. Stationing Tevez on his own in front of two banks of defenders, Manchester City's tactic was an Italian one: to hold on to what they had. His scurrying and scrapping was thus largely conducted in his own half, his instruction to keep the United defence from straying forward to join their attack. The odd thing was in the first 45 minutes that United deployed the same tactic: Rooney on his own, losing out to City's foresquare centre backs as his team mates were sucked into a midfield stalemate. But after the interval, everything changed. United played as if they had suddenly been alerted to the fact they had to score to win. In consequence we were treated to the most exciting 45 minutes of the season, a pulsating feast of attack. And after Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick had apparently put the home side in the final, the diminutive Argentine was obliged to turn his attention once more to the opposition goal. In the 77th minute, he received the ball on the halfway line and, squirming away from the presence of a United defender he squeezed the ball out to the tireless, relentless Bellamy. By the time the Welshman's perfectly weighted invitation of a cross came in, Tevez had scurried into the penalty area, his momentum allowing him to stretch out his leg in front of Rio Ferdinand to flick the ball beyond Edwin van der Sar. Now it was United 3, Tevez 3. The disappointment for those who had followed the plotline from the City of Manchester Stadium was that Gary Neville was nowhere in sight, apparently already ensconced in his Teletubby-like eco-bunker. Where was Tevez to direct his angry impression of Rod Hull suddenly stripped of Emu? To whom should he cup his ears? Not that he had time to ponder. While the blue corner of the ground celebrated as if a giant weight was about to be removed from their collective shoulders, he was immediately buried beneath team mates convinced he had done enough to take them to Wembley. Or at least into extra time. But none of them had bargained for Rooney. And the master script writer, at last escaping the attentions of his markers as the clock nudged 92 minutes, was there to apply the coup de theatre. And thus the script ran precisely to the pattern that has held swayed for the past 20 years in these parts. Whatever Tevez's imaginative efforts, the chance had gone to advance at their loathed neighbours' expense. However hard the little Argentine tried, in Manchester, the glass ceiling remains as impenetrable as ever.