MAN CITY 3, BLACKBURN ROVERS 0
Carlos Tevez may have returned to training but Roberto Mancini was reminded of the other striking talent he has available to him as City strolled to a 3-0 win over a Blackburn Rovers side who struggled to offer any resistance after going behind.
A clinical first-half goal by Mario Balotelli, a predatory second half finish by Sergio Aguero and a late header by Edin Dzeko saw off an unadventurous, defensive Blackburn Rovers side.
The comfortable win put City five points clear of United who play on Sunday at Norwich and Roberto Mancini’s side continued their recording of maintaining a 100-per-cent home league record with their 13th straight win at home this season and 17th league win in a row.
City coach David Platt was pleased with the team for their temperament during the victory and was especially impressed with Mario Balotelli’s contribution to the win:
“All three strikers have scored all season. We’re up to thirty to forty goals between them this season. They are scoring goals but the team are creating them.”
“I think Mario’s goal was a good finish. I didn’t realise how good it was until I saw the video.
“To open up teams like Blackburn Rovers we have to give the ball to players who are closely marked, even kicked, and Mario’s temparament was very good today. I never once felt that there was going to be any reaction from Mario today.
“In terms of possession we had we controlled the game, we knew we had to get off to a good start in terms of rhythm, taking the game to them and trying to create chances to prevent them from settling into their game plan.
“There’s a belief in the dressing room that we can go into football matches and win games. For two thirds of the season it’s what we’ve done and it’s got us where we are. We just have to show the same form consistently for the final third of the season and we’ll be there or thereabouts.
“We’ve got a dozen games left in the league, there will be a mixture of games where things don’t go as well as they did today but we’ve still got to get the results.”
City could have finished off Rovers a lot sooner had it not been for their goalkeeper and captain Paul Robinson who produced a series of first half saves to keep Rovers in it.
From as early as the second minute Robinson was in action as he clawed away Mario Balotelli’s goalbound shot.
Adam Johnson’s effort was spilled by Robinson and Pablo Zabaleta couldn’t capitalise with the rebound.
Robinson also got down quickly to palm away Mario Balotelli’s deflected free kick and it started to seem as though City couldn’t create the killer chance to beat Rovers’ massed defence.
They finally got their reward for attacking play when Mario Balotelli opened the scoring on the half hour with a superb run and flick past Robinson from Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross. The enigmatic Italian celebrated by unveiling another of his t-shirts, this time declaring his love for his girlfriend Raffaella Fico with the legend: “Raffaella ti amo”.
City had turned on the style again and Kompany could have extended the lead with a stunning backheel from a corner which Robinson palmed into the path of Yaya Toure who could only volley wide.
Finally, Toure had two chances in quick sucession as the first half drew to a close and Sergio Aguero had everyone off their seats as he made his way past a trio of defenders, found space and beat Robinson at the near post only to see his shot whistle inches past the far post.
Early in the second half Sergio Aguero pounced on the loose ball from Robinson’s poor punched clearance skied off Silva’s corner to make it 2-0 with a decisive half volley.
It was a sad reflection on a side that had so much fight in them recently that Rovers’ first shot on target was in the 79th minute but Morton Gamst Pederson’s effort was deflected away for a corner by Vincent Kompany.
City ended what little resistance there was on offer by Rovers when their corner came to nothing and the City counter attack ended with Kolarov’s cross from the left touch line firmly headed past Robinson by Edin Dzeko who slipped in between two Rovers defenders just a minute after he had come on as a substitute.
Rovers’ only response to that was to finally give Joe Hart a save to make when Yakubu’s curled effort, their second chance of the game, came towards him in added time at the end.