independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Mancini delight as 10-man City dig deep to seal points

Norwich 3
Man City 4

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the Premier League match against Norwich City

It took just 82 seconds for City to shake off the rumours that they might be about to succumb to consecutive defeats for the first time in the league this season, following a shock loss at Sunderland on St Stephen's Day.

Ahead of this game all the news about City had been dreary: trailing the league leaders Manchester United by seven points, the defending champions were statistically inferior to their performances at the same stage last season in almost every way. Worse still, they had also been unceremoniously dumped out of Europe.

But a rip-roaring four minutes into the match at Carrow Road and there was a distinct change in mood as Roberto Mancini's much-maligned men shot into the lead with two goals. Edin Dzeko was the executor of both, but with Sergio Aguero, David Silva and the rest of the team firing on all cylinders, City instantly appeared truly unstoppable.

From that vantage point, it was hard to see how Norwich might avoid the kind of humbling 5-1 and 6-1 batterings they had endured at the hands of City last season. But, impressively, Chris Hughton's side were able to maintain their composure, keep a good amount of possession, and calmly strike back through Anthony Pilkington's free-kick after Robert Snodgrass was brought down on the edge of the area by Vincent Kompany.

At 2-1, it was game on. As the match raced towards half-time, the narrative took an ugly turn, Sebastien Bassong's halfway-line tackle on Samir Nasri prompting the France international to leap to his feet and square up to the Norwich defender. Tempers flaring, head grinding against head, both players seemed equally at fault until Nasri added in the slightest of headbutts and the referee held up a red card to send him off – the City midfielder protesting all the way.

The second half brought another spell of thrilling action as City twice more surged ahead – first through Aguero profiting from a Bassong mistake just minutes into the second half, then Dzeko forcing Bunn to turn the ball against his own post and into the back of the net. Undeterred, Norwich superbly responded to each goal, on both occasions captain Russell Martin hitting back to close the gap and keep the league champions on a short rein.

Sadly for Chris Hughton's men it was not to be, Norwich enduring a third consecutive defeat after an unbeaten run of five.

Afterwards Mancini extolled his players' efforts. "I am delighted with the result, I am delighted with the performance. The first 25 minutes we played fantastic football, afterwards it became more difficult."

Forced to play the entire second half without Nasri, the City manager praised the work rate of his players. "It's not easy," said the Italian, reminding observers that this was the second occasion this season in which his side had pulled off a victory with just 10 men.

"We won two games, this and another game against West Bromwich Albion. We played 60 minutes (then) with 10 players, I think we are a strong team."

Hughton was disappointed to concede two early goals.

"You can't be 2-0 down so early in the game and expect not to have a real tough game. I thought we showed great character, certainly at 4-3 it seemed like one of those games that might end up going our way."

Hughton also questioned why the referee did not react to a Kompany foul in a move that set up City's second goal, before agreeing with Mancini's assessment of Nasri's red card.

"There was certainly a coming together of heads and a bit of movement from Nasri, whether that was enough for a sending off, the referee obviously felt that there was."

Observer

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