The Manchester City fans began the afternoon by chanting the name of Roberto Mancini in a show of support.
The Blackburn crowd ended it by calling for Steve Kean's head in just as public a gesture of disapproval, albeit one that waited until the home side were three goals down before clearing its throat. By the time City had finished, four goals separated the sides and something resembling normality had returned, with Rovers back as the crisis club and Kean as the manager under pressure.
"It was the result we were looking for to put Bayern Munich to bed," said the first-team coach, David Platt, on media duty as Mancini had to catch a flight to Italy straight after the game, and speaking on condition that the subject of recalcitrant substitutes would not be broached. City made six changes from the Champions League defeat and lost Sergio Agüero in the first half, so the winning margin was all the more impressive. "We know what we're blessed with here," Platt said. "We have a talented squad and one of the hardest things is just to pick 11 players. Most weeks we have to send very good players to the stands to watch the game.
Kean currently has a harder job than that, but manfully pledged to take all the flak that comes his way on behalf of his players. "We have come through tougher times than this," the Rovers manager said. "If the fans want to vent their anger at me I can take it. I'm not too happy myself at the moment, but it's not all about me. I have every confidence we can turn this situation around, and for 55 minutes of the game we were in good shape and in contention. You have to have some perspective. City played a freshened team and it took a very good goal to put them in front."
A low-key first half, played at a tempo to suit the unseasonal temperature, was evenly balanced in that each side created just a couple of scoring chances worthy of the name. City did most of the attacking and scheming, but there was a bluntness about their actual attempts on goal that only increased when Agüero limped off with a groin strain after half an hour. By that stage Mario Balotelli had wafted over the bar with a decent opportunity from David Silva's cross, and though the striker was not too far away with a speculative curler a few minutes later, he should really have put the visitors in front just before the interval, when he managed to anticipate Pablo Zabaleta's cross at the near post but failed to hit the target.
Blackburn were playing a containing game and refusing to commit too many players to attack, though when the impressive Junior Hoilett stylishly brought the ball out of defence mid-way he quite nonchalantly played in Yakubu behind the City defence, and it took a determined recovery tackle from James Milner to prevent a shot on goal. Yakubu also brought a save from Joe Hart just before Balotelli's best chance, though when City's Italian struck a post at the start of the second half he at least appeared to be finding his range.
So while Blackburn might have been surprised when City exploded into life just before the hour to take control with two excellent goals in two minutes, they could have no real complaints.
The visitors had applied almost all the second-half pressure, and Blackburn were defending so far back they neglected to break out of their penalty area to close down Adam Johnson when a partially cleared corner landed at his feet in the 55th minute. It was obvious what Johnson intended to do, and in fairness to the Rovers defenders there was not much they could have done to prevent such a perfectly executed finish. Controlling with his left foot and then using minimal backlift to shoot with it, Johnson returned the ball almost instantly to find Paul Robinson's top corner from outside the area.
City scored a second before Blackburn had a chance to properly recompose themselves, Balotelli finally proving his finishing ability by guiding Samir Nasri's cross past Robinson. That was more or less that, though when Nasri added an almost insultingly easy third goal after exchanging passes with Silva, something snapped with the home supporters. Even as Blackburn tried to fight back with a Mauro Formica shot that stung Hart's hands, Ewood echoed to "Kean Out" and "You're getting sacked in the morning". There was even a chant in favour of the late Jack Walker, just in case anyone should think Venky's, the current owners of the club, were getting off lightly.
Stefan Savic's headed goal from Nasri's free-kick did not make the home fans any happier, and Blackburn departed to predictable boos. There were bizarre scenes after the final whistle – fans at one end of the stadium sang in praise of their manager, while at the opposite end several hundred stayed on to damn theirs.
Police and stewards quietened them down eventually, though not before "Kean's got more points than us" (a reference to his recent driving conviction) had won the afternoon's prize for wit and invention. "Just bear with us," the beleaguered manager said by way of a message. "We'll turn it round."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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