MANCHESTER: Joe Hart was among the players picked out for individual criticism lately by Roberto Mancini. Manchester City’s manager thought that the England goalkeeper had been committing unnecessary errors.
Hart committed another such mistake another five minutes into the second half against Chelsea when he misjudged his advance and pushed Demba Ba to the ground as the ex-Newcastle forward darted across the penalty box.
Referee Andre Marriner awarded a penalty to Chelsea but decided the offence was not serious enough to show Hart a red card.
Hart made the most of his escape. He dived to his right to prevent Frank Lampard scoring his 200th goal for Chelsea and City took full advantage to score twice themselves. Goals from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez meant a 2-0 win keeping second-placed City within 12 points of leaders Premier League Manchester United.
Victory left Mancini the happier of two under-pressure managers.
He had undergone some sparky exchanges during the week with the media, complaining about repeated questions over his future – Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini is a top tip as successor – and insisting he is already planning major changes to strengthen his squad for next season.
City targets are understood to include Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez with doubt hanging over the Eastlands future of several major signings including France midfielder Samir Nasri and Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko.
Chelsea’s Rafa Benitez has made no pretence of thinking beyond this season. He is not expected to stay beyond May, even if he survives that long. Benitez believes, at least, that he will leave the Blues in better shape than he found them even though inconsistent form has ended their faint hopes of a league title challenge.
Before the game Benítez said: “Put everything together, including the number of games, the injuries, and we are going in the right direction. My job was to try to win and improve the players and look: Cesar Azpilicueta has got into the Spain team and Victor Moses was player of the tournament at the African Nations Cup.”
Conversely, however, Benitez left fullback Azpilicueta on the subs’ bench and brought winger Moses into the game too late, midway through the second half.
By that stage City were establishing a command which their more dangerous first-half approach work had earned.
Yaya Toure scored the opening goal after he and David Silva punished some hesitant defending by Mikel and Gary Cahill. Spain playmaker Silva also provided the assist from which Tevez struck his eighth league goal of the season five minutes from time.
That goal was also Tevez’s eighth in 11 games against Chelsea. But it was Joe Hart who was the most delighted – and most relieved – of City’s players at the final whistle.
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