Manchester City 1 // Bolton Wanderers
Manchester City Tevez 04’
Red cards Koralov (Man City)
Man of the match David Silva (Manchester City)
MANCHESTER //The word from the palace is that this Premier League title is there for the winning. If Manchester City meet their owners' rising ambitions in the manner of this match we are in for six months of spectacular entertainment.
City were by turns fantastic and borderline shambolic. Forget the sterile conservatism of home draws with Chelsea and Manchester United, here their attack was fertile - a solitary, extremely early goal scant reward for the fluid interplay of the stellar David Silva, Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez.
Ignore a rare blank for the endearingly aggressive Bolton Wanderers. Though the visitors' opportunities did not run into the double-column tally of Roberto Mancini's side, they too did more than enough to question the scoreline.
Throw in manic moments from Joe Hart (a dropped cross), Aleksandar Kolarov (a two-footed assault), and Tevez (brushing aside his manager's handshake at a tactical substitution), and you have a thoroughly compelling afternoon.
Relaxed in the eye of the storm, Mancini enjoyed the press conference. Disappointed that his attack had managed only one goal?
"I'm not playing, if I had played this game I would have scored two, three goals," he said.
"I think we didn't concede any chances in the first half against one of the best teams in the Premier League at this moment. I think we had maybe 50 chances to score, but this is football. When we have the chance we must score."
Concerned about Tevez's fit of 90th-minute pique?
"I'm happy for this. I would like that all the players was like Carlos, because at that moment every player would like to stay on the pitch. But I needed a player like Mario [Balotelli] on the pitch. He's taller and maybe at set pieces he was better."
For all the talk of friction between manager and his finest forward, this was a genuine answer.
Far from bearing ill-will towards Tevez's robust desire to succeed, Mancini wishes it were shared by every member of his squad. For Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, the day's principal problem was a lack of defensive concentration. Zat Knight instigated their difficulties by pushing up too high in an attempt to stymie Yaya Toure. Once the ball was slipped beyond his defensive partner, Gary Cahill allowed it to drift under his own feet to an onrushing Tevez.
One-on-one with the goalkeeper with all angles to choose from, the outcome was predictable.
If errors abetted what Coyle called "a soft goal", it also owed much to the fluidity of Mancini's formation. Though Tevez was the nominal front man, he regularly dropped deep or to either wing.
The line of three starting behind him traded positions, Toure, Silva, Balotelli managing to look comfortable whether left, right or central. Silva then claimed a penalty for a shot that bounced from Cahill's chest to arm before Bolton claimed a foothold.
Outmanned in midfield, their methods required a mix of long balls from the back and direct runs down the middle. City allowed Martin Petrov to swirl a free kick at Hart's post and Kevin Davies to drag the keeper punching at headers.
An incorrect offside against Silva did little to calm City's nerves. Tevez embodied them in bowling over Sam Ricketts on the touchline before slamming a ball into the advertising hoardings. The yellow card was inevitable.
Offered the chance to put the game to bed, Tevez had one strike held, placed one over the bar and totally miscued a third. His back-spun pass to Pablo Zabaleta deserved better than a full-back's hesitancy before goal, but the carousel of chances careered on.
Silva's shot was held, Zabaleta's parried away. Balotelli hit post and keeper. Silva found the crossbar and Tevez fired over it - kicking air in disgust. Around about them, Petrov lofted over Hart's goal and Johan Elmander bicycle-kicked into Hart's arms.
If that was not entertaining enough, Hart suffered a loss of communication with Joleon Lescott, leaning over the substitute to collect a Mark Davies free kick and spilling it near his own net.
Moments after Vincent Kompany had rescued him, Kolarov spoiled an otherwise sound display at full-back by collecting a second yellow for a two-footed lunge on Ricketts that could have been a straight red.