x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Carlos Tevez is the key in tale of two Cities

Manchester City claim a 1-0 win over Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium, in a match marked with potentially serious injuries to Michel Vorm and Micah Richards.

Mario Balotelli, left, came on at half time for Manchester City, and squared up to Swansea City captain Ashley Williams after the Italy striker felt he was pulled back in the area. Phil Noble / Reuters
Mario Balotelli, left, came on at half time for Manchester City, and squared up to Swansea City captain Ashley Williams after the Italy striker felt he was pulled back in the area. Phil Noble / Reuters

Manchester City 1 Swansea City 0

Carlos Tevez lifted champions Manchester City back to within a point of the Premier League summit with the only goal of a dour clash last night against Swansea City.

"It was important to get three points today after defeat in midweek. We did not play well in the first half because we were so tired and we were better in the second half," Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, said.

The performance will inevitably raise more questions over his side's lack of dynamism this season.

Yet, City can at least reflect on a clean sheet - only the second of their season - after Joe Hart saved twice from Michu with the score at Etihad Stadium still goalless.

Michael Laudrup was disappointed to leave with no points.

"When you go to play the champions in an away game and you lose 1-0 then sometimes you think that is OK because nobody expects anything, but we kept them to just one chance and I really think we deserved something from the match," the Swansea manager said.

Tevez broke the deadlock after with a stunning strike from 25 yards after a dull first hour.

That briefly lifted the atmosphere but there was still plenty of anxiety around Eastlands during a game that ran to 12 minutes of injury time after lengthy stoppages for injuries to Michel Vorm and Micah Richards.

Following criticism of his defensive formations after the midweek loss to Ajax, Mancini dropped Joleon Lescott and played Matija Nastasic in a flat back four.

The two teams effectively cancelled each other out in a first half that must rank as one of the least entertaining 45-minute spells seen at the ground in recent times.

There was little by way of goalmouth action and the hosts' uncertainty transmitted to their fans.

City's side featured two left-backs in Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov.

Kolarov played most of the first half on the left wing but did interchange with Clichy at times, suggesting a continued lack of ease with whatever system City were playing.

Michu did put the ball into the net in the first half with a fine finish but was well offside as he received the ball.

Hart showed he was as alert as ever when Michu raced clear in the closing stages of the first half with a well-timed run, blocking bravely from the Spaniard.

The half-time whistle led to boos from some City fans after their side's uninspired display but they looked a different proposition immediately after the break.

Mancini sent on Mario Balotelli for the ineffective Kolarov and within two minutes the Italian had seen a shot blocked. Aguero also tried to find his range but fired wide.

Balotelli was in the thick of the action again as Richards whipped in a cross and the forward went down, claiming he was pulled back by Ashley Williams. Atkinson was not interested and Williams gave Balotelli a mouthful.

Swansea then pieced together a fine move which led to Jonathan de Guzman crossing for Michu, who powered a header straight at Hart. Richards sliced a clearance to give Ki Sung-yeung a follow-up chance but Kompany blocked.

City made the most of that reprieve and took the lead on the hour as Tevez took a pass from Clichy in his stride and hit a swerving 25-yard effort past Vorm.

Swansea's woes were compounded by an injury to Vorm, who appeared to hurt himself stretching for the Tevez shot. He was unable to continue and left the field on a stretcher.

Despite taking the lead, City were still sluggish and De Guzman attempted to catch them out with a long-range effort but missed the target. Yaya Toure tried to create something for the hosts after combining with Tevez but his cross avoided everyone.

City suffered a blow when Richards, who missed the first two months of the season through injury, went down in agony holding his knee. He eventually had to leave the field on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask.

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