Manchester City 1 Reading 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 22 December 2012, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, K Toure, Nastasic, Rekik (Milner 84), Barry, Garcia (Dzeko 58), Y Toure (c), Silva, Tevez (Sinclair 74), Aguero
Unused: Wright, Kompany, Razak, Lescott
Goals: Barry (90+3)
Booked: Aguero, Y Toure

Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabatela

Reading1It was a slow start from City, who, despite seeing a lot of the ball, couldn’t work their way through a wall of Reading defenders. There was an early fright for the home fans as Hart couldn’t find Rekik with a return pass and gifted the ball to Kebe. The Reading man, though, couldn’t pick out a team-mate in the middle before the City keeper got back into position.

City couldn’t get their final ball sorted, as Tevez tried to slide Aguero in behind the Reading back line, but it skidded back to Federici on the wet surface. Silva had a shot deflected wide, before Tevez should have put the hosts in front. A cheeky touch to him from Aguero inside the box gave him a shooting chance from the corner of the six-yard box, but he hit it straight at the goalkeeper.

Reading weren’t showing much thought to testing Joe Hart, but their game-plan was working somewhat: They were throwing bodies in front of everything to make sure City didn’t get themselves in front. Harte deflected Garcia’s effort behind, before Zabaleta went close on the stroke of half time. The Argentine full-back’s shot, though, flicked off a Reading foot and dropped onto the roof of the net.

A series of corners resulted in a chance for Nastasic seconds before the break, but the centre-back’s volley on his right foot was just over the bar. City had been asking all of the questions in the first half, but the visitors had all the answers and it was goalless at the interval.

The second half didn’t show much change from the first: Reading were seemingly happy to defend their point and they were doing a good job of it. Tevez curled a free kick to the back post, but it was well punched away by the goalkeeper, before Yaya Toure overhit a pass through to the Argentine. It was proving to be a frustrating afternoon for the blues.

Against the run of play, the visitors missed a golden chance to take the lead. A corner from the right flank found Pearce unmarked in the box and he, somehow, managed to head it well wide, despite having time and space to pick his spot. It was a warning shot that the away side could steal something if the blues weren’t careful.

Just after the hour mark, and barely five minutes after his introduction, Dzeko almost added another to his goals-from-the-bench tally. He climbed highest inside the six-yard box to connect to a right wing corner, but his header at goal flashed just over Federici’s crossbar.

With 20 minutes to play, the fans weren’t best pleased with the referee as they felt Yaya Toure had won the ball with a sliding tackle on McAnuff, but the official disagreed. Reading had a free-kick on the left wing, but it was well cleared by the City defence.

Ten minutes later, Aguero had an effort from range blocked, again bouncing behind for another City corner. However, again, that flag kick came to nothing. It was becoming a frustrating afternoon for the hosts, and the fans weren’t pleased with perceived time-wasting from the visitors. In truth, though, City hadn’t tested Federici enough.

As the game entered stoppage time, City began to throw everything forward. Zabaleta went down in the box, but it would have been a very harsh penalty. In fact, he was adjudged to have fouled the defender on his way through. Silva headed over from the back post, as it broke to him following a scramble in the middle.

But, just as it looked like it would be the first time the hosts had failed to score a Premier League goal at home since 2010, with two minutes of stoppage time remaining, they stole all three points. Milner played a brilliant ball to Dzeko, who picked out Sinclair. The winger’s cross dropped to the back post where Barry met it to head home. Reading wanted a foul on Shorey, who challenged the goalscorer, but the referee waved away the protests.

A late corner for the visitors gave them the chance to reply immediately, but the hosts stood firm and saw out the final moments of the game to close the gap at the top of the league to three points. It was another stoppage time win for the blues this season.

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