Mancini plays it smart as City go back to basics

Manchester City 2 Stoke City 0: Italian wants team to reflect his self-control but old defensive fallibility is still very much in evidence

Roberto Mancini – the man who can even make a Manchester City scarf look like a fashion item. It was knotted elegantly outside of his finely tailored black overcoat yesterday afternoon and still impeccably draped there after he had spent 90 minutes on the edge of his technical area, apparently dispelling any notion that Premier League management is a job with high pressures attached.

The British touchline approach we are more accustomed to was offered by Brian Kidd, the assistant imposed on Mancini, who for half an hour or so raced in and out of his technical area, principally to hurl orders at defenders. Mancini did not want him there – he would actually prefer his friend David Platt at the club – and having gestured him away a few times with a nonchalant flick of an outstretched hand, Kidd ventured more tentatively into the coach's space. Mancini, it seems, is a coach who does things his own way.

Craig Bellamy, whose relegation to the bench suggests Mancini will not nurture him into an acceptance of Mark Hughes' dismissal, ran across the touchline to take instructions towards the end, indicating that he already knows who is boss, too. But it will take more than Mancini's insouciance to appease the supporters if Bellamy, greeted like a returning hero when he arrived in Robinho's place half an hour from time, leaves this winter.

The Brazilian provided one of the afternoon's comedy moments when after an indifferent match he took the applause, thinking it was for him. The kick he aimed when reaching the dug-out undid the picture Mancini presents of a rosy scene between club and player. It helped that Stoke did not offer the lesson in Premier League fundamentals that could have made the Italian's introduction such an unfavourable one but he certainly provided what he had promised.

Gone was some of the carefree, attacking football which has seen City score three goals on each of eight outings this season but look so defensively brittle as well. Serious defensive scares were not entirely absent but the result was their first league clean sheet since the goalless draw at Birmingham on 1 November.

That said, all the usual panic was visible when Danny Collins curled a ball in from the left after 19 minutes which Tuncay Sanli latched on to in the area and struck with venom, forcing a fine reaction save from Shay Given. The City goalkeeper needed equally fine instincts to palm away a point-blank volley by James Beattie, one of Tony Pulis' substitutes, after another, Robert Huth, had headed Matthew Etherington's free-kick back across goal in the second period. Huth headed wide from the resulting corner, with another substitute, Ricardo Fuller, and Danny Higginbotham both missing from close range at the death. Pablo Zabaleta looked the only real rock of certainty at the back for City.

But Stoke's usual aerial bombardment was missing and their own defence looked the more vulnerable. It took City a little less than half an hour to breach it, Tevez racing between Dean Whitehead and Danny Higginbotham, threading a ball which Robinho threw a boot at and missed, but Martin Petrov did much better with – sidefooting home.

Petrov has scored on the four occasions he has started a City league game this season, though both he and Robinho missed opportunities to extend the lead before the Bulgarian set up City's second. The cross he floated into the penalty area three minutes into first-half injury time reached Gareth Barry, who was left free in the area to head towards Tevez who lifted a right foot acrobatically to lift it over Thomas Sorensen. Petrov should have added a third minutes after the restart when Andy Wilkinson's tackle on Robinho saw the ball break but Sorensen saved at the second attempt.

Pulis acted quickly, introducing three substitutes in the first 15 minutes of the second half and City's penetration waned as the game wore on. But the new manager was spared some of the frantic finishes which made 4.45pm on a Saturday such a nervy time for his predecessor.

An Italian journalist put it to Mancini last night that Internazionale fans had been feeling nostalgic, observing him on a TV broadcast of this game wearing the blue scarf of a new club, as he used to wear their own. "This colour, Sampdoria, Lazio, Inter... it's my colour," he said, reeling off the names of the sides he has managed or played for. Blue is the colour then? After 17 managers in 20 years, City fans will need more proof as they've heard it all before.

Attendance: 47,325

Referee: Lee Mason

Man of the match: Petrov

Match rating: 6/10

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
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen