Manchester City 1 – 0 Swansea: City fail to impress again as Tevez’s strike downs Swans
After last Wednesday’s horror show in the Amsterdam Arena you would have expected an under fire Roberto Mancini to have sent his troops out with the brief to dismantle the fragile Swansea side facing them with minimum fuss.
If he did his pleas fell on deaf ears once more. This performance did as much to underline the growing concern at Manchester City that they are not as effective as they were last season, as it did to continue the champions’ unbeaten start to the season going into November.
A deceiving statistic indeed. Mancini, not surprisingly, resorted to the excuse of fatigue post match but his team have been sleep-walking through most of their fixtures throughout the new campaign.
Clocking in at 102 minutes and 38 seconds, this was officially the longest match in Premier League history and it felt like it.
In the opening stages both sides seemed comfortable to hug possession in the safe house of their own midfields without showing much inclination to penetrate at all.
For Laudrup’s Swansea, this was always going to be the plan of course, but the lively Wayne Routledge gave a jolt to proceedings when he scuttled past Vincent Kompany, only to be brought down by the curiously off-colour Belgian.
With the encounter lacking in any real goal-mouth action, Swans right-back Angel Rangel entertained the crowd with some amusing play acting, throwing himself to the floor on the edge of the City area to earn himself a place in the book alongside Kompany.
It was painfully obvious City were missing their Spanish playmaker David Silva as they shuffled around the visitor’s half like a group of awkward strangers in a lift, and the men in white could sense the opportunity of a scalp.
With minutes remaining in the first half Ki Sung-Yueng slipped a beauty of a ball through for Michu, who uncharacteristically fluffed his lines as Hart bore down on him, with a heavy touch allowing the England goalkeeper to smother.
By the start of the second half Mancini had already thrown on Mario Balotelli, and was vindicated almost instantly.
With their three biggest hitters forming a trio at the head of whatever formation it is Mancini chooses to deploy these days, the home side began to look like a team capable of doing something. Aguero scooped over, Balotteli narrowly missed a Nasri centre and the Frenchman himself went close after appearing to be impeded by Chico Flores.
Finally the crowd were roused, but Laudrup’s side are a dangerous unit and their top scorer Michu again squandered a presentable opportunity, nodding a Hernandez cross into the grateful arms of Hart.
On the hour mark the Welsh side were left to rue their wastefulness, such a familiar lesson dished out by the Premier League big hitters.
Tevez did superbly to control a loose pass from Gael Clichy, but did even better when unleashing a shot so venomous that Michel Vorm had to be substituted. The Dutchman, in fact, had to go off due to an injury sustained from his desperate dive as the ball whistled past him.
The Swans refused to buckle however, and could have equalised after Nasri decided to give Jonathan De Guzman a free shot, only for the former Villareal man to fail where Tevez succeeded.
The only other scare for the home side was the fact they had to endure 16 minutes of accommodating Kolo Toure at the back after Micah Richards worryingly departed after his knee appeared to give way.
Luckily for them their counterparts had run out of steam by that time to ensure City earned a hard fought but deeply unconvincing victory.
Whilst Laudrup will no doubt wonder whether he’ll ever get a better chance to overcome the champions of England, Mancini will merely be wondering whether his side have what it takes to become champions of England once more.
Jamie Murphy, football correspondent