Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 26 December 2009, 15:00 KO
City: Given, Zabaleta, Kompany, Touré (c), Sylvinho (Richards 65), de Jong, Barry, Ireland, Petrov, Robinho (Bellamy 69), Tevez (Garrido 89)
Unused: Taylor, Vidal, Weiss, Boyata
Goals: Petrov (27), Tevez (45+2)
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
Roberto Mancini’s first game in charge at City was one the club needed to win to take full advantage of Tottenham’s slip up against Fulham and put them in a good position to get back into the top four. The new manager was forced into some changes, with Onuoha, Wright-Phillips and Santa Cruz all out injured, making way for Petrov, Robinho and Kompany to join the starting line up.
The game, though, got off to a very slow start. City had two corners come to nothing, while Stoke didn’t take advantage of several set pieces. The visitors then survived two penalty shouts – first, the ball hit Faye’s arm from close range before Wilkinson was adjudged not to have bundled over Robinho.
The game’s first shot on target came after 18 minutes. Robinho cut in from the left and curled one for the bottom corner, but he didn’t catch it right and it was very comfortable for Sorensen.
On 21 minutes, Given pulled off a fantastic save to keep the scores level. Tuncay broke into the box past Touré and was one-on-one with Given, but his fierce shot was well blocked and the City keeper was hurt in the process.
City then wanted a penalty for a challenge on Gareth Barry, who went down inside the box perhaps theatrically, but the referee was having none of it and pointed for a goal kick.
But, two minutes later, it didn’t matter, as City took the lead. Ireland and Tevez combined well on the left side, with the latter then breaking into the box and knocking it square to Robinho. The Brazilian’s miss-hit shot fell straight into the path of Martin Petrov, who slotted home with his right peg.
Former City man Glenn Whelan then fired well over from the edge of the box after a Stoke corner, before Diao was the first man in the book for a rash challenge on Nigel de Jong, the Dutchman, though, was straight back on his feet.
Just before half time, Petrov had the chance to double his goal tally for the game, but the low, driven cross fell to his right foot and he sliced it well over and well wide of the visitors’ goal.
Then, as the teams were preparing to go in at 1-0, City doubled their lead. Zabaleta crossed from deep and found the head of Barry, who nodded the ball towards goal. It was an effort on goal and would have been a simple save for Sorensen, were it not for Carlos Tevez in the six yard box. The Argentinian got his studs on the ball and flicked it past the Stoke keeper.
In the opening seconds of the second half, City could have been three goals to the good. Robinho broke into the box, but the ball was cleared after a bad touch. It fell straight to Petrov, who hit it first time and it need a great double save from Sorensen to keep it out.
Just after the hour mark, City needed Given to be on form as he made a fine one-handed save from James Beattie to stop the visitors from pulling a goal back and getting back into the game. Robinho then fired well wide with his left foot, from just inside the box.
Bellamy, the player of the season so far, then joined the action, to thunderous applause from the home fans. Ricardo Fuller then nodded a good chance wide, before Whelan was yellow carded for a deliberate handball in midfield.
With nine minutes to go, Bellamy was denied a penalty when it looked like Robert Huth brought him down. But because the forward tried to keep his feet and got away a somewhat hindered shot, the referee said no.
With 92 minutes gone, Stoke had the chance for a consolation goal, but Higginbottom slid the ball well, well wide of Given’s goal, with the City keeper coming out at him.
In the end, it wasn’t a classic performance from City, but it was their first clean sheet at home since August and three points for the new manager on his first day in charge.