Verdict: Hull City 2 Manchester City 1
Goals: Altidore 30, Boateng 54 for Hull. Adebayor 59 for City.
City crashed horribly on Humberside, paying the price for a weak first half performance and allowing a competitive Hull to go two goals ahead before Adebayor gave City a lifeline. It wasn’t enough as the third defeat of Mancini’s reign was undoubtedly the worst.
The side sent out by Mancini didn’t contain any major surprises. Wayne Bridge returned at left-back, while Dedryck Boyata returned to partner Kolo Toure in the centre of defence. Craig Bellamy was also back, playing on the left while Stephen Ireland continued on the right hand side.
It wasn’t so much the selection, as the lack of application that did for City. The warning signs for this fixture were evident in Hull’s draw with Chelsea on Tuesday, yet City completely failed to heed them with a lacklustre opening. First Toure and then Boyata were caught out at the back when they should have expected the harrying that the Hull forwards gave them.
The central defensive pairing of Toure and Boyata never convinced. Vincent Kompany was badly missed at the back, as we never looked comfortable in the physical battle against Jozy Altidore and Jan Venegoor of Hesselink. Boyata appeared to miss Kompany’s guidance and Onuouha might have been a better bet in retrospect.
Once again the midfield pairing of de Jong and Barry were to deep. Whilst in previous games we’ve looked comfortable containing the opposition in this way before striking on the break, that wasn’t the case here. We struggled to move the ball forward with any method or conviction in the first half.
Hull were creating chances prior to scoring, and it was no surprise when the first goal came from Venegoor of Hesselink holding the ball up before laying it off for an unchallenged Altidore to pass it into the bottom corner from twenty yards out.
In previous games under Mancini, the defence has looked noticeably better than it did under Hughes. However the attacking side of our play has been less fluid and effective, with Tevez’s hot streak carrying us through.
Here the defence was back to it’s old ways, while the lack of positional movement and subtlety in attack remained. It was a dispiriting combination.
There were to many hopeful balls aimed at Adebayor, who doesn’t do enough to hold them up. The superior technique of our players should give us an advantage in passing and movement. That was how chances were finally created at the end of the first half, notably one that resulted in a driven shot by Wayne Bridge from a tight angle.
It was a misplaced hope that the final few minutes of the first half hinted at better things to come. The game was more even at the beginning of the second period, but we still weren’t convincing. Disaster struck in the 54th minute when a Hull corner was headed partially clear by Toure. The ball came to Boateng who fired it straight back into the net before he could be closed down.
Johnson was coming on for Ireland in any case, and the debutant played a full part in getting us back into a game that had appeared a lost cause. The former Boro man started on the right and immediately gave us a threat with his direct running and crosses, both from open play and set pieces.
A Barry corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble that was eventually crashed home by Adebayor. There was a sense of City in the ascendancy and Hull, with the worst defensive record in the division, were finally being put under pressure at the back.
Vieira came on for Bellamy, which strengthened us in the middle of the park. Johnson now had a free role behind Tevez and Adebayor. Initially this looked promising but it soon became apparent that we’d lost our width and Hull were able to regroup.
Vieira certainly had a presence, though not a decisive one. It’s to soon to tell the extent of his value, although we may well have benefitted from having him on from the start. We certainly couldn’t have been any worse.
For the final few minutes Hull were hanging on as nerves got the better of them. Let’s not forget this was a side that hadn’t won for ten games.
City could have snatched an equaliser with the best chance falling to Tevez from a neat Barry cross. It summed up the Argentine’s day when he poked the ball straight at Myhill. A point would have been something, but even that would have constituted a disappointment.
“It is the same size pitch at home as it is away but we do not start with the same aggression this is something that we have to learn to do.
“We moved too slowly and we passed too slowly and we didn’t challenge quickly enough either.”
City went into the weekend as favourites for fourth place. With this defeat combined with Liverpool’s victory in the Merseyside derby, our position looks a lot less favourable. Once Liverpool are through their next two games (away to Arsenal and ourselves), their run-in looks a lot easier than ours.
Despite our games in hand, we’ll probably need to beat them and avoid any more results like this if we’re to reach our target of a Champions League place.