Verdict: Blackpool 2 Manchester City 3
Goals: Tevez 67, 79 min, Silva 90 min for City. Harewood 78 min, Taylor-Fletcher 90+3 min for Blackpool.
Time to call on the cliche of a rollercoaster at Blackpool as City eventually triumphed 3-2 after a thrilling second half saw a collection of great goals. David Silva evoked memories of Georgi Kinkladze with his strike, while Carlos Tevez demonstrated hunger and a delicate touch to flick in his opener.
Roberto Mancini finally elected to field both Adebayor and Tevez in the starting line-up. It was a straightforward call with Yaya injured. The surprise was in seeing them line-up as a 4-4-2 rather than having Tevez sitting in a deeper role.
With Johnson and Milner as orthodox wingers, Barry and de Jong had to cope alone in the middle. The Dutchman was clearly under instructions to stay out of trouble, resulting in Blackpool having time and space in the central area.
Charlie Adam was able to spray the ball around and City struggled to keep the seasiders at bay during the opening period. Having two full-backs easing their way back didn’t help our cause.
Boateng isn’t yet up to speed with the Premier League and it was noticeable how Micah Richards offered a more imposing presence on the right flank when he came on. Bridge was similarly lax in closing down opponents and lacked dynamism.
With Holloway’s full-backs keen to push forward we struggled to prevent balls coming into our box and could be grateful for some wayward Blackpool shooting.
Lescott was more reliable, while both Kompany and Hart offered some reassurance with their quality. Thankfully Gareth Barry had one of his better days in midfield with an undustrious display required to stop Blackpool taking full control.
As with the Newcastle game, James Milner seemed to show no benefit from a midweek rest and once again looked an average winger. Even if he’s never going to beat a full-back for pace he needs to retain possession better and be sharper with his passing.
Our saviour against Newcastle, Adam Johnson, didn’t have the same impact when on from the start. Adam may not agree, but he is at his best when used sparingly by Mancini. Having that sharpness to do the unexpected is vital to his game.
The creative player who is really benefitting from Mancini’s rotation is David Silva. After seeing the game bypass him on his debut at Tottenham, the manager has gradually eased the Spaniard into the cauldron of Premier League football.
It’s been a little frustrating, particularly when you see the ease with which Van der Vaart has adapted, but this match could be a defining one for Silva. This was the first time in the Premier League that he’s shown a match winning end product to go with his technique.
No longer was he looking off the pace and the understanding with his team-mates is growing by the game. Immediately after coming on for Adebayor, he had three touches in creating the opener. Better was to follow as his last minute goal felt like the coup de grace, but proved vital as the winner.
Even with these fine touches from Silva, our talisman was once again Tevez. Here, the refereeing gods favoured him with an offside missed for the first goal and a foul in the build-up to the second.
Both strikes summed him up. For the first he showed the hunger missing from Adebayor’s game to get ahead of the defender, then produced a delicate flick to glance the ball into the corner of the net.
“Offensively it was hard for us at times, but you can see that Carlos just needs a moment to make all the difference. But he helps everyone.”
The second again showed desire to win the ball followed by confidence to shoot early. This earnt the deflection which took it past the keeper, and restored our lead with immediate effect.
The celebrations which followed both were joy unconfined and made a mockery of those reports that he’s fed up with the game. It’s like Ronnie O Sullivan bemoaning snooker, then going out and blasting a 147.
Time and again Tevez’s goals win us the points, and no wonder Mancini values him so highly. It was said the Italian used to keep things tight at the back with Inter, before looking to Ibrahimovic for something magical to win the game. Tevez and Ibra may not look all that similar, but their impact is.
“This is what makes players like Carlos so important.
“For 45 minutes he didn’t play well, but then still scored two goals. That is why he is a champion.”
The tactical switch in removing Adebayor and playing Tevez as a lone striker enabled us to take a hold of midfield. We looked more assured and dangerous from then on, even if Blackpool did score twice.
It was the first time this season a side had beaten Joe Hart on two occasions and even more surprisingly both were from set pieces. The first was at an important time and, in fairness, it was an excellent delivery met by Harewood’s inch-perfect flicked header. Credit should go to Blackpool rather than blaming our defence for a howler.
The second would have had Mancini fuming as a low corner resulted in a shot by an unmarked player in the middle of the penalty area. Joleon Lescott is a solid replacement for Kolo, but maybe the former captain’s professionalism would have prevented the defence from switching off.
In many ways it was another trying afternoon and the strain could be seen on the manager’s face throughout. He has yet to find a way of utilising his attacking assets to properly take the game to opponents.
‘Defend solidly and wait for Tevez to score’ is hardly a sophisticated gameplan, yet it seems to describe us at present – and it is working. Swap Tevez for Drogba and it describes Mourinho’s Chelsea, who won the title twice in succession.