Carlos Tevez crucial again for Manchester City as Roberto Mancini enjoys more magic at Molineux
Earlier this season, City could raze the opposition; this was not a game like that
Monday 23 April 2012
Molineux is an important ground to Roberto Mancini, and to Carlos Tevez. It was there that Mancini showed, two and a half years ago, what he wanted from his Manchester City team, winning his second game in charge with a performance of defensive organisation and incisive counter-attacking, won 3-0 thanks to two goals from Carlos Tevez.
Yesterday, as Mancini saw the Premier League title re-enter his sphere of control – if City win their last three games they win the league – it was with a performance owing to those old virtues he first brought to City: discipline, work, and typical Tevez excellence.
Earlier this season, City could raze opposition in away games, memorably beating Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United 5-1 and 6-1 respectively. They put six past Norwich City last Saturday. But this was not a game like that: until Samir Nasri's goal, brilliantly created by Tevez, 16 minutes from time, City had been under pressure from a spirited Wolverhampton Wanderers team who were playing for their Premier League survival.
City had to fight more than they might have expected. Clearly lifted by the events at Old Trafford, they barely needed a moment to find their rhythm. After just 16 seconds Tevez, suddenly just as important to City now as he was at the start of Mancini's tenure, took a pass from Pablo Zabaleta and shot just over.
There were more chances, and City should have scored more than one. But for most of the second half Wolves were on top, spreading the ball wide and slinging in better crosses than many teams in their position are capable of.
Wolves compressed City back into their penalty area, pinning their full-backs close to their own by-line. Vincent Kompany was as perfect as is now expected. Gaël Clichy produced probably his best game in blue, following a delightful assist for Sergio Aguero with resilience against Michael Kightly.
Joe Hart, one of the most reliable big-game goalkeepers around, saved well from a David Davis shot and a Steven Fletcher header, and for spells of the second half a Wolves equaliser looked more likely than anything else.
Hand-to-hand second-half combat like that might have been unfamiliar to City: generally in away games this year they have either won well or lost meekly. But for those who were there in 2009, when Mancini was just beginning his work to direct City's ascent to the top of the English game, it would have struck a chord.
On that December evening, Kompany, Zabaleta and Gareth Barry were all excellent as City dug in against Mick McCarthy's Wolves, with Mancini trying to resurrect their push for the Champions League. So it was yesterday, with those three most important Mancini lieutenants preserving a lead.
And that night it was Tevez, scoring twice, who won City the game. Yesterday, his tenacious winning of a free-kick, his swift exchange of passes and his perfect ball through to Nasri made City's second. At this climax of Mancini's reign, just as at its start, Tevez's magic at Molineux demonstrates his importance.
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