Manchester City Overcome Battling Bolton Wanderers

Manchester City may be unfeasibly rich but the price on their head is also extremely high.

Manchester City and Edin Dzeko overcome battling Bolton Wanderers Although Bolton Wanderers pride themselves on putting all visitors to a rigorous test, there was a keener appetite to them as they rallied and made Roberto Mancini's side defend at length before the win was clinched. The verve from the victors, who had led 3-1, ought to be appreciated, even if the manager himself will now be intent on restoring some of the usual stringency.

Regardless of the view from either technical area, this was a spectacle to be relished by anyone craving goals, entertainment and an element of uncertainty about the outcome. From the doggedly professional perspective, City allowed too much fun to seep in and the centre-half Joleon Lescott was particularly fallible. In the long term, all the same, Mancini's line-up is only likely to take the Premier League title if there is a commitment to expressiveness.

Players such as David Silva and Sergio Agüero epitomise that but it was the influence of James Milner that was crucial to the win. The England midfielder embodied the balance between diligence and impact that Mancini has to strike in his line-up.

The money and the shrewdness with which City now spend it are starting to make an impression. There was a stylishness to the visitors for a while but they had mislaid a little of their old efficiency. Bolton claimed the last goal of the day with a Kevin Davies header from a free-kick in the 62nd minute.

Still, it was a sign of City's means that Agüero could then be taken off, with Carlos Tevez, who admittedly wishes to leave the club, coming off the bench.

City will not forget the stress they had to undergo against an impassioned Bolton. Owen Coyle, manager of the hosts, was surely irritated by the build-up to this match.

While people swooned at the impact of Agüero's debut from the bench for City in the 4-0 defeat of Swansea, virtually no attention was paid to Bolton's victory by the same score at another promoted club, Queens Park Rangers. For a while the sceptics seemed to have a sound basis for supposing that the visitors would make the most of superior means and demoralise their opponents.

The course of the match was to be more complex but City did move 2-0 in front of Bolton as their build-up steadily improved, with imperious interchanging for a while from the trio of support strikers behind Edin Dzeko.

The opener in the 26th minute was, however, provided by a rare moment of haplessness from the Bolton goalkeeper, Jussi Jaaskelainen, who will surely be too proud to make the excuse that Silva's drive from outside of the area bounced in front of him. The save ought to have been routine.

City were exhilarated then and Barry increased the lead with a handsome 30-yarder but the visitors may have been a little too intoxicated by the impact. Bolton responded almost immediately, with the marking so lax that Ivan Klasnic had a simple task six minutes from half-time to tuck home Martin Petrov's well-placed low ball at the near post.

A third goal came for City two minutes after the interval. Dzeko kept Zat Knight at bay while taking Milner's lobbed pass and firing past Jaaskelainen. Now that he is operating in the centre the scorer's importance has become marked. If City relaxed then, it showed a very poor understanding of Bolton's pride and purpose.

Mancini's side are still trying to school themselves and embrace the expectations of a club that were last the champions of England in 1968.

Over the course of the subsequent decades they ceased even to be regarded as contenders. Although the squad itself has been upgraded so extravagantly, this is still a step into the unknown for many. City have to school themselves in living with the realisation that any opponents will raise their game against them and show a most unusual appetite. Dealing with that environment is a way of life for many clubs but City are coming into that category belatedly.

Mancini himself will feel part of an experiment. He is far from being a novice when it comes to the wealth, expectation and tortuous politics of sport since he was an effective manager of Internazionale. It would be nonsensical, in the context of football history, to put City among the clubs of such eminence but Mancini must feel the stress when the wish is for instant glory.

On their last trip to the Reebok, in May, the 2-0 margin of victory suggested efficiency. City are a better and more expansive side now but each away match is liable to be an occasion. Mancini's side are starting to realise their ambitions and the desire to put them under stress is also climbing.

The encouragement for him lies in the fact that the character and style of play being instilled look natural to his line-up. It was essential to the aspiration that such a process should take place but the speed at which City are turning into sprightly crowd-pleasers is an agreeable surprise.

Powered by article was written by Kevin McCarra at the Reebok Stadium, for The Guardian on Sunday 21st August 2011 18.21 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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