Manchester City 3-0 Blackburn Rovers

 

 

Rovers keeper Paul Robinson looks on in anguish as Aguero peels away with delight after doubling City's lead


 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the Etihad Stadium 


Manchester City made it five wins in a row and moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League with an accomplished dismantling of Blackburn Rovers, who remain bottom of the table, in a one-sided match.

Roberto Mancini's men were superior from the first whistle to the last with Mario Balotelli scoring the first of three for City on the half-hour mark from Kolarov's cross. Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson had pulled off some decent saves to repel the home team in the first period but was at fault for the second when he fumbled Johnson's corner allowing Aguero the easy task of finishing. Substitute Edin Dzeko rounded the evening off with a goal of his own again supplied by the width provided by star man Aleksandar Kolarov as City's glittering goal glut which dazzled in the early weeks of the season increasingly looks to have re-emerged after a dried up patch over the Christmas period.

Four changes were made to the City team which impressively romped to a 4-0 midweek win over holders Porto in the Europa League with full-backs Zabaleta and Kolarov swapping once again with Richards and Clichy while Adam Johnson, who opened the scoring in a 4-0 victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park in October, came in as well as Mario Balotelli with Samir Nasri going to the bench and Gareth Barry missing with a slight groin injury. Yaya Toure started a Premier League game for the first time since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations while brother Kolo nursed a knee problem meaning he also sat out.

Blackburn boss Steve Kean, who this week revealed that he has hired a personal bodyguard to protect him at all times due to threatened violence from some fans, made two alterations to the side that narrowly secured victory over Queens Park Rangers a fortnight ago as the suspended Jason Lowe and Steven N'Zonzi, who dropped to the bench, were replaced with Radoslav Petrovic and debutant Marcus Olsson- twin brother of left-back Martin- who joined from Swedish side Helmstad. Gael Givet was also banned while David Dunn, who limped off in the 3-2 win over Mark Hughes' Rangers, remained injured but Junior Hoilett has recovered sufficiently to play having been injured in the same game. Rovers went into the game being the only side to score in every Premier League away fixture this season and had lost just three of their last seven.

The game had a conservative start to it generally speaking having said that City could have been a goal up inside the first minute when a fast-flowing rhythmic move involving a one-two between David Silva and Adam Johnson whose low ball created a chance for Balotelli who kept it low forcing a brilliant early save from Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson who got a good strong wrist on to it going down to his left hand side as City almost did the same as they had done in midweek- score a goal in the first minute of the game where Aguero had breached the FC Porto backline after just 19 seconds on Wednesday evening. In contrast, Blackburn conceded early on in their last away match- a 7-1 drubbing at Arsenal.

A point was required to take Blackburn out of the relegation zone where they had dropped during the day following Wolves' 2-2 draw at Newcastle earlier. If they had managed to do so, they would have been the only team to get one at fortress Etihad this season or indeed since Fulham last February as the Blues made sure of a whole calendar year of Premier League home victories since that 1-1 draw with the Cottagers twelve months previously.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Blackburn's debutant Marcus Olsson failed a trial at the Ewood Park club under former City boss Mark Hughes' management back in 2005.

 

City were marginally on top in the first fifteen minutes and Yaya Toure, seen in the Premier League for the first time since scoring to help his side to a 3-0 victory over Liverpool at the end of December and recently named Africa Player of the Year for 2011, may well have made more of an opening which fell his way when Balotelli climbed for a corner which was headed out by a Rovers defender but then back in by De Jong and with Blackburn defenders appealing in vein for an offside flag although Toure was level with Martin Olsson but miscontrolled when clean through and Hanley read the situation in time.

Mancini- who stated this week that the remaining thirteen games should be treated as cup finals by the players- would have been happy with his side's approach but they were knocking the ball around in their usual dominant way without creating too many chances early on in the first twenty minutes as Blackburn were holding their own and staying firm with their compact and crammed five-man midfield doing the legwork needed to contain the home team- whose fans were impatient with cries of "Come on City". Consequently, Yakubu upfront alone was cutting a lonely figure upfront as the Nigerian forward, who came away to the Blues with a win when last here with Everton in December 2010- the last occasion a team won here, had no support throughout.

Goalkeeper Paul Robinson, up against the man who displaced him in the England fold (Joe Hart) and who has since retired from international duty, palmed away a Mario Balotelli free-kick which took a slight deflection along the way given for a soft foul by Junior Hoilett on David Silva- the man who has played the most minutes this season for City making 12 goals thus far. Not long after, Johnson had an effort which squirmed infront of the Rovers stopper who adjusted his gloves to keep the ball out. But Robinson, without a clean sheet in 28 league games, and Blackburn, who are yet to keep one this campaign, were a goal behind on the half hour mark when Hoilett lost possession with Yaya Toure setting Kolarov away on his bike down the left full of running and the Serbian's pacy cutback was swept in by the 21-year old Italian Balotelli for his 12th goal of the season in total. He then produced a t-shirt underneath his jersey which read "Rafaella Te Amo".

Even though Plan A had gone out of the window, there were half-hearted Blackburn appeals for a penalty kick when Nigel De Jong caught Pedersen on the follow through of his tackle but got a toe to the ball first in the eyeline of referee Mike Jones who couldn't have been better positioned to witness although he saw nothing wrong.

Blackburn's defence was down to bare bones with Lowe and Givet suspended and the news yesterday that captain Chris Samba had been sold to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala for an undisclosed fee. In addition, Salgado and Nelsen also departed during the January transfer window as Bradley Orr, a last minute panic buy from QPR, under-performed as Kolarov's attacking threat down the left hand side was a nuisance. Once again he burst down the flank from full-back, passing to Silva in the box as no-one went with the Spaniard from Blackburn's point of view and his volleyed effort was blocked by the body of visiting skipper Robinson who was single-handedly keeping City out in goal.

It was starting to become easy for City and Kompany fancifully flicked goalwards on 36 minutes running away from Scott Dann at the near and Robinson pushed out to Yaya Toure who jabbed wide without good reason when really that should have put the away side's chances of getting something from the match to the sword. Yakubu- likened to an animal characteristicaly in the well-used phrase "Feed the Yak and he will score"- continued to be iscolated as no clear cut chances were mustered in order for him to add to his 14 Premier League goals for Blackburn this term.

City had the lions share of possession going into the second half but at 1-0 Blackburn, who won across the Manchester divide at the end of December in their only away win so far in the league this season- 3-2 against Manchester United, still had a chance mathematically of finding a way back into the game as the next goal crucially was going to decide the outcome. The reliable Robinson made an unusual howler that his performance didn't deserve after 52 minutes to give City the points as he fumbled a Johnson corner, which should have been a simple catch with no-one around him, straight to Aguero who capitalised by slamming home as it was a case of how many goals the home side were going to rack up.

There must have been one or two concerns for the City boss when Yaya Toure and Aguero were both needing treatment- the Ivorian landed in some discomfort when sliding to keep the ball in play when a change of pace got him away from Scott Dann meanwhile Aguero was on the receiving end of a challenge from Morten Gamst Pedersen. The away side tried to freshen things up with Ruben Rochina and Steven N'Zonzi sent on in place of Mauro Formica and Radoslav Petrovic while Chilean international David Pizarro replaced Adam Johnson for City.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Sergio Aguero has now scored in three consecutive appearances for City for the very first time.

 

It was a question of when than if the City third was coming and it did so with nine minutes remaining when substitute Edin Dzeko, who netted when coming on in the 4-0 win over Porto in the week, repeated the trick foreheading in an inch-perfect delivery from Kolarov as the clash of top vs bottom produced the formality that everyone predicted as it was all smiles around the Etihad Stadium with the Poznan celebrations in full swing.

It took until the 92nd minute for Blackburn to conjure up their one and only attempt of any sort at goal- the last team that failed to do so in the Premier League was Sunderland in a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford in November 2008- as Yakubu bent an effort into Joe Hart's arms as the England goalkeeper, who Alex Ferguson this week admitted he turned down the chance of signing earlier in his career for £100,000 and one of the leading contenders to be captain for his country, saved routinely from the Nigerian.

Rovers have upset the big boys with Arsenal, United and Liverpool dropping points against them but there was no chance of that happening on a night that Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott and goalkeeper Hart, making his 150th Premier League start, could have stayed at home. In the week where Carlos Tevez said sorry for his refusal to enter as a substitute in the Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich in September and Roberto Mancini accepted his apology, it was the rest of the City strikeforce who showed their quality in turn as all three of Tevez's challengers for a place in the team were on the scoresheet in a routine victory for the league leaders. Blackburn coiled in the relegation mire were second best from the first second and their defence wasn't good enough to cope with the qualities of the opposing attack. City as they have done for most of the season now await to see what United have to offer when they face a tricky trip to East Anglia to play Norwich City at Carrow Road tomorrow afternoon.

 

 


Saturday 25th February 2012

Barclays Premier League

The Etihad Stadium

 

Manchester City 3-0 Blackburn Rovers                            KO 5:30pm             (HT 1-0)

Balotelli 30
Aguero 52
Dzeko 81

 

Manchester City:  25 Hart- 9/10, 5 Zabaleta- 7.5/10, 4 Kompany (C)- 9.5/10, 6 Lescott- 9.5/10, 13 Kolarov- 9.5/10, 11 Johnson- 7.5/10 (Pizarro 70- 4/10), 34 De Jong- 8.5/10, 42 Yaya Toure- 8.5/10 (Milner 86- 1.5/10), 21 Silva- 9/10, 45 Balotelli- 7.5/10 (Dzeko 79- 2.5/10), 16 Aguero- 8.5/10.

Subs not used:  30 Pantilimon, 2 Richards, 22 Clichy, 19 Nasri

Booked:     None

 

Blackburn:  1 Robinson (C)- 7/10, 18 Orr- 5/10, 16 Dann- 5.5/10, 31 Hanley- 5.5/10, 3 Martin Olsson- 6/10, 23 Hoilett- 5.5/10, 14 Petrovic- 6/10 (N'Zonzi 69- 3/10), 12 Pedersen- 5.5/10, 10 Formica- 6/10 (Rochina 69- 2/10), 21 Marcus Olsson- 6.5/10, 24 Yakubu- 6.5/10.

Subs not used:  13 Bunn, 39 Henley, 29 Vukcevic, 9 Modeste, 25 Goodwillie

Booked:     Hanley (22), Orr (52)

 

My Man of the Match:   Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Bradley Orr (Blackburn)- Rating 5/10


 

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 46,782

 

 

Match Facts


Possession:
Manchester City- 69%                     Blackburn- 31%

Shots: Manchester City- 20                           Blackburn- 2

Shots on target: Manchester City- 13                      Blackburn- 2

Shots off target: Manchester City- 7                       Blackburn- 0

Corners: Manchester City- 10                       Blackburn- 3

Fouls: Manchester City- 6                          Blackburn- 10

Offside: Manchester City- 1                          Blackburn- 0

Assists: Manchester City- Kolarov (2)                     Blackburn- None

 

 


Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

"I actually thought Mario Balotelli was very disciplined in his performance and his work rate was exceptional both on and off the ball. His temperament was good. He can be pleased with his afternoon's work. All three strikers have scored all season. They are scoring goals but the team is creating them for them. In terms of possession you saw that we controlled the game and we could have more in the first half if it wasn't for the goalkeeper for them. We knew we had to get off to a good start, not to let them settle into their game plan of five in midfield and sit to defend the eighteen-yard line and we did that. We created chances and felt the first goal was coming. To get the second and third was good."

Click here for the thoughts of City assistant manager David Platt

Click here for the thoughts of City manager Roberto Mancini

 

 


Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean

"The games we have coming up now, Aston Villa, Bolton and Wigan - teams in and around us - mean it's going to be a massive month for us and if we are going to stay up these are the ones we need to collect points in. We have no injuries today and got a couple coming back, Gael Givet and Jason Lowe from suspension, so fingers crossed the lads come back from international duty next week fresh and fit to play. You know how difficult it's going to be with the depth of the (City) squad. It was probably close to a £400million squad with the lads on the pitch and on the bench, so they can rotate and add quality when they decide to rest people."


Click here to hear the post-match interview with Rovers boss Steve Kean

 

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