Furious fans put Mancini on back foot
Man City 0 Birmingham 0
Manchester City, once again, left their supporters craving more. This was another performance to frustrate their supporters, the most expensively assembled team in English football lacking the wit to break down an obdurate Birmingham side, and the crowd's dissatisfaction manifested itself in the first show of open hostility against Roberto Mancini in his 11 months in the job.
The dissent was loud and prolonged, even vicious at times. Mancini's decision to replace a striker, Carlos Tevez, with a defensive midfielder, Gareth Barry, five minutes from the end was particularly contentious, prompting an enraged chant of "What the f*** is going on?" The song in support of Craig Bellamy, loaned to Cardiff City after falling out with Mancini, told another story, as did the boos at the final whistle and the angry shouts directed towards the Italian around the dugout.
To give them their due, Mancini's team subjected their opponents to concerted second-half pressure but it was still flat and uninspiring. The closest they came was when Stephen Carr cleared James Milner's shot off the line a minute into the second half but, that apart, this was a performance that compounded the growing suspicion that English football's richest spenders are not playing with the adventure expected of a club that began the season promising a serious tilt at the championship.
"I'm as frustrated as anyone," an animated Mancini said afterwards. "I wanted to win, I didn't want a draw. We had 17 chances in the second half. Okay, the first half we played slowly but the players are not robots, they have been playing every three days and they are tired."
Explaining the withdrawal of Tevez, he added: "Carlos has had a little injury for two to three weeks and I thought it would help us create chances by putting on Barry. We have had a problem all season and it is that if Carlos does not score we haven't another player who can score a goal."
This was an unusually pugnacious Mancini, and he reacted indignantly when he was asked whether he felt under pressure. "What pressure? You say I'm under pressure -- I'm not under pressure. We are fourth; we have some problems and we must improve, but what pressure? Because the supporters say: 'Oh, we should put on two strikers'?
"All supporters think like this, in England and Italy. But if they think that I should put on four strikers and we would score four goals ... no, that's not the way football is. If football was like that, I would put on 10 strikers."
Whether that argument will appease the supporters is a matter for debate.
There was audible dissent shortly before the interval when Jerome Boateng played a pass back to Vincent Kompany rather than going forward and, although Birmingham manager Alex McLeish described the second half as "a bit scary", the volume was turned up another notch against the home side at the final whistle.