Sunday 17 December 2017

Tevez spares sloppy champions' blushes

If Manchester City were looking for a performance to cheer up their supporters after the Ajax defeat that looks to have put paid to this season's Champions League adventure, this was not it. Roberto Mancini's team are still unbeaten in the Premier League, and can proudly point to another three points picked up when not playing particularly well, which is not something they have always been able to boast about, but any other boast based on this display would be hollow. With only slightly better finishing, Swansea would have earned at least a point.

The game was slow to get properly started. Sergio Aguero whisked purposefully past Chico Flores in the opening minutes without managing to open a route to goal, then Wayne Routledge did the same to Vincent Kompany at the other end, obliging the City captain to concede a foul.

Swansea are capable defenders, and when Gareth Barry wasted a rare opportunity to play Carlos Tevez into space behind the back line after half an hour, it was a reminder of how much the home side are missing David Silva. The Spanish maestro is an expert at unlocking well-organised defences and without him Manchester City were predictable and somewhat short of ideas, with neither Tevez nor Aguero as involved in the game as they would have liked. The visitors were content to contain and threaten danger on the break, which is exactly what they did with two separate thrusts upfield just before the interval.

City got away with the first one at the expense of a booking for Micah Richards for a foul on Routledge, Kompany clearing Pablo Hernandez's eventual shot off the line, but Swansea should have taken the lead with the second when Joe Hart came off his line to smother a shot from Michu. It was a good stop by the goalkeeper, yet Michu should have done better after staying onside to accept a wonderfully timed pass from Ki Sung-Yueng.

When Aleksandar Kolarov skied a free-kick at the end of the first half a few boos were audible.

Probably wisely Roberto Mancini sent on Mario Balotelli for the second half, perhaps recognising that something was needed to enliven the proceedings, and with three at the front, City quickly began to look more like their old selves. Aguero shot too high as the second half opened, and Balotelli was unable to reach a cross from the right from Samir Nasri a couple of minutes later before appearing to be hampered by Flores as he attempted to reach another from Richards, but at least these efforts brought the crowd to its feet and turned up the background noise.

Swansea were not going to take this lying down and once again gave their hosts a lesson in how to create a clear opportunity as the hour approached.

Hernandez's cross from the right found Michu unmarked in front of goal, only for Swansea's leading scorer to squander another good chance, directing his firm downward header straight at Hart.

The visitors quickly came to rue their profligacy, for within a minute the champions had taken the lead, Tevez conjuring a goal from almost nothing by shooting on sight after doing well to control an over-hit pass from Gael Clichy. Furthermore, the partially unsighted Michel Vorm was unable to continue after injuring himself in diving to try and keep out the shot.

Typically generous, the home side offered Swansea the chance of an equaliser when Nasri's attempted clearance went straight to Jonathan de Guzman, though the midfielder could not quite summon Tevez's accuracy and his shot flew a couple of feet wide.

Having survived that scare, the home side had to negotiate the last 16 minutes with Kolo Toure on in place of Richards, who collapsed on his own in the penalty area when his knee appeared to give way. Worrying about switching formations suddenly does not appear to be Richards's greatest concern.

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