x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Mancini Given welcome gift

New manager praises goalkeeper after City win their second game in a row while league leaders Chelsea are held to a draw.

The new Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini hailed the display of goalkeeper Shay Given after watching his team beat Stoke 2-0 in his first game in charge at the City of Manchester Stadium yesterday. The Blues scored goals by Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez, but they were indebted to their Irish goalkeeper, who made several excellent saves.

"Shay, for me, is the best keeper in England, top five in the world," said Mancini. "Today, he did a good, good job." And the Italian also praised Brazilian forward Robinho, who played in a front three with Petrov and Tevez before he was substituted for Craig Bellamy. "Robinho played well but after 70 minutes he was tired and I needed another player for a different situation. Robinho did a good job for me," he said.

The win was just City's third in the league since late September, and the first time they have won consecutive matches since earlier in the same month. Mancini said: "For me, today is a good match. The players were fantastic because Stoke are a hard team. It was important to win my first game and to keep a clean sheet. The balance was important." And he also paid tribute to Tevez, who scored an acrobatic second goal. "All the players did fantastic. Carlos was good, technical and a good striker," he said.

The Italian had made five changes from the team who beat Sunderland last weekend. Of the dropping of Welshman Bellamy, he said: "Bellamy is my friend. I have spoken with him because we have got two games in three days and there is no problem [in leaving him out of the side]. All the players are very happy. I need all the players 100 per cent fit. "All the players and myself can improve and we can only do that by working hard in the next week."

Premier League leaders Chelsea were held to a goalless draw at Wigan, meaning Manchester United can reduce the gap at the top to two points if they win at Hull today. "We are disappointed with the result but not for the performance of the team," said Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti. "We improved after the last time against West Ham [a 1-1 draw]. "It is not a good result for us but, as for what we did on the pitch, I think we played well.

"We played well, Birmingham tried to play the counter-attack. It was a difficult game for us but I think that Chelsea did the best in this moment." Elsewhere, Wigan drew 1-1 with Blackburn, causing manager Roberto Martinez to comment: "It must be the tightest table you are going to see for many years." Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce said: "We are sat here hugely disappointed and very down in the mouth.

"We know we should have had three points to get us that bit further up the league. We've come out here and matched them in every department." And there was another 1-1 draw between two North West teams as Burnley and Bolton finished level. Tottenham got a hard fought goalless draw at Fulham, with keeper Heurelho Gomes making four stunning stops to make sure his team did not leave Craven Cottage empty handed.

"In terms of clear-cut goal chances I'd say we deserved to win that," said Fulham manager Hodgson. At the bottom of the table, West ham enjoyed an invaluable 2-0 win over Portsmouth at Upton Park that took them out of the relegation zone. @Email:akunawicz@thenational.ae