In what was a varied week for City, it ended in disappointment with the frustrating away defeat to Aston Villa but began on a brighter note in an exciting cup tie against Leicester City.
Following the fallout of the rather stressful yet entertaining match against Wolves last Saturday I was hoping that City would be able to put to bed the anxiety caused by their woeful defending in that game with a convincing victory against Leicester City in the FA Cup Third Round replay. Nevertheless, the game followed a remarkably similar pattern to that of the Wolves game thus, providing great entertainment for the neutral and undue stress for the City faithful.
As the players walked out onto the pitch they were wearing the red and black replica shirt of the 1969 FA Cup Final in which City beat Leicester. Each player had Young printed on the back of their shirts to pay tribute to Neil Young, scorer of the only goal in the Final of 1969, as he has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Young is a City legend who scored 107 goals over 11 years for City.
A poignant tribute for sure but I couldn’t help but think that there was an air of ‘typical City’ as Roberto Mancini donned a red and black City bar scarf on top of the now iconic blue and white version, that is synonymous with Mancini’s apparel. It seemed that mocking Leicester fans for a victory in the Cup some forty two years ago is hardly relevant and they may have looked rather foolish had they lost.
And I’m sure ‘typical City’ was prominent in the vocabulary of many fans after the match as they, rather characteristically, made the tie difficult for themselves. Leicester started brightly but it was City who took an early lead after a fine solo effort from Carlos Tevez who rather fortunately ran through the Leicester defence before firing high into the top corner of the goal. Not long after Patrick Vieira gave away a penalty to Leicester which Paul Gallagher was more than happy to convert and give the away fans plenty to cheer about.
The game was bright and lively with both teams getting into each other. Yet it was a quick-fire double from City that seemed as if it would put the tie comfortably beyond Leicester. A parried David Silva shot was put away by Vieira which was soon followed by a sublime through ball from the centre of pitch by Silva to tee up Adam Johnson who rounded off his diagonal run across the backline of Leicester’s defence with a powerful curled shot. The latter goal is another example of how David Silva is becoming an increasingly crucial player for City. Silva’s ability to pick a pass and willingness to follow the ball, thus linking the midfield together is a sight to behold. It is hard to believe that Silva is not a first team regular for the Spanish national team such is his quality. Not to digress.
With the game seemingly in the bag for City, they had a great chance to make doubly sure as they were awarded a penalty after Jack Hobbs tripped Tevez. How the referee did not give Hobbs a red card I do not know as he was clearly the last man, which by the law of the game means a red card. Nevertheless, Tevez was unable to convert the spot kick which resulted in an injection of self belief into Leicester. They had fifteen minutes of good possession and then Yuki Abe played a neat one-two with the referee and then played a nice forward ball which allowed Lloyd Dyer to put the ball away into the back of the net all too easily.
The pressure was on City for the remainder of the game until a powerful low strike from Aleksandar Kolarov sealed the victory and progression into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
On Saturday, City faced Aston Villa in the league in what was a frustrating away trip which ended in a one-nil defeat. Although City had a lot of possession it seemed that they were never going to breach the Villa defence. Villa took the lead after an Ashley Young shot from the edge of the 18 yard box was parried by Joe Hart into the path of Villa debutant, Darren Bent, who easily slotted the ball home. A dream start for Bent’s Villa career which at the same time began the frustrating afternoon for City players and fans.
With persistent pressure from City in the second half the Villa defence stood strong and did not allow City to pass. The closest City came was a deflected shot from Nigel de Jong that hit the post late on. As a result, City ended the week third in the League allowing Arsenal to take second place.
In the other news this week, it seems as if Shaun Wright-Phillips is close to a move away from City as Mancini continues to cleanse his squad of highly paid fringe players. It is understood that he is keen to link up again with former manager Mark Hughes at Fulham.
Next week: City take on Notts County in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Meadow Lane, Nottingham.
Words by Rob Toole