Dzeko improves his benchmark as City maintain their unbeaten record
Manchester 2 Tottenham 1:Edin Dzeko has made it clear that, in no circumstances, does a player with his strike rate and background want to be regarded as a supersub but he continues to fill the role with distinction. Once again he came off the bench to score a late, decisive winner.
It was his seventh goal of the season, half a dozen of them coming as a substitute, and it moved Manchester City back to within two points of Manchester United at the top of the table.
Dzeko is making such a habit of this routine there was almost an air of inevitability when David Silva clipped a lovely little up-and-under into his path 88 minutes into a match that had threatened to ambush an unbeaten record at this ground stretching nearly two years.
The Bosnian, a 73rd-minute replacement for Carlos Tevez, shielded the ball, waited for the bounce and then hooked a left-foot shot into the roof of the net. It was the fifth time he has scored in the league as a substitute and, all in, those goals have helped add nine points.
This season City recovered from losing positions in five separate matches.
They had flirted heavily with the idea of losing their home record, a sequence of league results stretching back 35 games, and looked short of ideas and confidence after a lapse from Joe Hart allowed Steven Caulker’s 21st-minute header to squirm through his grasp. It was a soft goal, coming straight from Tom Huddlestone’s free-kick and mirroring the difficulties defending set pieces that have formed a part of their Champions League ordeal.
This was a strangely subdued performance from Andre Villas-Boas’s team, a long way removed from their victory at Old Trafford. Gareth Bale had a rare off-day and the lack of penetration in attack called into question Villas-Boas’s decision to drop Jermain Defoe so Emmanuel Adebayor could start against his former club.
It was unusual to see a Spurs side with so little commitment to attack, They missed a trick really when City, undoubtedly, were below their best for three-quarters of this match.
The home side had toiled with little effect for long spells, with key performers such as Sergio Aguero, Tevez and Yaya Toure subdued. They did, however, have two legitimate penalty appeals in the opening half, for William Gallas’s handball and then Huddlestone’s body-check on Pablo Zabaleta, and on the balance of play they deserved the win even if there is still the sense that not everything is clicking just yet.
Midway through the second half, Silva’s forward pass was intended for Yaya Toure, the ball flicked off Kyle Walker and was diverted into Sergio Aguero’s path. The Argentinian was on it in a flash, sliding a precise left-foot shot past Brad Friedel.
After 56 minutes, with the score 1-0, Roberto Mancini brought on Maicon for Matija Nastasic and reconfigured his team to the 3-5-2 wing-back system. The improvement was almost immediate and Villas-Boas identified this as the game’s critical moment. .
Mancini had also left Mario Balotelli out of his squad, and who can really blame him? The manager had a far more reliable striker to use from the bench and Dzeko, once again, did not let him down.