MANCHESTER CITY 3, QPR 1
It’s a hallmark of champions to play poorly and still win matches but while City have seven points out of a possible nine their start to the season has not resembled the blistering start to the 2011/12 season which saw them blow away domestic teams quickly and convincingly.
City coach David Platt admitted that City could improve and that some players at City were still effectively in their pre-season after the summer Euro 2012 tournament:
“We’re not playing as well as we did at the beginning of last season when we were blowing teams away and keeping clean sheets. We’re not quite up at the levels we were at last season.
“We closed games off early at the start of the season. At 2-0 or 3-0 up you tend to gain confidence all over the pitch and deflate the opposition – giving them nothing to hang on to.
“On balance of play today we deserved to win the game, especially with our movement in the first half.
“We’re not over happy in terms of performances at this moment in time but it’s balanced out by the points we have and the goals we are scoring.
“We’d like to keep clean sheets but we aren’t doing that.
“We probably paid the penalty today for not killing the game off.
“It was almost too easy for us to arrive at the final 30 yards but then there’s a lot of bodies in there. We couldn’t open them up.
“To go in 1-0 at half time we were comfortable but the game was always open.
“We have to defend as a team but we’re not quite there in terms of fitness for some of our players.
“We’re treating these games as a pre-season. When we get back in ten days time we can kick on.”
“Hopefully we’ll get some of our injured players like Gareth Barry back, Sergio Aguero will be there or thereabouts, and we have have some new faces to fit in too and the two International games coming up for some of our guys will help with match fitness too.”
Platt also elaborated on the reports of Mario Balotelli’s forthcoming eye operation.
“When Mario gets conjunctivitis he can’t get his contact lenses in. The laser operation is a normal procedure that will happen in the next couple of days – to say he’ll be out for a month is over the top.”
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho watched the visit of QPR to the Etihad and will have seen plenty to exploit when City come to the Santiago Bernabeu in little over two weeks.
Once again City are relying on the rejuvenated Carlos Tevez to get them through matches as injury to Sergio Aguero and the impending eye operation for Mario Balotelli may deprive Roberto Mancini of two striking options for the trip to Spain.
Edin Dzeko was given a start and, although he scored to put City into a 2-1 lead in the second half, his performance paled in comparison to Tevez who put himself into the limelight with another hardworking performance as the game progressed. Dzeko, on the other hand was getting involved but found it difficult to maintain composure when chances presented themselves. His final effort was going wide in added time before it was diverted by Tevez past a wrongfooted Robert Green in the QPR goal to put some gloss on an edgy scoreline for City.
Not taking chances when presented is an old complaint by Mancini.
“We played well in the first half, but we have one problem at the moment – we aren’t scoring enough from our chances.” said Mancini.
“It’s important that we improve because we can’t concede a goal in every match.” he added.
“It’s also important, though, that we got the three points today.”
City could and should have had more first half goals following chances by Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure but had only Toure’s 16th minute opening goal to show for during a first half that they dominated but this was cancelled out by Bobby Zamora’s second half strike on the hour as QPR tried to get back into the game.
Edin Dzeko quickly put City back into the lead two minutes later but the home side had to suffer a late and increasingly tense siege by the Hoops before Dzeko’s wayward injury time effort was redirected past QPR ‘keeper Robert Green by Carlos Tevez.
Edin Dzeko had missed a hatful of chances while Pablo Zabaleta’s drive grazed Robert Green’s crossbar while David Silva’s radar was slightly amiss with some of his passing going astray and he had two goalscoring chances cleared off the line by Fabio and Robert Green.
More worryingly for Mancini, the City defence was once again leaky, it’s a situation that the Italian has already recognised with the deadline day signings of Maicon, Matija Nastasic and Javi Garcia (a defensive midfielder who can play in defence).
The experiment with a three man defence seems have confused matters at the back and with City’s next Barclays Premier League game at Stoke City in a fortnight with Real Madrid the following Tuesday it’s a situation that Mancini will want to spend some time sorting out on the training pitch after the International break.