With apologies to Dickens. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times in this tale of two cities for the Eastlands club. After the unexpected reverse suffered in Wales last weekend, a win going into the international break was the minimum requirement, and City duly delivered that. The defensive lapses that punctuated the game against Cardiff still appeared to be there however, and a more accomplished team than Hull City may have made them pay for the weakness.
It may have taken City over an hour to finally puncture the obstinate Hull defence, but when it came, the goal was one of simplicity and cool finishing. A cross swung in from the right by Zabaletta left Negredo with the ideal poacher’s chance. A neat header did the rest. From that point it was always going to be a mountain for Hull to get back in the game, but they denied the home team the second, coup de grace, goal until the last knockings. Nasri was upended on the edge of the box, and up stepped Yaya Tourse to net in identical fashion to his goal on the opening day against Newcastle United in the same goal.
After the game, Pellegrini gave all of the platitudes that a winning manager should, but Steve Bruce’s interview was perhaps more enlightening. Here was a manager of a promoted team, little fancied for survival in the Premier League, lamenting the lack of calm finishing required to put away the chances created at Manchester City. He had a point.
Throughout the game, but particularly in the first half, Hull probed and pressed at the heart of the City defence, finding room aplenty between the centre backs of Lescott and Nastasic. Neither of these two are weak players, but as a pair, they lack the calm authority and organisation of injured skipper Vincent Kompany. Early on, an error by Lescott let in Aloko for a clear run on goal, but the forward shanked his shot narrowly wide. Later in the same period, a simple ball in the left was despatched by Graham, but he was in an narrowly offside position; City being saved by the nervous desire of a striker needing, too much, to get back on the goal trail.
In the end City survived then scares and in the end ran out fairly comfortable winners. Pellegrini however will be glad of the international break, and hope the intervening weeks before the next Premier League game is enough to get his talismanic captain fit again. If not, to borrow another Dickens title, ‘Hard Times’ could lie ahead
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