Boos for Mancini as fun goes out of City's circus

Manchester City 0 Birmingham City 0
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The Independent Football

Manchester City fans came to terms with frustration and disappointment before Sheikh Mansour was even born but at least for the most part they have been entertained along the way. What really irks is that the struggle is losing its sense of fun.

Their disenchantment came to the surface yesterday as Roberto Mancini's team failed to break down 17th-placed Birmingham City and the Italian found himself singled out by booing supporters when he took off Carlos Tevez for the last 13 minutes of play even though the Argentinian had offered City's best hope of a goal. Tevez had a goal disallowed in a tepid first half after the ball struck his upper arm before he poked it over the line and when City's intensity increased during a better second-half performance, more often than not he was at the heart of the action.

But with the home crowd expecting to see a final push against a visiting team who had spent much of the second half defending their lines, with right back Stephen Carr and the two centre halves, Roger Johnson and Scott Dann, performing heroically, Mancini took off his talisman and sent on Gareth Barry.

To City fans aware that their side had won only one match since January in which Tevez had not scored, it seemed a baffling decision, prompting boos from around the stadium. With Mario Balotelli suspended and Emmanuel Adebayor injured, they saw the change as a negative one.

Mancini defended his tactics suggesting that he needed more width and that Tevez, in any case, was carrying an injury. "We were all playing in the box," he said. "I thought that if I put on another player in a wide position it might give us more chance to score a goal. Carlos has a little injury for two or three weeks and so I decided he was the one to take off.

"Supporters think that if you put on four strikers you score four goals but this is not how football works. I must think like a manager, not a supporter. If this was the way it worked, I would put on 10 strikers. Of course I can understand the fans' frustration. I am frustrated too. I want to score goals and win games. But I have to keep the balance in the team."

The Italian denied he was under greater pressure as City find goals difficult to come by. City's goals tally of 15 is the lowest in the top six. "You talk about pressure but I don't feel pressure. We are in fourth place," he said. "We have problems, of course. We have a problem in that if Carlos does not score, we don't score, but we are continuing to work at that."

Aside from the disallowed Tevez effort, created by David Silva's pass, City went closest at the start of the second half, when James Milner was first to a long ball, saw a shot blocked by Ben Foster and was then thwarted by Carr as he tried to put away the rebound, the full-back somehow getting into position to clear on the line.

Foster made a fine save from Nigel de Jong towards the end and though Birmingham had few opportunities, it took good reactions from Joe Hart to keep out a low shot by Keith Fahey after Jerome Boateng had failed to make a clearance.

Birmingham's manager Alex McLeish was delighted with the point: "It was never comfortable and City stepped up a lot in the second half but my players put in a great shift and we might even have nicked it late on."

Attendance: 44,321

Referee: Mike Jones

Man of the match: Carr

Match rating: 6/10