Friday 20 April 2018

Mancini excuses Hart blunder as Robinson stars for visitors

Graham Chase

For all the millions now sloshing around Eastlands, not everything has changed.

They started the day cheering Manchester United's failure before squandering their own opportunity and, for a club that is perpetually just 90 minutes from "crisis", one win from their opening four Premier League matches is not a return to celebrate.

There was an element of the bizarre to Nikola Kalinic's opening goal, which was gifted to him by Joe Hart's error. Although Patrick Vieira equalised 10 minutes after the break, City could not find a second and left the field to boos. These early points dropped could prove costly at the end of the campaign and City are already seven adrift of Chelsea.

Roberto Mancini, who finished the game with two holding midfielders, has acknowledged that his team must be more incisive.

"They played with all players behind the ball. We must find a solution when we play against these teams," he said "We are very unlucky because we are missing a lot of important players through injury and we conceded a strange goal and after we had 25 chances to score."

Mancini may have inflated his team's opportunities by five but he had a point and while Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce did not talk up the performance of Paul Robinson, the retired England goalkeeper led an outstanding defensive effort along with Christopher Samba.

Gareth Barry was left on the bench, yet City began with purpose as Adam Johnson maintained his blistering recent form. The former Middlesbrough winger curled one shot wide and had another effort blocked by Robinson, who also denied Carlos Tevez.

But midway through the opening period, Blackburn moved ahead with Hart making the kind of error that Robinson would have been reminded about for months.

Mancini excused the error and said: "This is a fluke, it can happen in football but I hope after today we finish making gifts to the opponent. It can happen. Joe Hart is a good goalkeeper."

Morten Gamst Pedersen hooked the ball forward and Hart raced out of his area, presumably shouting for Kolo Toure to leave it to him, only to miss the ball, which Kalinic rolled it into the empty net.

For all their possession, and the bite provided by Johnson, City failed to trouble a highly organised Blackburn side and were jeered at the break. Yaya Toure almost gifted Kalinic a second goal just after the restart but Hart was alert enough to block. Then, after Robinson denied Johnson again, City pulled level.

Making his first Premier League start of the season Vieira had been dreadful in the first half and compared to the marauding runs he used to embark on a decade ago, this was more of a totter as he fed Tevez and got on the end of the Argentine forward's cross at the near post. Coming off the bench, Barry had a drive saved and, in added time, another substitute, Jo, saw his close-range effort blocked by Samba.

"The immense difference between both clubs is we've measured up to a team that should have brushed us aside in terms of the quality they can afford and the wages they can pay and the limited budget that we work on," Allardyce said. "A good, organised, fit, hard-working side with good ability in the right areas can always cause an upset and for Manchester City it was an upset but a well-deserved result for us."

A shirtless El-Hadji Diouf had a bottle thrown at him as he left the field kissing his biceps at the end, just to underline that nothing in football changes that much.


Sunday Independent

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