Verdict: Blackburn Rovers 0 Manchester City 4
Goals: A Johnson 56, Balotelli 59, Nasri 72, Savic 86 for City.
If you’re going to be a hardline manager and banish unruly players, then you need to get results. That’s how Fergie gets away with it and Roberto Mancini demonstrated the same trait here.
At half-time it was looking a little different with Aguero having hobbled off and City lacking zip in the final third. If City had failed to make the breakthrough, the whispers would have started as to whether Mancini had done the right thing in banning a player who has won so many games for the blues.
Nothing strengthens a managers authority like results. Mancini got the results which Mark Hughes didn’t, taking City into the Champions League and winning the FA Cup. No-one now doubts his leadership while Steve Kean on the other hand…
With City struggling to find a cutting edge, Sergio Aguero’s injury turned out to be a blessing. Balotelli moved into the middle and his hunger to get on the end of crosses and fire in shots finally gave City an end product.
Out wide Mario can be on the edge of the game, offering neat touches rather than genuine menace. Playing as a number 9, the power of his shooting is a more direct threat.
The movement and ability to get ahead of defenders is an under appreciated part of Balotelli’s game. In the first-half he used his remarkable acceleration to arrive ahead of a defender and flashed a shot past the post. A repeat move in the second half brought his goal.
For that he also had Samir Nasri to thank for a delicious cross. The Frenchman has been on the periphery of the attack for several games, and it’s been easy to understand Lauren Blanc’s criticism that he can slow down attacking play.
Yet when he steps up a gear and offers more direct movement, Samir has the talent to carve openings and score goals. Hopefully Mancini can refine his game slightly and take it to another level.
By rotating six fresh faces into the side, as opposed to two for the Fulham game, it was surely no coincidence to see the team grow stronger in the second half rather than fade. Here it was the first-half that was forgettable.
Last season Blackburn gave us a difficult game and it took a late Dzeko strike to seal the points. Steve Kean’s side were a much weaker proposition this time around and Mancini couldn’t have asked for more accommodating opposition after the trials of Munich.
After the international break City have another difficult week with games against unbeaten Villa, Villareal and a trip to Old Trafford. Hopefully de Jong and Hargreaves will be ready for some first team action and Mancini continues to put faith in the whole squad. With that we can hopefully look forward to more results like this one.