The blue half of Manchester expects in a way it has not in decades. A first cup semi-final in 26 years providing Tottenham can be sent packing in the Carling Cup tomorrow seems tangible this week, considering no Premier League team has taken so much as a point away from Eastlands this season. But while City fans are remembering Dennis Tueart overhead kicks, Sven Goran Eriksson only has thoughts of Elano. "Hopefully, hopefully Tuesday," he said and you sensed how fervently he wants the Brazilian to be back from injury.
That is because City's extraordinary home record is seriously flattering them. Eriksson says a winning sequence like this is nothing new to him "I suppose I have [matched it before] at Benfica or Gothenburg maybe but it was a lot easier there" but a simpler defence to crack than Bolton's would be hard to find in the Premier League and it was that, rather than much City invention, which maintained the best home record in the division.
Granted, Eriksson was without the two players most likely to create for him Elano and the suspended Stephen Ireland but it was a struggle, for all the wrong reasons, to identify their man of the match and there were also echoes of the side's hellish afternoon during the 6-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the defending which gave Bolton a 2-1 lead.
The talk goes on about which striker Eriksson and owner Thaksin Shinawatra will buy next month and the Swede hardly shot down suggestions that Mexico forward Nery Castillo will be following Elano to City from Shakhtar Donetsk but the standard of defending looks the worry at times. Eriksson referred to it after the home win over Middlesbrough in early October and the problem seems to be one of application.
Kevin Nolan was probably shooting against a wall in a Liverpool playground the last time he was afforded as much time as City allowed him to score Bolton's second. After Dietmar Hamann half-cleared a cross from Ricardo Gardner, who had skipped past a challenge of no meaningful intent from Vedran Corluka, Nolan was allowed to take a touch, peer ahead and dispatch a shot before Micah Richards waved a foot in his general direction.
Bolton's equaliser also belonged to the schoolyard: El Hadji Diouf left unmarked to convert Kevin Davies' shot, with Nicolas Anelka equally unencumbered in the box, should his team-mate have fluffed the chance.
If, as Gareth Southgate so memorably suggested, Eriksson's half-time delivery is more Iain Duncan Smith than Winston Churchill, then it works for City. The manager told his side they "looked like losers" and should do something about it and both Richards and Richard Dunne sharpened up their act in the second half, while Kelvin Etuhu, introduced from the bench, showed why he may be yet another City prodigy. He set up Hamann for the shot deflected into his own net by Lubomir Michalik before finishing things up by converting a cross from Javier Garrido.
Bolton's suicidal defence certainly need the reinforcements that Gary Megson suggested it will get, while Eriksson found more grounds for believing that a striker is necessary. Rolando Bianchi, in black gloves, long sleeves and a neck warmer, did not suggest that he will regularly crack firmer rearguards than Megson's, despite scrambling City's first.
Castillo's agent, Jose Luis Padilla, said on Friday evening that a one-year loan deal had been agreed with City for the 23-year-old, for whom Eriksson was outbid by Shakhtar when they signed him for 12.5m in the summer. "If and when it is 100 per cent I will tell you," Eriksson said.
Goals: Bianchi (7) 1-0; Diouf (31) 1-1; Nolan (40) 1-2; Michalik og (48) 2-2; Vassell (77) 3-2; Etuhu (90) 4-2.
Manchester City (4-5-1): Isaksson; Corluka, Richards, Dunne, Ball: Gelson (Etuhu h-t), Hamann, Johnson, Petrov (Garrido, 83), Vassell; Bianchi (Mpenza, 87). Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Geovanni.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt (McCann, 85), Meite, Michalik, Gardner; Campo (Giannakopoulos, 86); Nolan, Guthrie, Davies Diouf; Anelka. Substitures not used: Al-Habsi (gk), Samuel, Speed.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Booked: Man City Etuhu. Bolton Nolan.
Man of the match: Vassell.
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