Roberto Mancini unfazed as Man City stumble to stalemate
The Manchester City supporters aired their frustration at the final whistle after Roberto Mancini’s men limped to a second successive stalemate at Eastlands, this time against a resilient Birmingham City side.
Wednesday night’s shut-out against city rivals Manchester United was deemed acceptable considering the calibre of the opponents but the manner in which City failed to trouble Alex McLeish’s visitors coupled with Mancini’s choice of late substitutions only served to infuriate the home fans on Saturday.
With pressure mounting on Ben Foster’s goal the Italian manager decided to remove City’s best performer James Milner and introduce Roque Santa Cruz.
The former Inter Milan coach substituted Jerome Boateng moments later but decided against using the attacking options on the bench and replaced the left-back with Pablo Zabaleta.
Yet the tactical change which sparked the most fury amongst the home fans occurred when Carlos Tevez was brought off for defensive midfielder Gareth Barry before the full time whistle was drowned out by a chorus of jeers.
Mancini, however, insists he is not feeling the heat and defended his tactical decisions. “What pressure? For what? You continue to say that I am under pressure. I am not under pressure,” he said after the match. “We are in fourth position. We have some problems, we must improve. We played 13 games.”
He added: “If you think that I put four strikers on we will score four goals, this is not football.”
Meanwhile, Alex McLeish will be content with a point after a brilliant defensive display from his side. Former United goalkeeper Ben Foster excelled between the posts and when he was beaten by Milner early in the second half, full-back Stephen Carr was on hand to clear off the line.
City maintained a degree of pressure on their opponents but lacked any meaningful penetration and failed to really trouble the Birmingham rearguard. The visitors seemed content to allow City to retain possession on the outskirts of Foster’s area.
Such was the lack of imagination from the likes of Santa Cruz, David Silva and Yaya Toure that chants for Craig Bellamy to be recalled from his loan spell at Cardiff rang around the ground at one point. Indeed the Wales international would have added a different dimension to a narrow City side.
Mancini admitted earlier this week that Champions League football was the realistic aim for the season despite having splashed out £230m in the transfer market over the past two seasons. But on the evidence of Saturday’s performance they may well face a struggle to claim that elusive fourth spot.