Verdict: Bolton Wanderers 0 Manchester City 2
Goals: Lescott (43 mins), Dzeko (63 mins) for City.
City secured third place thanks to goals from Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko in a game which saw Joe Hart keep another clean sheet despite a casual first half performance. Bolton failed to take their chances early on and City grew in stature during the second period.
At the outset there were some unexpected changes in the full-back positions. Kolarov wasn’t there and Zabaleta was initially set to start on the bench with Boyata as left-back.
An injury to Richards in the warm-up saw Boyata switched to right-back and the patched up Zabaleta starting as left-back. For the final few minutes, Mancini introduced another makeshift left-back with England U-20 international Reece Wabara making his debut.
Initially Kevin Davies was causing problems with his battling style and Sturridge was threatening to slip into the gaps being created. Surprisingly the former City player’s shooting let him down.
When City did push forward, the Bolton defence looked creaky and Tevez was nearly the first to benefit when he fired a Silva pull-back into the body of Knight. The question was not if we could break Bolton down, but whether we could muster sufficient attacking desire.
On the right flank we missed the energy of Richards. Though Boyata put over a peach of a cross from one overlapping run, which Barry somehow managed to head against the bar rather than into the net.
The energy of Milner alongside de Jong was also lacking during the opening period, with Barry and Yaya moving at a distinctly end of season pace. The one time Yaya made a run, it was an excellent breakaway from a Bolton corner and nearly resulted in a goal.
The Ivorian’s shot was parried by Jaaskelainen for Tevez to have a blocked attempt which fell to Silva. Memories of the cup final returned as the Spaniard somehow managed to fire over.
It wasn’t to matter as City took the lead just before the interval. Ironically after Bolton had looked dangerous from set-pieces, Adam Johnson floated a corner over which Kompany missed/left (delete as you see fit) and the ball rebounded off a surprised Lescott into the top corner.
In fairness to Lescott, he does attack set-pieces and look for goals more than most defenders. To gain a second strike in as many games was just rewards for his efforts over the season.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with neither side looking on top of their game. The arrival of Dzeko, for Johnson, gave City a welcome lift with Tevez dropping deeper and taking the game to Bolton.
A nicely worked move, featuring Silva and a cross from Barry, saw Dzeko benefit from Cahill’s attempted clearance, and the Bosnian spun round to hit the ball into the net. The goal killed Bolton’s belief, while Dzeko gained in confidence and proceded to link up well with Tevez.
Seeing the Bosnian fitting in so well provided optimism for next season. The introduction of Milner also added some welcome graft and it’s to be hoped James can carry his recent improvement in form over to next year.
By the end Tevez was charging around trying to get the goal which would give him the Golden Boot outright. It wasn’t to be but he remained joint winner with 20 league goals and that is a fantastic achievement for a City striker. With Joe Hart picking gup the Golden Gloves award it just goes to show how strong this side have been.
Without putting in the greatest of performances, the quality in City’s side was sufficient to ensure a victory which secured third place. Finishing on the same number of points as second placed Chelsea is some achievement for Roberto Mancini in his first full season in charge. Following the Anfield debacle, the manager has overseen seven victories in eight games with six clean sheets. Terriffic stuff.
With the draw for the Champions League group stages on 25 August to look forward to, attention will now switch to the transfer market for City fans. On that note it was interesting to observe Gary Cahill after numerous reports have linked us with the Bolton centre-back. He looks ok, but no improvement on what we have.
If Boateng is to stay, then his future should be at centre-back, and the position would then not look to be our top priority. For the kind of fee Bolton are said to want (£17m), the money might be better spent elsewhere.
“Our first target this season was fourth position and to improve on last year, but the players have been fantastic and did a great job.
“They won the FA Cup and ended up in second position – Chelsea scored more goals than us but we have the same points.
“In the last 14 days we have played really well.”