Jittery City may bring Tevez in from cold

Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 1: Mancini 'prepared to forgive' errant striker after leaders are given testing time by Villa

Villa Park

Just like Dirty Den or Nick Cotton walking back into the Queen Vic, every good villain needs a comeback and tomorrow Carlos Tevez is expected to return to Manchester.

The striker, who has not played since his alleged refusal to warm up at Bayern Munich in September, and who has been in Argentina since November, is believed to be ready to drop his appeal against the £1.18m fine imposed by the club for his unauthorised departure.

Tevez has concluded that it is in nobody's interests, least of all his own, to remain in Argentina. With the main European transfer window closed until the summer, his only options are Russia, where he is said to be unwilling to go, or a return to Brazil with Corinthians, who may be unable to fund the transfer.

The player has been working with a fitness coach in Buenos Aires and it is his opinion that Tevez might be match-fit in three weeks' time. The Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, joked that this was not a good week to talk about handshakes, but added that if Tevez gave a formal apology to himself and his squad, he was prepared to have him back.

"It is up to him," Mancini said. "He knows how I feel. I don't know if he will be in Manchester next week but I hope so. It is a bad moment to talk about handshakes but I forgive people every time."

Of far more importance than any apology will be Tevez's attitude once he returns to Manchester City's training ground at Carrington. As his side tried to break down Aston Villa yesterday evening, the return of the boy from Fuerte Apache might have had some superficial attraction.

However, if Mancini understands anything of the history of Manchester City, he should know that they do not need unbalancing just at the moment they are racing towards a league championship. In 1972 Malcolm Allison persuaded Rodney Marsh to come to Maine Road as a season that should have finished with City taking the championship reached its climax. Instead, it was spectacularly blown by a man who, for all his ability, was loud, arrogant and in no sense a team player.

In the quick feet of David Silva and the drive of Sergio Aguero and Adam Johnson, Mancini has enough individual talent to win the championship without Tevez. The goal here that re-established their two-point lead over Manchester United came from an unfamiliar source, although to the Villa manager, Alex McLeish, losing goals from set pieces has become wearily familiar.

This time the corner was delivered by one player who, had financial circumstances been different, might have been in the home dressing room (James Milner) and headed across goal by another (Gareth Barry). Joleon Lescott hooked his boot around the loose ball to send it past Shay Given as the goalkeeper spread himself in vain.

That appeared to be that. The advertising screens around the perimeter were promoting Villa Park as the ideal venue to "Celebrate your Valentine's event" but it has not seen a home league victory since Bonfire Night and Villa had set themselves up grimly to force a draw. The Taj Mahal at sunrise it is not.

From early on McLeish, Sir Alex Ferguson's first great lieutenant, stood on the touchline urging his players on – to no great effect. He would have wanted to win for his mentor but mostly he would have wanted to win for himself.

And yet right at the finish of a match in which they lacked any kind of penetration, Villa might have snatched a point. First Carlos Cuellar sent a header pounding over Joe Hart's post and then the City goalkeeper pulled off a fabulous reaction save as Darren Bent menaced for the first time. The margins to the end of this season's title race will be dreadfully tight.

From here on in every game for Manchester City will carry this kind of tension. The great template for wealthy, ambitious sides collapsing in the final furlongs is the fall of Kevin Keegan's Newcastle in the spring of 1996.

Everyone remembers the epic contests; the 1-0 loss to Manchester United inspired by Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona and the 4-3 defeat at Liverpool, but equally damaging was a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn. The goals were scored by a Geordie named Graeme Fenton for a side that had nothing to play for.

Every game is a potential pitfall and in the face of Aston Villa's rearguard, marshalled magnificently yesterday by Richard Dunne, who suffered a dislocated shoulder for his trouble, and James Collins, Manchester City became bogged down, with only Johnson's wonderful shot that slapped against Given's post to show for their pressure. There were times when it did not seem as if it would be enough.

Match facts

Aston Villa: GIVEN 7/10; HUTTON 7; COLLINS 7; DUNNE 7; CUELLAR 8; HESKEY 5; GARDNER 6; PETROV 6; ALBRIGHTON 6; BENT 6; KEANE 5

Man City: HART 7; KOLAROV 6; LESCOTT 7; KOMPANY 6; ZABALETA 7; MILNER 7; DEJONG 7; SILVA 7; BARRY 7; A JOHNSON 8; AGUERO 7

Scorer: Lescott 63

Substitutes: Aston Villa N'Zogbia 6 (Heskey, 69), Ireland (Albrighton, 77), Baker (Dunne, 90). Manchester City Nasri (A Johnson, 84), Dzeko (Aguero, 89), Richards (Silva, 90).

Booked: Aston Villa Petrov, Dunne, N'Zogbia.

Man of the match Silva.

Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Aston Villa 43% Manchester City 57%.

Attempts on target: Aston Villa 5 Manchester City 10.

Referee M Oliver (Northumberland).

Attendance 35,132.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz