City turn up the heat on United

Manchester City 4 Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Online

Manchester United will see Carlos Tevez again all too soon but even from their training camp in Qatar they would have felt his hot breath on their collars last night. Tevez has eased one goal ahead of Wayne Rooney, if you exclude the Englishman's Community Shield strike against Chelsea, and his rush of good form has come at a time when his old manager's pitifully one-dimensional strikeforce looks so much in need of him.

The opposition last night was dreadful and it was little wonder Sam Allardyce took half an hour to emerge to talk, but Tevez's 11 goals in nine appearances add to the growing impression that he was right to demand more than that seat on the bench Sir Alex Ferguson allocated him. He is also morphing from his stereotype as an industrious little digger to a purveyor of fine goals, perhaps 25 of them a season. A lead player rather than just the support act. He has already equalled his entire final season tally for United.

Since Tevez's renaissance began before Mark Hughes had left, the previous manager can allow himself a rueful grimace today but Roberto Mancini is also distinguishing himself as a manager willing to back some of the Welshman's apparent lost causes. The Italian's liking for Benjani Mwaruwari – by personality a languid scatterbrain seemingly out of sync with the manager's work ethic – is an odd one. But the Italian has mentioned him from day one, including in his programme notes last night. Perhaps we now know why. The striker hadn't started a league match since a horrible afternoon losing at 2-1 at West Bromwich 13 months ago but his three assists here marked him out as one of the players of the night.

There was some luck about the first, Benjani skewing a cross into Tevez's thigh, which helped it into the net, after Paul Robinson was impeded by his team-mate Keith Andrews as he tried to punch away an inswinging corner from Martin Petrov. But not the second, when the striker combined with someone else seeking a renaissance having travelled backwards in the Hughes era.

Micah Richards rolled back the years to his England vintage of 2007 when, after taking up the ball in front of his own area, he beat four men on a bulldozing 80-yard run and discovered some divine justice as the shot Benjani fired in when Richards had laid off to him, rebounded off the inside of Robinson's right post into the defender's path for a right-foot finish.

Blackburn, who have now gone ten games without a win, suddenly look like a very poor side and a "Big Sam sort it out" chant presaged two half-time substitutions. But it took Benjani four minutes to provide yet another assist – the Zimbabwean this time receiving a 20-yard ball from Tevez and returning it for him to sweep home. There should have been an immediate hat-trick for Tevez who, after Lars Jacobsen allowed him to take a Pablo Zabaleta cross unchallenged, conspired to head it wide.

To Mancini's palpable dismay, City's defence finally conceded a goal under his tenure when Vincent Kompany miscontrolled Shay Given's short ball out to him and let in Morten Gamst Pedersen, who curled a fine left-foot shot into the net. When a good block from Kompany was needed to stop substitute David Hoilett crossing into the six-yard box, memories of those 3-3 draws of the Mark Hughes vintage stole back.

But they evaporated. Robinho, arriving in Bellamy's stead for the last half hour, looked like an individual with a job to do, too, but he had strayed offside when taking Tevez's low cross and scoring and a 15-yard snapshot was well saved. His neat ball to Tevez, though, allowed the Argentine, with minimal backlift, to curl in the hat-trick.

"There's no reason with the talent they've got why they shouldn't be in the top four. And looking at the other teams who are generally there it could be the best time for Man City," Allardyce observed last night. "Some of the big four are not living up to the normal standards: Liverpool, of course, and Manchester United." His old friend Ferguson knows it only too well. He'll have shuddered.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Given; Zabaleta, Richards, Kompany, Garrido; Petrov (Boyata, 87), De Jong, Barry, Bellamy (Robinho, 69); Tevez, Benjani (Santa Cruz, 81). Substitutes not used: Wright-Phillips, Taylor (gk), Sylvinho, Ibrahim.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Jacobsen, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; Emerton, Nzonzi Andrews (Hoilett ,45), Pedersen; Dunn (Olsson, 66); Di Santo (Kalinic, 45). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Reid, Salgado, Chimbonda.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Man of the match: Tevez.

Attendance: 40,292.

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