Sublime influence of Berkovic makes City slicker

Manchester City 2 Bolton Wanderers 0

Consistency and Manchester City are strange bedfellows but pit them against the neighbours at Maine Road and a glint of efficiency comes into their eyes. Having crushed United in the ground's valedictory derby three weeks ago, they beat Bolton yesterday to ease their relegation concerns and deepen their visitors'. If only Stockport, Bury and Oldham could make it to the Premiership.

The persistent rain and slippery pitch made edifying football a scarce commodity, but City still looked comfortably superior to Bolton and in Eyal Berkovic they had the one midfield player who skipped over the treacherous pitch like he was practising his party pieces on a sunlit bowling green.

The Israeli's corner led to City's first goal, scored by Steve Howey, and he got the second after Nicolas Anelka, who was also head and shoulders above his opponents, had created the space for him with a muscular turn and adroit pass. For City it was their first win in three matches; for Bolton it ended a run of three Premiership matches without a defeat.

"It was a big game for us," Kevin Keegan, the City manager, said. "It was a local derby, different to Manchester United, but presenting the same three points as United." There are few uneventful weeks at Maine Road but this match came after City had to publicly deny that Keegan had resigned. All run-of-the-mill stuff for a club who could find a crisis in paradise, and it was in keeping with their perverse nature that they showed both sides of their character in the first 20 minutes.

They began like players who had just been introduced, barely able to make an accurate pass, but when Bolton's early promise amounted to very little they slowly emerged from their mediocrity and began to resemble the force that had comprehensively outplayed the old enemy from Old Trafford.

At the hub of their enterprise was Berkovic, and it was he who prised open the Bolton defence with a delightful pass to Anelka. The French striker was beyond the visiting rearguard but tried to shoot from too narrow an angle and his left-foot effort corkscrewed wide.

Berkovic's vision had not been properly rewarded then but it was his corner that led to City taking the lead after 24 minutes. Marc-Vivien Foé flicked on and with the makeshift Bolton defence resembling onlookers at a car accident, Howey stopped to head low past Jussi Jaaskelainen from six yards.

The start of the second half was notable for Bolton's first shot at goal when Youri Djorkaeff attempted to lob Peter Schmeichel from 45 yards after Danny Tiatto had played a pass to no one in midfield. Like much of the visitors' work, however, the end product fell short of the promise and the City goalkeeper was able to pick up the ball at the first bounce.

The attempt had the effect of stoking City's urgency and they took a 2-0 lead in the 56th minute. Berkovic catches the eye with his dribbles and passing but his running to get himself into positions of danger is often overlooked. This time he passed to Anelka, and continued into the area to take the Frenchman's pass. His first touch seemed too strong but he got there just ahead of Jaaskelainen and his toe poke had enough force to go through the Bolton goalkeeper's challenge and into the net.

Bolton made a late rally and forced an outstanding double save from Schmeichel to deny Jermaine Johnson and Jay-Jay Okocha but the game had long since gone. "We laid down too easy in the second half," Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager, said. "The big players didn't play today and we need them to perform to get anything out of the Premiership."

Manchester City 2 Bolton Wanderers 0
Howey 25, Berkovic 56

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 34,860

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

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?