Last-gasp City ready to push rivals all the way

Manchester City 1 Reading 0

The same table that has Tottenham Hotspur topping the Premier League if games lasted 80 minutes would have Manchester City way off the title pace in sixth.

Instead, they are second and, were they Manchester United, we would say that they were where they always are at the end of the year, on the shoulders of the leaders ready to accelerate away through the wastes of January and February.

City's propensity to score late is, like playing indifferently and winning, said to be what great teams do. Against Reading on Saturday they did both, although despite what is generally believed, scoring late is not especially indicative of greatness.

If you examine the record of the best and the worst sides in the history of the Premier League – Chelsea in 2004-05 and Derby in 2007-08 – Jose Mourinho's team scored 20 of its 72 goals (or 28 per cent) in the final 10 minutes. Three of Derby's paltry 20 goals (or 15 per cent) arrived in the same period. There is a difference but not as great as you might think.

However, because the goals scored at the death by United, City and Chelsea seem hugely decisive they are remembered more and, critically, anticipated more by their opponents. When asked if there was an "aura" about his side as the fourth official held up his board to signal the number of added-on minutes, Roberto Mancini concurred.

"We won the championship in the last second," said City's manager. "We have recovered a lot of games in the last three or four minutes and we know we can change every game right at the end and that is a very important quality."

Nevertheless, as the board was held up, nerves were stretched all across the Etihad Stadium, which was already starting to empty. Gareth Barry, who was to score the only goal two minutes from the whistle, confessed to feeling concerned: "It looked like we were going to drop points at home again," he said.

"I feel relieved and delighted at the same time. It wasn't a perfect afternoon by any means. It is difficult when you don't get the breakthrough early. Reading started growing in confidence and maybe believed they could keep us out. But we have experienced that a lot at the Etihad."

Barry pointed out that Manchester City have an awkward-looking Christmas programme – away at Sunderland, where they have lost on their last two journeys to the Stadium of Light – and a trip to Norwich that proved too much for United and Arsenal. Sir Alex Ferguson's Christmas is rather easier, facing Newcastle, who have not won at Old Trafford for 40 years, and then home to West Bromwich Albion, who last won at Manchester United during the Winter of Discontent in 1978-79. City's margin for error is considerably narrower.

Mancini is rarely content even after a win and here he was pointing out that his players would not have had to force themselves over the line had they not slackened off after the interval. "We should be stronger," he said. "Our play is not fluent like last year and maybe we don't have the same confidence we did last year when we were top."

City spent Christmas 2011 with 44 points and 53 goals, two points clear of the great enemy and then Mancini was complaining that he needed more insurance against United's anticipated surge. Ultimately, it was the goals as well as the points that decided everything and 2013 may be just as close, especially if City keep scoring late.

Match facts



Goal: Manchester City Barry 90. Substitutes: Man City Dzeko 6 (Garcia, 58), Sinclair (Tevez, 74), Milner (Rekik, 84). Reading Guthrie 6 (Karacan, 70), Shorey (Harte, 86). Booked: Man City Aguero, Y Touré. Reading Mariappa, Pearce, Gunter, Leigertwood. Man of the match Barry. Match rating 6/10. Possession: Man City 62% Reading 38%. Attempts on target: Man City 10 Reading 1. Referee M Dean (Wirral). Attendance 47,007.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference