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Mancini’s frustration was directed at Balotelli and it was no great surprise when the big, unfathomable man was withdrawn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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions