Carlos who? A trip to Ewood Park proved just the tonic to clear the noxious atmosphere that has enveloped Manchester City following Carlos Tevez’s alleged refusal to appear as a substitute during the team’s 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich on Tuesday. During a second-half in which City seemed to emancipate themselves from the Argentine forward, four goals were plundered from Blackburn Rovers to secure an emphatic win.
While the subtext of Tevez’s suspension threatened to derail what had hitherto been an exhilarating start to the season, the lowly status of Saturday’s opponents certainly acted to help Roberto Mancini’s men. Few clubs in the land share the Eastlands club’s capacity for self-induced implosion, so a visit to a side beset by internal problems of their own must surely have acted as a relief. Blackburn are a club in disarray following a torrid start to the 2011-12 season, with a small but vocal minority of their support more interested in forcing manager Steve Kean out of the club than supporting the team.
A manager put under undue pressure himself following the preceding week’s shenanigans, Mancini must have felt some sympathy with his opposite number come 4:50pm on Saturday. However, whatever his words of consolation to the beleaguered Kean may have been, sympathy for the Scot was secondary to sheer relief.
Relief, firstly, at the conviction of the travelling fans’ support for him: 7000 fans in the Darwen End produced banners expressing disgust at the actions of their fallen idol and were indulging in chants that vigorously backed the Italian at Tevez’s expense. One could not help but notice the unequivocal nature of the support; a stark contrast to the previous season’s falling out between player and manager. On the one hand there is clear indication that the support has finally grown weary of Tevez’s selfishness and angling for a transfer. Perhaps more importantly, Mancini’s vision and style of football is finally convincing a crowd that craves unpredictability and thrills.
The result too – despite the fact the teams went in at half time level, a City victory was in no doubt – relieves the pressure which the constant media attention on the club has brought. The former Manchester United striker suspended for two weeks, and with no further comment on the situation authorised by the club, attention could once again return to the pitch; most importantly to the swashbuckling way in which City are cutting a swathe through Premier League defences.
A delicious Adam Johnson curler opened the scoring in the 56th minute. Before the hour mark, Mario Balotelli had added a poacher’s second, darting instinctively to the near post to convert a deadly Samir Nasri centre. As if to further erase memories of Tevez, Balotelli led the line with athleticism and commitment, finding himself unlucky when a sumptuous curling effort cannoned off the post. Not to worry, however, as Nasri too got on the scoresheet, given the freedom by Blackburn to slot into the bottom corner. Stefan Savic added a celebratory fourth, by which point – for a while at least – the Argentine’s actions seemed irrelevant.
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