Verdict: Manchester City 1 Blackburn Rovers 1
Goals: Vieira 54 for City. Kalinic 24 for Blackburn.
Another disappointing result saw Joe Hart gift Blackburn the lead before Patrick Vieira rolled back the years to start and finish a move for the equaliser. City nearly won it at the death but one point from six leaves us outside the top four places and playing catch-up already.
There were surprises in the starting eleven as Tevez was passed fit to play. The Argentine didn’t look 100% and paced himself by playing in bursts.
James Milner started in the middle for the first time and began brightly, linking up well with Adam Johnson on the right. Shaun Wright-Phillips was stationed on the left flank, while Vieira made his first league start alongside Yaya Toure.
The thinking here may have been that these two giants would provide a barrier against the Allardyce long ball. More of a concern was their lack of mobility with neither able to cover the ground quickly enough when we didn’t have the ball.
This was of little concern in the opening stages as we started buoyantly with England hero Adam Johnson to the fore. Twice he went for goal when Tevez would have preferred a pass, but Adam was entitled to do so. Carlos is hardly one to look for a colleague when a shooting opportunity comes his way.
It appeared only a matter of time before City scored as Blackburn lacked the conviction they possess at Ewood Park. Then they scored.
A hopeful high ball from Pedersen was set to be headed clear by Kolo who was in a decent position ahead of Kalinic. Tragically, Hart decided he wanted to deal with it and came way out of his area, presumably giving Kolo a call as the former captain stepped aside.
With the ball at chest height and Kalinic challenging, Joe suddenly didn’t know how to deal with it and Kalinic saw it break free for him to roll into an empty net.
It proved a game changing moment as Rovers were given something to hang on to, and more importantly a belief that they could get a result. Their focus was sharper and their defending more resolute as exemplified by Samba with a last minute block at the feet of Jo.
The goal left both City and the crowd in a state of shock for the remainder of the first half as Robinson was now rarely called upon. The change in dynamics could be seen in our corners. Early in the game we looked dangerous and went close on a couple of occasions. As the game wore on we were less effective, trying short corners which offered little threat.
The second half saw Mancini make a tactical switch with Milner moving to the left flank. Shaun still struggled to make an impression and Mancini was about to bring him off for Jo when we scored.
Vieira had been playing some decent passes and moved forward to play in Tevez. The Argentine showed our wingers how to pick out a colleague with a cross to the unmarked Frenchman. From point-blank range Vieira fired home.
Mancini went ahead with bringing Jo on for Wright-Phillips, showing that he was still not happy with our attacking play and wanted more. Jo played closer to Tevez in a more orthodox 4-4-2.
Throughout the second half Blackburn offered a threat with Kompany and Richards in particular doing well to clear the lines. On other occasions we were a little fortunate that the ball didn’t drop to a Blackburn player when it was in our area. A second goal for Rovers could have been a killer.
Gareth Barry came on for Vieira and provided some composed passing and movement to give us another lift for a spell. Having substitutes who can make a positive impact is something we should increasingly benefit from with our squad.
It was good to have someone alongside Tevez as throughout the match we played some decent crosses into the box with no-one to get on the end of them. This can be a problem of single striker formations and needs either the flank players or midfielders to get into positions where they can head on goal.
Tim Cahill is perhaps the best example and we lack someone who does this. Jo came closer to getting on the end of things but wasn’t quite able to make it – which did little to win over his critics.
Adam Johnson drove towards the penalty area with one weaving run and went over an outstretched leg in a bid to earn us a penalty. Unfortunately the referee was unconvinced.
David Silva was thrown into the mix for the final few minutes, with some fans questioning the wisdom of removing a tiring Johnson ahead of Milner who had been having a mixed afternoon. The spaniard played some nice passes and had the confidence to attempt a spectacular volley that was deflected wide. Hopefully this will be the start of better things for him.
As the game moved into stoppage time we had the final act. Tevez was played in and had a shot blocked by Robinson. With quick feet the Argentine crossed to Jo who appeared to have an open goal. From nowhere Samba made the block and Jo’s chance to be a hero had gone.
“It was very difficult for him as he only arrived the day before the game. But I still thought he had a good match.”
This was a mixed performance with the stats showing that we had 20 efforts on goal, 14 of which were on target. A decent number, though there were to many players in indifferent form after the internationals. Had we a Dzeko rather than a half-fit Tevez then we would have probably won. The lack of a genuine number nine is still there.
In his pre-match press conference, Mancini spoke of the need for Adebayor to get back to scoring regularly, indicating he is of the same opinion. At the moment we rely to heavily on Tevez.
The imminent return of Boateng and Bridge will give the manager more attacking options from the full-back positions, while he still needs to ascertain his best midfield combinations. Wigan next week now looks like a must win before we take on Chelsea