Defiant Dzeko insists City canchase down United
Norwich City 3 Manchester City 4
Published 31/12/2012 | 05:00
EDIN DZEKO, puffing himself up as proud as a rooster, stood with the hat-trick ball under his arm and predicted without the faintest doubt that Manchester City could still erase their seven-point deficit to neighbours United.
"It looks a lot, of course," said the striker of the hour.
"But nothing is finished. We will fight until the end."
Strictly speaking, Dzeko had no right to take possession of the ball, given that the third strike of his supposed hat-trick had been touched against the post by Norwich's Mark Bunn and thus counted as an own goal. But it proved unwise for one inquisitor to quibble with this 6ft 4in son of Sarajevo.
"I know that it was my goal," the Bosnian shot back, with a thinly-concealed note of menace. "And I think you do, too."
One could forgive City's players, perhaps, for acting so bullishly. This tumultuous match, with its seven goals and a highly controversial red card for Samir Nasri, underscored the champions' resilience at the end of a month in which such a quality had been much questioned.
For the second time this season – City also prevailed at West Bromwich despite the loss of James Milner – they contrived a way to win despite playing for more than half the match with 10 men.
As the title duel with United enters 2013, they remain redoubtable adversaries.
Dzeko, who produced two superb finishes within the first five minutes, admitted: "It was hard to play when we were one player down, but we did it once before against West Bromwich, and here we did it again very well.
"We deserved this win."
His own cultured display at Carrow Road served as a reminder to Roberto Mancini to start him more regularly for City, who host Stoke tomorrow afternoon.
"I think I paid him back," said Dzeko, having looked far from content at being substituted with nine minutes to play. "We will see what the future brings."
Mancini appeared too pre-occupied with Nasri's sending-off to be thinking about selection issues.
The Italian was incensed by referee Mike Jones' decision to dismiss the winger, who had been upended by Sebastien Bassong before retaliating with an apparent butt on the Cameroon centre-back.
Mancini argued vigorously that this was a case of double standards by the officials and that Bassong ought also to have been sent off after the two squared up in a clash of heads.
"If they decide to send off one in that situation, I think that both players should go. If not, I don't feel it was a red card for anyone."
Watching such chaos might have been compelling for the neutral but it was painful for Mancini, connoisseur of catenaccio and defensive cohesion.
In this strangest of seasons, City have let in 19 goals in their first 20 games and, for large stretches of the second half, he glowered on the touchline like a man in mortal agony. (© Daily Telegraph, London)