Petrov 27, Tevez 45
Stoke City 0
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 26 December 2009 17:03
- Posted by Peter Ferguson
Roberto Mancini will hope that they are all this simple. What could have been a Boxing Day banana skin against a difficult Stoke side turned out to be a piece of cake for the new manager.
A sell-out stadium was chanting his name well before the end of a game well won by first-half goals from Martin Petrov, newly restored to the side, and, almost inevitably, Carlos Tevez.
After a week of controversy and speculation, the former Inter Milan boss soon suggested that his credentials, including a hat-trick of Serie A titles, will hold good in the Premier League.
Chairman Khaldoon and Chief Executive Garry Cook looked on in approval as Mancini, who replaced Mark Hughes a week ago, shook each player by the hand aas they came off after a good day's work.
Not only that, City were able to celebrate their first clean sheet at home in the League since that opening week's 1-0 win over those other stubborn sons of Staffordshire Wolves.
City did take their time to get in their stride, and Robinho - given the thumbs up from his new manager in midweek - fired a disappointing effort straight at the goalkeeper after 15 minutes.
Stoke were every bit as well organised as Mancini must have expected, but they also break well and with Turkish star Tuncay in decent form, they offered a threat to City's defence.
A rearguard that has generated more question marks than The Riddler's costume this season almost handed Stoke the lead before the 20-minute mark when Tuncay was allowed to stroll through.
Shay Given came to the rescue with a brave diving save that earned him a bang on the calf that needed lengthy treatment as the Stoke striker looked to the heavens over a missed opportunity.
There was a rash of penalty claims in the opening 25 minutes, none of which stood up to the scrutiny of the TV replays despite a universal shout when Gareth Barry was sent flying.
But before the half-hour City had gained a grip with the opening goal, Stephen Ireland playing a pivotal role with the first-time pass that sent Tevez careering down the left
His low cross into the area wasn't quite right for Robinho, who had the presence of mind to touch it on to the oncoming Petrov for a sure-footed finish that had Mancini punching the air.
If the Italian's selection of Bulgaria winger Petrov for his first start in two months had raised a couple of eyebrows, here was near-instant vindication for the new boss' instincts.
The eager Petrov had another, more fleeting chance just before the break, but this time he ballooned Sylvinho's raking centre into the crowd from a more demanding angle.
Not that it mattered too much. After Robinho despatched a difficult volley wide from Tevez's driven cross, the Argentine striker himself conjured the goal that stretched City's lead.
Pablo Zabaleta's long centre from the left fell accurately enough for a loosly-marked Barry to direct his header towards Tevez, whose impromptu acrobatics flicked the ball beyond Sorensen.
Going into the interval two goals ahead - and, just as importantly, looking reasonably solid at the back - was as good an opening 45 minutes of his City career as Mancini could have hoped for.
Robinho might have put it beyond Stoke when they resumed, but his first touch surprisingly let him down and Petrov's follow-up from outside the box was superby saved by a stretching Sorensen.
Tony Pulis made three changes fairly quickly, with potential danger men James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller coming off the bench but with a lot to do if they were to save a point for the Potters.
Craig Bellamy got a huge cheer from a full-house home crowd when he replaced the disappointing Robinho with 20 minutes to go, and the Brazilian ace looked less than happy despite his applause.
Bellamy's addition gave the expected boost to the Blues just as they needed it, and acted as a potent antidote to Stoke's efforts to force their way back into a game slipping away.