West Ham 0 Manchester City 0: Unfair This bore draw is just the start, Mancini
23:16 GMT, 3 November 2012
An awkward night in the East End of London will pale in comparison to the mission facing Roberto Mancini in Manchester on Tuesday.
For the second consecutive season, he is presented with the prospect of the team he has assembled on Abu Dhabi petro-dollars being eliminated from the Champions League in the group stages. Victory against Ajax on Tuesday is an absolute necessity.
Even then, the odds of survival seem heavily stacked against Manchester City. After Ajax, Mancini will have to conjure further wins over Real Madrid at home and against Borussia Dortmund in Germany — then trust that other results in the group fall favourable.
Tip top: Joe Hart pushes over Yossi Benayoun's effort
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, O'Brien, Reid, Collins (Spence 84), McCartney, Jarvis, Noble, Diame (O'Neil 71), Benayoun, Nolan, Carroll (Cole 77).
Subs Not Used: Spiegel, Maiga, Chambers, Hall.
Booked: Collins, Benayoun, McCartney.
Man City: Hart, Nastasic, Kompany, Toure, Clichy, Barry, Toure, Nasri (Sinclair 90), Tevez (Javi Garcia 84), Dzeko, Balotelli (Aguero 69).
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Razak.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
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It promises to be an uncomfortable
period in the extreme. For the first time in 16 Premier League games,
City failed to score. And that was after Mancini tried to break West
Ham’s spirited resolve by using, over the 90 minutes, the striking
talents of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and
All Mancini could conjure at the end
was a hard-luck story. ‘No, it’s not a fair result,’ he said. ‘We missed
four incredible chances. I am happy with the performance but, if you
don’t score, you can’t win.’
He felt particularly aggrieved by the
failure of Balotelli. In the 33rd minute, the volatile Italian striker
had the chance to bring a smile to his manager’s face. A free-kick from
Tevez evaded West Ham’s defence and Balotelli appeared at the far post
with the freedom of Upton Park. He tried to divert the ball into the net
with his right leg almost horizontal to the ground, when perhaps he
would have been better advised to have headed the ball. And on the
stroke of half-time, Balotelli missed the target with a volley.
Mancini’s frustration this season is
deepening. James Milner was withdrawn from the team in the warm-up and,
like Joleon Lescott and David Silva, he is not expected by Mancini to
feature against Ajax. ‘When you win the title, I think the year after is
more difficult,’ said Mancini. ‘We have improved our defensive phase,
but we now need to score (as freely) as last year.
In the 68th minute, Gareth Barry
engineered an opportunity when he arrived late into the penalty area to
catch West Ham’s defence napping.
Taking a tumble: Edin Dzeko goes down under Mohamed Diame's challenge
Causing a scene: Vincent Kompany appeals for a foul… while Andy Carroll (right) holds his face
He appeared to bring the ball under
control with the upper part of his arm but, without censure, he had
ample chance to score. Instead he shot wide of the far post. ‘Had that
been a goal it would have been a real sickener as he brought the ball
down with his hand,’ said West Ham manager Sam Allardyce.
West Ham are deserving of credit. They
caused moments of anxiety for City and defended with heart over the
final 30 minutes when they kept the champions out. In fact, Kevin Nolan
felt he had given West Ham a fourth-minute lead, but he was judged to
have volleyed Mark Noble’s free-kick from an offside position. ‘City
were a little fortunate with that decision,’ said Allardyce.
Yossi Benayoun thundered a volley
against Joe Hart’s crossbar in the 18th minute, while Andy Carroll’s
overhead kick on the hour from a corner from Matt Jarvis looked
goalbound until it was deflected to safety off the back of City’s
stand-in right back Kolo Toure.
Anything to score: Carroll flings himself at the ball
Complaint: Gareth Barry appeals to Howard Webb
But while Allardyce is enjoying
jousting again at the highest level, Mancini remains a man who cannot
predict with total certainty what the future holds for him.
Last week he was forced to admit that
he had been close to accepting an attractive financial package from
Monaco, the latest club to have a billionaire benefactor bristling with a
desire to reach the top table of European football.
Mancini, clearly, was keeping his
options open. After all, City only delivered the championship —demanded
by the club’s owners and coveted by fans impatient to have bragging
rights over Manchester United — with effectively the final kick of the
season from Aguero.
Oh no, Mario! Balotelli sees the ball evade him
What's going on here then Howard Webb looks puzzled as Kevin Nolan sits injured
Mancini’s signature on a new five-year contract with City seemed to calm the speculation surrounding his future.
But these are complex times at City.
The arrival from Barcelona of Txiki Begiristain as director of football
and Ferran Soriano as chief executive, has shaken up the administrative
structure at the club. It will hardly escape Mancini’s notice that the
third member of that triumphant triumvirate at Barca, former manager Pep
Guardiola, will be seeking new employment next summer after the
completion of a year-long sabbatical.
Back home: Former Hammer Carlos Tevez was given rapturous applause
Nervous: Sam Allardyce and Roberto Mancini watch on while Carroll bemoans a missed chance
Guardiola’s reputation for creating a
team that epitomised football as the beautiful game will cast a giant
shadow on managers across Europe. But only those with deep pockets
should bother calling him.
Mancini endured a tough day at the office. And tougher days beckon, beginning with the visit of Ajax on Tuesday night.
Silence: The teams paid their respects to fallen heroes in advance of Remembrance Day