Monday 20 January 2020

Tevez does trick but Mancini's glass is still half empty

Carlos Tevez celebrates scoring his hat trick yesterday
Carlos Tevez celebrates scoring his hat trick yesterday

Manchester City found a cure for their ailing away form to keep the title race alive -- even if Roberto Mancini insists it is dead -- with a hard-fought victory at Carrow Road.

A key ingredient in the remedy was Carlos Tevez, who scored a hat-trick and created another for Sergio Aguero to cloak the win in two questions: where would City be if the Argentinian had not been in exile for most of the campaign? And has their revival come too late?

Wednesday's crushing win over West Brom, in which Tevez crowned his first start in seven months with a goal, hinted at a return to form but only a triumph away would confirm it. Mancini's side had won just two of their last 10 matches on the road.

This was not a perfect performance but it was the first time since November that they netted more than once away in the league and there was an encouraging flourish to much of their play, with most of the magic coming from Tevez and Aguero, who treated himself to two sumptuous goals and would have had a hat-trick of his own if a late shot had not bounced out off the post.

City's win came despite an inauspicious beginning for the Argentinian duo. Tevez was booked in the ninth minute for diving even though it appeared that Ryan Bennett trod on his toe in the box, and two minutes later Aguero also had appeals for a penalty rejected after he tumbled following a challenge by Anthony Pilkington. What is more, the Canaries were ruffling the visitors at the other end.

Pilkington curled a shot narrowly wide in the fourth minute after skipping past Pablo Zabaleta and Samir Nasri and in the 13th, Joleon Lescott had to nod a Grant Holt header off the line. Four minutes later, City's jitters were ended in style.

Aguero won the ball in midfield and fed Silva, who helped it out wide to Tevez. The striker unleashed a ferocious drive from 25 yards but John Ruddy seemed to have it covered until it swerved drastically, leaving the goalkeeper grasping at thin air as the net shook. Even Tevez looked shocked.

City took charge of the rest of the first half. Some of the panache with which they played earlier in the season returned, most notably for their second goal in the 26th minute. A wonderfully intricate exchange on the edge of the area between Tevez and Aguero concluded with the former backheeling the ball into the path of Aguero, who walloped it into the net from 16 yards.

"We did well in the first half but those two goals were absolute rockets," said Norwich boss, Paul Lambert.

A feature of Lambert's success as he has guided his team from League One to top-flight safety has been his ability to make telling switches, and his two substitutions at half-time enabled Norwich to claw their way back into the game.

Wes Hoolahan gave them a greater foothold in midfield before the other new arrival, Andrew Surman, scored in the 51st minute, volleying into the net from 15 yards after Hart, under pressure from Aaron Wilbraham, got only a weak punch to Adam Drury's cross.

City retorted quickly, but Ruddy beat away a fierce Aguero shot. On the hour mark, Ruddy had to repeat that feat to deny Zabaleta from close range In the 73rd minute one of the Argentinians helped swing the momentum back in the visitors' favour. Ruddy could not hold an 18-yard shot from the sub Yaya Toure and Tevez reacted fastest to nod the rebound into the net.

A minute later City scored a fourth, Aguero running from halfway before curling a superb shot into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Before another replacement, Adam Johnson, scored in stoppage time, Tevez completed his hat-trick in the 80th minute with a tap-in. He celebrated by swinging an imaginary golf club. If he had spent less time on the course and more on the pitch in recent months, Manchester United might have been the ones playing catch-up.

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