Monday 11 December 2017

Noisy neighbours starting to thrive on Silva service

Bolton Wdrs 2, Manchester City 3

Henry Winter

Here was the new-look Manchester City playing with the hand-brake off, attacking with width and verve, still looking to enhance their lead in the final seconds when the old City would have been building barricades, doubling the guard and running down the clock.

City are putting on the Ritz, playing in an opulent fashion that reflects their wealth. Even if it needs stressing that Bolton's whole team cost £10m less than Sergio Aguero, it was impossible not to admire the adrenalin rush that was City as they rose to the top of the nascent Premier League table yesterday.

David Silva collected the man-of-the-match bubbly but deserving of lengthy swigs from the bottle were Edin Dzeko, James Milner, Gareth Barry and Micah Richards. All excellent.

Aguero's signing has not simply given City a fabulous new striker. It has given them a new approach, a new zest. To accommodate the Argentine, Roberto Mancini changed his tactics, playing two up top, Aguero partnering Dzeko. With those two darting around, City sought to stretch Bolton out wide.

Silva graced the right but also roamed productively inside, allowing Richards to make those long charges down the flank. Silva was magical, playing one-twos, rarely wasting possession whatever the pressure on him. The Spaniard was so good that City fans did "we are not worthy" bows to him whenever he took corners down their end.

Milner has ventured the view in England circles that he prefers central midfield but yesterday demonstrated his ability out wide.

It was not simply the runs down the wing, it was some of Milner's first-time passing that bordered on the breath-taking. It was some instant deliveries to Silva and Dzeko, releasing them down the inside-left channel, accelerating City's momentum, that impressed.

How long Mancini keeps this smoking jacket dress-code remains to be seen. He is cautious by nature as a coach, and seethed at some of City's marking. Nigel de Jong's incapacitation with an ankle injury also contributed to a bolder approach by Mancini.

In De Jong's absence, Barry took charge of the centre, challenging the image of him as the leaden-footed journeyman outstripped by Mesut Ozil in Bloemfontein. He was sharper, livelier, taking more responsibility here. Ditto Dzeko. The Bosnian has taken time to fit in with the pace of the English game but yesterday's was a high-class centre-forward's display, all touch and menacing movement. Dzeko clearly relishes having Aguero close by.

City for the title? United remain the team to beat but their neighbours are becoming noisier. The depth of City's resources was confirmed with the sight of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson on the bench and Mancini's belief that Samir Nasri will join shortly.

Arguably the greatest tribute that can be paid to City is that they defeated good opponents. Ivan Klasnic and Kevin Davies were a constant source of concern for City's defenders. During the team de-brief this week, Joleon Lescott will certainly not enjoy Mancini stopping the DVD at the moment when Kevin Davies beats him in the air for Bolton's second. Yet the visitors came away with the points as well as the plaudits.

Bolton had started well, Chris Eagles testing Joe Hart's reflexes with a free-kick. Then Zat Knight almost scored while Martin Petrov, cheered by his old City fans, embarked on a few runs. Davies began his grappling competition with Lescott.

The sparring soon ended and City began putting together some devastating combinations. From a Richards throw-in after 27 minutes, City took the lead.

The right-back exchanged passes with Milner and passed to Silva, whose shot seemed routine enough, particularly for a 'keeper of Jussi Jaaskelainen's usual reliability. Silva's strike did move in the air but the Finn should still have stopped it.

The joy of Silva is partly his selflessness, his ego-free willingness to work for the cause, a trait seen moments after his goal when he tracked back to dispossess Nigel Reo-Coker. Dzeko was also working hard, drifting to the right to lift in a cross that Aguero headed wide.

No matter. Shortly afterwards, Silva teed up Barry, whose 25-yarder almost removed the roof of Bolton's net. It almost took Richards' face off, too, although the defender just dodged out of the way like a boxer avoiding a right-hander.

Bolton are nothing if not organised, committed and occasionally silky under Owen Coyle. When Petrov opened City's defence on the left, firing in a cross, Klasnic responded magnificently, the ball buried in a blur past Hart.

Bolton hunted resolutely for an equaliser but City simply sped through the gears again. Dzeko beat Knight to gather Milner's ball and strode through on goal, calmly placing his shot past Jaaskelainen to make it 3-1. Echoing the all-for-one feel, Dzeko was immediately seen sliding back into his own half to halt a Bolton break.


Aguero's box of fireworks, which had lit up the Eastlands night sky on Monday, remained closed but there was still plenty to admire in the £35m man's movement. He muscled his way effortlessly through Paul Robinson's attempted tackle, a feat not many manage. Aguero then dummied the ball, wrongfooting Bolton's midfield to release Dzeko.

City were in control, building attacks at will before allowing Bolton back in. Reacting more assertively than Lescott, Davies rose with trademark determination and timing to meet Petrov's free-kick, flicking an unstoppable header past Hart. Mancini sought to re-apply the pressure with his substitutes.

Tevez ran on, almost unrecognisable with a new haircut, and was cheered by the City fans. Adam Johnson arrived, working the right while Tevez went up top. For all the doubts about his future, Tevez was terrific, proving a real handful for Bolton's defence.

City were not the only winners. On a weekend when La Liga was closed down by a strike, the Premier League struck gold with this compelling match. More please. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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