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City 2-1 Spurs

A morale boosting comeback victory has set up CIty nicely for the crunch fixtures coming up in the calendar...

Richard Heathcote
In many respects this fixture encapsulated City’s season to date. A bright start undermined by a defensive error from a set piece to fall behind, a referee seemingly intent on making a name for himself by continually giving decisions against the team and then a second half fightback, capped by a winning strike from the unhappily tagged ‘Supersub’ himself, Edin Dzeko. The performance was also a fillip for Robert Mancini, who stubbornly refuses to pander to media objectives and switched to the 3-5-2 formation as City trailing with an immediate effect. That first choice wing-backs Maicon and Kolarov were in harmony for the first time this season was a key factor, with the Brazilian’s impact considerable down the right flank of the Blues attack.

The most telling contributor however was the little Spaniard who - as is so often the case - was behind everything positive City did on the pitch yesterday. Surprisingly in the starting line up and entrusted with 90 minutes of action following injury, David Silva was at his mercurial best, playmaking, prompting and passing Spurs into submission. His lofted pass for Dzeko to hook in the winner was an inspirational piece of skill no other player on the field would have attempted, let alone executed to perfection. His return to fitness, much like that pass on Sunday, was very timely indeed.

Make no mistake, City deserved this victory against a Spurs side who offered little attacking threat throughout. The in-form Jermaine Defoe had been left out in favour of the pantomime villain Emmanuel Adebayor, who revelled in his antagonistic role. Holding the ball up to some effect but offering no goal threat at all, the tall Togolese drew the venom of the Etihad crowd throughout with his constant attempts to win free kicks rather than looking to stay on his feet. One exchange with Pablo Zabaleta – again in true warrior-like form yesterday – prompted a stream of invective from the Argentine as his former team mate lay prone on the floor after another melodramatic collapse. It is safe to assume that Zabaleta, as in everything he does, would not have held back.

Along with Silva’s inclusion from the start the other surprise on the team sheet was the lack of a place for Mario Balotelli, who was forced to watch from the stands. Still yet to open his account in the EPL this season, despite playing relatively well in recent weeks, Mancini obviously feels a period of self-reflection is required for the enigmatic Italian. A goal for him sooner rather than later would be very welcome indeed. As anticipated after flashes versus Ajax, Sergio Aguero was in excellent form yesterday, dispatching coolly past Friedel to level the game and offering a constant threat with his close control, pace and movement across the Spurs backline. When in full flow there are few better.

Following a bright City opening, Joe Hart reminded everyone he was fallible afterall by failing to hold a header from Steven Caulker to give Spurs the early breakthrough midway through the first half. The goal pepped the visitors’ with Tom Huddlestone nearly adding a 2nd not long afterwards but there was still enough promise when City attacked to give the impression that Spurs could be beaten. There were two extremely strong cases for penalities ignored by referee Michael Oliver – the first when Aguero’s flick was clearly handled by William Gallas and the 2nd when Zabaleta again pressed forward and was body checked in the area by the cumbersome Huddlestone. There was incredulity from the stands as both claims were dismissed. Carlos Tevez failed to finish after a slick counter involving Yaya Toure and David Silva and Kolarov, again initially selected in an advanced role on the left in the absence of the ill Nasri, failed to find the corner when well set on the edge of the box. The half-time whistle saw the red-shirted Oliver derided as he left the pitch.

And so the tactical intervention by Mancini ten minutes into the 2nd period saw City’s increasing stranglehold on possession increase and gave Maicon the opportunity to demonstrate the ability and experience he has accumulated over years patrolling the right wing for Internazionale. An always available outlet hugging the touchline – with Bale unable to assert himself in opposition – Maicon’s delivery and positional awareness was sufficient to prove to doubters that he will be an asset for City over the course of the season. Special mention has to go to Gael Clichy also, fast becoming City’s ‘Mr Consistency’. The French full back has been in fine fettle for a number of weeks now without grabbing the headlines and has improved ten fold in an offensive and defensive capacity since his Arsenal days. That £7million transfer fee is increasingly looking an absolute steal.

The next 5 league fixtures ahead of the hectic December programme are now crucial for the country’s only unbeaten outfit. Many would expect Aston Villa at home to be the next side to be vanquished at fortress Etihad with an epic fixture away at Stamford Bridge preceded by the small matter of Real Madrid in the Champions League. It will be very interesting to see how Mancini utilises his squad for what is surely now a doomed European campaign. Wigan Athletic, a notoriously difficult fixture against Everton and then the first Manchester derby of the campaign completes the run of games. If City can remain unbeaten throughout that set, then the anti-Mancini media sentiment will surely evaporate and the Blue faithful can seriously begin to hope for another season of domestic success.

Man of the Match: David Silva