Tevez (pen 41mins), Adebayor (43mins), Bellamy (89)
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- Sat 01 May 2010, 5:08PM
- Posted by Chris Bailey
Champions League ambitions are alive and well at the City of Manchester Stadium after this thrilling victory over Villa.
The win not only boosted the Blues hopes of ousting fellow winners Spurs from fourth spot but also ended the Midlanders’ slim hopes of occupying that spot come close of play on May 9.
To listen to external voices this week home fans might have expected half the team to run out with ‘For Sale’ signs on their shirts and the rest to have boxing gloves on their hands but this was a performance of character and spirit just when it was most needed.
Not only did the Blues dominate one of their major rivals for most of a gripping contest but they came from behind to take the points.
As an expression of desire it was the perfect marker for next Wednesday’s titanic showdown with Tottenham.
Even without the twisting and turning battle for fourth place this was a contest brimful of sub-plots.
For a start, former City stalwart, skipper and multi player of the year Richard Dunne returned for the first time in unfamiliar colours.
Whilst in the home goal Hungarian Marton Fulop who shares the dubious distinction with visitors Villa of having conceded seven goals to Chelsea this season, made his debut as an emergency loan signing.
Gareth Barry, though, missed out against his former club through injury.
With Stephen Ireland sidelined thanks to a training ground knock it was veteran Patrick Vieira who got the starting nod to replace England ace Barry.
The stats, never a reliable guide where football - especially the end of season variety - is concerned suggested the Blues went into the clash as favourites; Villa had won just two of the previous 14 meetings between the two sides.
Mancini’s men meanwhile were set on creating another small piece of history in a campaign strewn with milestones of varying importance and impact.
City began and ended the day having been defeated in just six Premier League games this season. They have never lost fewer than seven top flight games in a season!
A resurgent Villa having bounced back superbly from dual cup disappointment were seeking a fourth straight away win – quite a feat in the ultra competitive white heat of the Premier League – they were though second best for most of this white-hot contest.
Tevez, subdued in the last two matches as City drew a goal blank against United and Arsenal, set off in pursuit of the two goals he needed to chalk up his half century in the Premier League and he got one of them.
However, before the joy came the pain of falling behind.
Although City started much the brighter it was Villa who struck first in the 16th minute when they caught the home side napping at a quick free kick and Downing slipped in Carew who beat the advancing Fulop.
Despite a welter of possession City failed to work Brad Friedel hard enough and early on his main difficulties came from deflections, most notably one off Cuellar after Bellamy had attempted a cross-shot.
There was also a shout for a penalty on the half hour when Tevez’ meaty shot clearly struck Stephen Warnock’s arm. Referee Clattenburg concluded that it had not been a deliberate act by the defender and merely pointed for a corner.
He had little choice to award a spot kick in the 40th minute though when Adam Johnson’s trickery left Warnock bamboozled and the winger duly went over the full back’s outstretched leg.
Tevez potted with award with powerful aplomb.
Two minutes later it was 2-1 to City with Johnson again in the middle of the action dragging defenders out of the way after collecting Vieira’s pass and then coolly picking out Manu Adebayor who drove the ball home.
The second half was more of the same end to end entertainment with City having much more of the ball in their opponents’ half.
Friedel kept his side in the game in the 65th minute with a flying save from Bellamy’s 20-yarder but could do little about the third in the last minute.
Shaun Wright-Phillips, on as a sub, showed his class with a darting, dazzling, weaving run that left defenders in his wake and he then had the presence of mind to pull back the perfect ball for Craig Bellamy to slam home a third and send CoMs delirious.
Roll on Wednesday!