Carlos Tevez hits the sweet spot on return to Man City
Who said the Argentine was ‘finished’ at Man City? Mancini celebrates 2-1 victory over Chelsea
Manchester City 2 Chelsea 1. After six months sulking on the sidelines, Carlos Tevez returned to action for Manchester City last night and helped created the winning goal that saw off Chelsea. The long-term significance of Tevez’s sweet one-two with Samir Nasri that ended with the Frenchman scoring the winner will be seen in May, but in the short term the goal means City are one point behind Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table.
"Carlos did well and I am happy to see him back playing for us," said City boss Roberto Mancini afterwards. "He will get better because he is not 100 per cent fit at the moment."
Such a statement seemed inconceivable last September after it was claimed Tevez refused to come off the bench for City in a Champions League clash against Bayern Munich. The subsequent fall-out led Mancini to claim that the Argentine was "finished" at the club and Tevez for his part fled to South America where he went into hiding.
He returned to City last month, on Valentine’s Day appropriately enough, and there appears no doubt the pair have kissed and made up. "He is an important player for us and he needs another two or three weeks to get good form for the future," said Mancini, who added that he had "spoken with Carlos every day over the last six weeks".
Now Mancini might have to adapt a similar paternal approach to another City striker after Mario Balotelli’s woeful display in the first-half against Chelsea. The 21-year-old was replaced by Gareth Barry at the interval, with Mancini saying later "I didn't like how he played".
Not that the substitution made much difference at the start of the second period as Chelsea looked to continue their recent upturn in form. Victorious in four matches since Roberto Di Matteo replaced the sacked Andres Villas-Boas earlier in the month, the Blues went one up on 60 minutes thanks to Gary Cahill. Barry was dispossessed by David Luiz, who fed Cahill and his shot was deflected past Joe Hart by Yaya Toure.
The goal was the signal for Mancini to introduce Tevez, the Argentine coming on for Nigel De Jong to a lukewarm reception from the City faithful. Twelve minutes later the hosts leveled when Pablo Zabaleta’s fierce drive was blocked by the arm of Michael Essien. Sergio Aguero made no mistake with the penalty kick and suddenly it was Chelsea hanging on for dear life.
Five minutes from time Tevez played in the outstanding Nasri with a short pass that the French midfielder lofted over the advancing Cech and into the far corner of the Chelsea goal.
"It's so great to have Carlos back with us, I'm really happy for him," said Nasri. "He has shown great spirit since he's been back and showed in this match he can be really important for us until the end of the season."
The victory was City's 20th successive league win at home, a Premier League record and a result that leaves United looking anxiously over their shoulder at their noisy neighbours while Arsenal fans revel in Chelsea’s demise.
Mancini admitted "it was squeaky-bum time" as City fought their way to three points, a condition he and Alex Ferguson will no doubt experience again as the title race reaches its climax. ·