Lescott and Dzeko make sure of City's Champions League place
Bolton Wanderers 0 Manchester City 2
Monday 23 May 2011
By the desperate standards of the games at Stoke, Wolverhampton and Tottenham, the stakes were not exactly giddying. The ticket office and the marketing departments would not be laid waste; there would be no redundancy notices being prepared on the final whistle.
And yet, seen through the gaze of Roberto Mancini, this was a significant victory for Manchester City. Finishing fourth does not guarantee qualification for the Champions League, as anyone who saw Everton overcome by Villarreal in the 2005 play-off or Tottenham flounder on Berne's artificial pitch in August might testify.
After a strong finish that has seen his side win seven of their past eight matches, Mancini will have a June investing in the transfer market, a July of pre-season training on America's Pacific coast and an August without a Champions League qualifier.
And yet City won without really trying. Bolton's season effectively ended on the nightmarish afternoon they were routed 5-0 by Stoke in the FA Cup semi-final and a 14th-placed finish does not really reflect the advances made by Owen Coyle in his first full season at the Reebok.
The applause for Johan Elmander as he left the pitch for the last time before taking up a contract in Istanbul with Galatasaray was respectful rather than laden with gratitude and that held true for the lap of honour afterwards.
Bolton would hope to see Daniel Sturridge again, although his glittering form in the second half of the season means that whoever succeeds Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea is unlikely to extend his loan. Four minutes from the end, a studs-up challenge on Edin Dzeko brought his time at Bolton to an early conclusion. He received a standing ovation, not for the tackle but for his season. There were almost more City supporters left in the stadium on the final whistle and there will be considerably more when they parade the FA Cup from Manchester Town Hall to Eastlands today.
Frankly, their performance had a hung-over and slightly sloppy feel to it. Joe Hart dropped a straightforward cross and was nearly embarrassed by a couple of loose back-passes, while Gareth Barry headed against the crossbar from less than six yards.
Bolton had begun with more urgency and, had a couple of headers from Kevin Davies been directed fractionally differently it was an advantage they might have rammed home. As it was the match, rather like Bolton's season, dribbled away.
City's breakthrough two minutes from the interval was fortuitous. Vincent Kompany rose to head Adam Johnson's corner and missed. The ball struck Joleon Lescott on the temple and looped over Jussi Jaaskelainen.
There was a touch of fortune about the second as Barry sent a cross for Dzeko, who had been on the pitch only for a couple of minutes. Gary Cahill blocked his first effort, but the ball spun loose and allowed the Bosnian to turn home his second league goal of his first half-season in English football.
Nobody, probably not even Carlos Tevez, knows if this will be his final game in England. He had opportunities to win the Golden Boot outright but he was denied by Jaaskelainen when clean through and directed another shot into the Finn's midriff. The prize for the Premier League's leading goalscorer will have to be shared with Dimitar Berbatov, another Manchester striker whose future is uncertain. For now, Tevez's only sure destination is Buenos Aires and a reunion with his daughters.
Substitutes: Bolton Cohen (Elmander, 71), Klasnic (Taylor, 76), Moreno (Lee, 76). Man City Dzeko (A Johnson, 61), Milner (Silva, 78), Wabara (Zabaleta, 87). Booked: Bolton K Davies. Man City None. Sent off Sturridge (86).
Man of the match Silva.
Match rating 7/10.
Possession Bolton 50% Man City 50%.
Attempts on target Bolton 8 Man City 10. Referee C Foy (Merseyside).
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