- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 22 December 2012 17:03
- Posted by Chris Bailey
City ended 2012 at the Etihad Stadium as they began it – with a win.
Whilst the rewards for those looking for some Christmas pocket money from the odds-makers were decidedly slim – the bookmakers were trading at 1-7 before kick-off – the three points count the same as any others.
And just as importantly the victory, achieved in time honoured fashion via some late drama and no apparent additions to the queue at the Carrington medical room queue, helped the momentum and confidence going into the busy holiday period.
Gareth Barry was the hero heading the winner in injury time just when it seemed certain Reading’s rearguard action would pay dividends.
No one should underestimate the feel good factor associated with winning games particularly ones as close and frustrating as this.
Even in such an experienced squad that isn’t overburdened with self-doubt the victory habit is infectious and a difficult thing to plan against for opponents.
Having seen off Newcastle in front of the Geordie nation a week previously this was the Blues chance to send their own faithful home with a smile on their faces and with a growing appetite for the New Year title fight.
Roberto Mancini whose early season team selection was marbled by constant change, tinkered only where necessary for the visit of the Premier League’s bottom club.
Samir Nasri, whose first half display at St James’ Park was amongst the best he has produced in the blue shirt of City, was side-lined with a groin injury but back came Gareth Barry after his enforced one match rest.
Reading, still smarting from the 5-2 defeat at home to Arsenal on Monday night and replacing QPR as the team holding up the rest, set out to make life difficult but they are not built to keep clean sheets.
The Royals arrived having let in 13 goals in four games and a dreadful ‘shots allowed’ record. Not only that they had lost their last six matches and were the not so proud owners of the worst away record in the division with just two points from nine away day trips – they will feel that could well have been improved here.
The one pre-match crumb of comfort in a groaning feast of statistics pointing to a City win was the fact that in the Premier League meetings between these sides, Reading had won three of the last four.
They predictably opted for damage control and it worked in the opening half as City huffed and puffed but failed to blow the Reading house down. There were shots aplenty, many deflections and umpteen corners but the goals for column remained stubbornly blank.
Indeed keeper Adam Federici was seriously troubled only twice and then was well position to save Tevez’ driven shot and Barry’s header.
He was hardly more troubled after the break when both home team and crowd showed more urgency. Pablo Zabaleta twice played the ball across the face of goal without the necessary touch to convert it and even plan B – the arrival of regular saviour Edin Dzeko did not look like bearing fruit.
But cometh the hour cometh the sometimes underrated man in Barry who showed great determination to head the winner from Silva’s deep cross.