The week ended on a rather disappointing and sour note as City laboured towards a score draw with Fulham. This was immediately followed by a rather frosty handshake between Roberto Mancini and his predecessor, Mark Hughes, who is the current Fulham manager.
There was a slight reprieve from City’s humdrum league form earlier in the week as City comfortably booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League by beating Aris Salonika.
It was evident that City were in no mood for messing around against Aris as the team sheet, on paper, looked potentially lethal. Mancini opting to play Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Carlos as a forward three with David Silva tucked in behind.
Within fifteen minutes it seemed the team selection was proving to be lethal on the pitch, not just on paper: Edin Dzeko firing City into a two goal lead early on. The opportunity for the first goal was gifted to City as Aleks Kolarov pumped a long ball up to the Aris backline and Nikos Lazaridis completely miscued his clearance allowing Dzeko a clear sight of goal. Dzeko carried the ball forward and neatly slotted into the bottom corner of the goal to give City an early boost.
The second goal soon followed as Silva ran the ball down the left wing before laying the ball back to Tevez. Tevez picked out Dezko who was lurking on the edge of the eighteen yard box. Dzeko cut back inside to bring the ball onto his left foot and he cannoned a low shot into same corner as the first goal. This was a fine team goal which demonstrated the mouth watering potential of City’s forward line.
With City up to a two goal advantage early on, the game leveled off to a certain extent. You would have thought the two early City goals would have silenced the loud and passionate Aris fans yet they continued to sing. Although, they continued to sing the same rather monotonous song which seemed to act as a lullaby and send the players and a large proportion of the City faithful to sleep which could have been the reason why the game slowed down somewhat. Who knows?
The game livened up just before half time and Dzeko should have sealed his inaugural City hat-trick but fluffed a one-on-one chance with the Aris ’keeper, in rather similar fashion to the Notts County miss last week.
The second half was a bit of a non-event as City were seemingly comfortable to sit on their two goal advantage and Aris barely threatened. City threatened to make it three nil at times and Mario Balotelli came closest with a fine low effort from inside the penalty area that hit the post. Yaya Toure made sure of the victory not long after as he collected the ball from thirty yards out and fired a powerful shot towards goal. The shot took a deflection and nestled in the bottom corner of the net to leave the Aris’ keeper dumbfounded.
All in all it was a comfortable night for City as they brushed aside Aris Salonika to ensure a last 16 tie against Dynamo Kiev, who you would suspect would pose more of challenge to Mancini’s men. City were not so comfortable in the Premier League tie against a resilient Fulham side. City never really got going and stumbled and staggered to the final whistle to share the points. City took a first half lead thanks to superb strike from Balotelli from outside the penalty area. The goal silenced a few of his critics which he seems to have to do on a weekly basis these days. I would suggest ten goals in sixteen appearances offers the perfect answer to his critics.
Nonetheless, City, as a team never got going and Fulham got themselves back on level terms soon after the break courtesy of a Damien Duff goal. Duff firing past Joe Hart after a low Andrew Johnson cross. The game ended one all.
However, the real spectacle of the tie came after the final whistle as both Mancini and Hughes exchanged a rather frosty post match hand shake. Mancini seemed unwilling to make eye contact with Hughes and Hughes took exception to this and pulled his hand away in disgust. I’m not too sure why Hughes was so disgusted but I felt Mancini defused the situation in rather comical fashion when asked what it was about he laughed it off and said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know what to say…I don’t understand’. So it was a frosty return to Eastlands for Mark Hughes but I’m sure he’ll have the last laugh as he has dented City’s top four aspirations slightly by taking a valuable two points off City.
In other news this week, it is expected that David Silva, who was absent for the Fulham tie, and Vincent Kompany should return to the City line ups at some point next week for the visits of Aston Villa in the FA Cup 5th Round and Wigan in the Premier League.
Words by Rob Toole