James Lawton: A last resort he may be, but prodigal son Tevez makes killing contribution

Mancini’s frustration was directed at Balotelli and it was no great surprise when the big, unfathomable man was withdrawn

There were times last night when Carlos Tevez seemed less a moral dilemma for Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini than a last resort – and so it was right to the moment his team came back into the Premier League title race with an authority that smacked of, well, champions.

If we want a pecking order of merit in the revival that may well have rescued City's season from appalling anti-climax we should perhaps give the honour to Samir Nasri, the man who conjured the winning goal and played throughout with an impressive desire to shape events. Not so far behind was Sergio Aguero, who nervelessly struck home the equalising penalty and played, as always, with an abiding passion.

But then, irrepressibly, there was Tevez, producing a moment of chemistry and insight which will always mark out those who come to life in that place where it matters.

He was the perfect foil for Nasri as Chelsea – a plainly revived Chelsea – were finally put down.

The prodigal son Tevez, who in less complicated days made a habit of scoring against Chelsea, was as subdued as you might have expected when he took his place on the bench. It wasn't long, however, before his demeanour became decidedly more perky.

Indeed, as City's opening surge ebbed with the disappointment of Nasri's strike against the crossbar and Mario Balotelli's squandering of a gift casually donated by, of all people, Frank Lampard, Tevez might have imagined the roasting of a fatted calf.

City needed the kind of momentum Tevez once supplied as a matter of routine, which is of course something quite separate from the argument that the crime he perpetrated in Munich last autumn should really have put him beyond the consideration of all but the most desperate of managers.

Unfortunately for a City title campaign which rippled with such confidence and invention so recently, that was the category Mancini placed himself in from the moment City's early conviction has started to fade.

Mancini's body language became progressively bleak – especially when you remembered his emphatic pre-match statement that his men had both the competitive character and the right to sweep on to the club's first title since 1968. Several times his frustration was directed at the languid Balotelli and it was no great surprise when the big, unfathomable man was withdrawn from the action at half-time.

Less predictable, as Tevez inched forward in his seat, was the Italian's replacement, the recently disaffected Gareth Barry. The purpose of this, it was clear soon enough, was to allow Yaya Touré to move more freely into advanced positions. Certainly City needed such force with rapidly increasing urgency – and then to the point of salvation in a wavering cause.

Such gathering concern turned to outright crisis when the best Yaya Touré could do was get the faintest deflection on a shot from Gary Cahill that slipped by Joe Hart.

Inevitably, Tevez came on to the most unambiguous cheers. They signalled not so much forgiveness as a very basic demand for the kind of atonement which was once his stock in trade, eruptions of will in the most critical areas of the field.

Yet it was that other Argentine, the one whose commitment has never been in question in any circumstances who suggested most strongly that he might drag City back into a race which Gary Cahill's goal could so easily have stopped dead.

Aguero ran with trademarked force and ambition and when Michael Essien handled the ball at point-blank range it was he who stepped up to the penalty spot with a matador's composure. The equaliser was sure and it told us that City may just have found again the touch and the belief that had made them so dominant for so much of the season.

Mancini had cried out for a restatement of such character and now all that earlier despair was cast away by one of those goals which separate the thoroughbreds from the triers.

In view of his earlier disappointments, it was maybe fitting that Nasri should supply the killing swordstroke. And, as inevitably as his appearance at some point in the action, it was Tevez who made a killing contribution.

The Frenchman, who had seemed so intent on making an impact that hadn't always been so apparent at crucial stages of the season, played the ball into the box and there was Tevez, the striving redemption man, to play a quite exquisite reverse pass to Nasri.

City were alive again and for a little while at least that was reason for celebration enough. Should Tevez even have been on the field? The argument was suspended in at least half of the football city – and certainly in the final statement of Roberto Mancini's body. He reached for the sky and said that morality could wait.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
Extras
indybest
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style