Premier League - City rejoin United at top with win

Sat, 01 Jan 16:54:00 2011

Manchester City held on for a 1-0 victory over Blackpool at Eastlands to move back level with city rivals United at the summit of the Premier League table.

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City dominated the first half against a resolute Blackpool, with Adam Johnson's low strike from 20 yards deflecting past Richard Kingson to give the home side the lead on 34 minutes.

They should have gone two up three minutes later when Carlos Tevez screwed a penalty kick wide.

Blackpool improved after the break with the introduction of Matt Phillips, while City looked far less incisive minus David Silva, who went off injured.

But Blackpool did not quite have enough firepower to find a way past the impressive Joe Hart and City move on to 41 points, level with United who beat West Brom earlier in the day.

Blackpool had gone four away league matches unbeaten before arriving at Eastlands. In fact the encounter was their sixth away game in seven matches due to the weather.

They looked to play open football when breaking out from a compact defensive position, yet that willingness to pass the football perhaps allowed City more space in and around the penalty area.

However the first chance of the game fell to Blackpool's busy striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher, whose curling effort from the corner of the box was palmed around the post by Hart.

Yaya Toure was strong as an ox in the home midfield, leading his team down the middle - there is something of an aura of a captain about the Ivorian. Silva, Johnson and returning captain Carlos Tevez had the tricks to work their way past the away defenders, but for the opening period they could win only a succession of corners.

On 20 minutes the Spaniard found Tevez on the left and continued his run to receive a return pass and fire just wide.

That inspired the Sky Blues and Tevez smashed a shot down Kingson's neck before Silva chested down a weak defensive header and volleyed just wide.

City grew more and more dominant and were rewarded with the opening goal. Taylor-Fletcher got to the second ball following a corner but his header out lacked distance and Johnson had time to collect and set himself.

His shot through a crowd of bodies was low and hard, but would have been saved by Kingson had it not been for a cruel deflection off Stephen Crainey into the corner.

They continued to attack after winning possession back from the kick-off and it was Toure who broke into the area from the right; the tracking Luke Varney bundled him over and Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Tevez - and he promptly struck a low effort a foot wide of Kingson's right-hand post.

It was almost a carbon copy of Peter Odemwingie's shocker for West Brom against Manchester United earlier in the day - but not quite as far wide.

The Tangerines were not playing poorly, but needed something fresh going forward. Ian Holloway is an astute tactician and brought on Phillips for Ludovic Sylvestre at the break.

Phillips was a handful from the outset, providing a pinpoint cross for a free Varney to head over. He then forced a block save from Hart at his near post after a weaving run.

At the other end Johnson whipped a cross across the face of goal and Tevez wrestled free before curling a shot just over the far top corner with Kingson nowhere near it.

In between those Toure put a stop to a long passing move by the visitors, heading the ball then latching on to it to begin a strong dribble down three-quarters of the pitch - a last-ditch tackle stopped him shooting and even then only the outstretched leg of Kingson prevented a second goal.

An innocuous Charlie Adam foul caused Silva to leave the action with a leg injury on 63 minutes and City - missing the injured Mario Balotelli who scored a hat-trick in their 4-0 win over Aston Villa - did not look the same from there.

Tevez should have put the game to bed when he rounded Kingson from a brilliant Toure through-ball, but with David Vaughan on the line he tried to put the brakes on and pick his spot - only to slip over with the goal gaping.

The Argentine carried City's attacking hopes for the remainder of the game, shooting just over after slaloming across the face of the box, while Blackpool began to build pressure.

However they were lacking that attacking precision, with striker DJ Campbell - scorer of their last three Premier League goals - quiet and Brett Ormerod unable to make an impact after replacing Taylor-Fletcher.

They went very close to an equaliser when right-back Neal Eardley's rasping drive, destined for the top corner, was tipped over by England shot-stopper Hart.

Toure left the action with five minutes remaining, Patrick Vieira trusted to shield the backline, and it worked as City saw out the remaining minutes to keep the pressure on United, who have two games in hand.

Jonathan Symcox / Eurosport

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