Systems, tactics, mutinies, meetings, crisis, pressure… the only word that mattered in the end was WIN!
The build up to the visit of the Swans to the Etihad Stadium was dominated by a predictably tedious post mortem into the Uefa Champions League defeat in Ajax.
It is a peculiar trait here in England that, unlike our USA cousins, sections of the British sporting public likes nothing better than see top teams humbled. Hence the melodrama that followed the loss of a football match in Amsterdam against a vibrant young Dutch side that played as well as it has for some time.
Given the hyperbole and poisoned barbs following the defeat, there were a lot of questions marks placed against the name of the English champions and their manager.
These were answered with three points – the best response possible.
Perhaps a Swansea side that doesn’t always travel well were the near-perfect opponents for a team looking for a quick pick me up to ease the pain of self-inflicted wounds but they made it mightily hard work for the Blues.
Twice Joe Hart was forced to show his undoubted world class saving each time from the dangerously mobile Miguel Michu before the stubborn Swans were breached.
After a first half that pleased neither Mancini nor the home fans. The breakthrough came in the 61st minute in spectacular fashion.
Carlos Tevez, who hasn’t found goals easy to come by in recent weeks, blasted home from the edge of the box with a shot of such power and precision that it left Michel Vorm clutching thin air and then his groin as the shot hit the netting just inside the post.
Vorm was badly hurt and left the game on a stretcher being replaced by Gerhard Tremmel.
Without absent friends Javi Garcia, David Silva, Jack Rodwell, and Pablo Zabaleta all injured and with James Milner added to the list suspended, the Blues just about had too much firepower and willpower for the Welsh side that almost derailed last season’s title tilt when they beat the champs at the Liberty Stadium.
But it wasn’t ever easy on the pitch or the eye; particularly a first half in which for once City failed to create anything in the way of clear cut chances.
Mancini doesn’t like dwelling on systems preferring to refer to 11 men being on the pitch so we won’t go into great detail save to say there were changes from midweek. In came Matija Nastasic, Aleks Kolarov and Carlos Tevez and out went Joleon Lescott, the aforementioned Milner and Edin Dzeko.
There was also a swapping of personnel at the interval too for City with Mario Balotelli coming into the fray to replace Kolarov who had been operating in midfield. The lively Italian made a difference pulling defenders this way and that and looking sharp.
There was a blow for the Blues late on when the seemingly injury jinxed Micah Richards pulled up holding his knee and he, too, wasn’t able to leave the pitch under his own steam.
The game was much better in the second half though with the last twenty minutes – including the dozen added on for the injuries - amongst the most enthralling as both teams attacked and counter-attacked. Even with the last kick of what was the longest match in Premier League history Balotelli was still trying to add to the home tally.
In the end though a goal from all action Tevez was enough to stretch the unbeaten home league record to 34 games and importantly close the gap on leaders Chelsea.