Football: Mancini under fire as City held by Birmingham

01:20 | 14/11/2010
Manchester City reached four hours and 45 minutes without a home league goal in a dour 0-0 draw against Birmingham on Saturday which is certain to fuel further speculation about the future of manager Roberto Mancini.

City supporters are certainly growing increasingly disenchanted with Mancini and booed furiously at his decision to replace the popular Carlos Tevez late in the game, an indication of a growing groundswell in the wake of recent results.

The Italian had been widely criticised for what was perceived as a safety-first approach to the goalless, midweek Manchester derby and opted for a rare start for his exciting England winger Adam Johnson against a Birmingham team yet to win away from St Andrew's this season.

Yet, as City stuttered to the interval and a 0-0 half-time scoreline, they had reached four hours of league football at Eastlands without a goal, a depressing sequence dating back to Johnson's winning goal against Newcastle at the start of last month.

City supporters vented their frustration at the half-time whistle, pockets of them booing off their team and manager, although some of that ire was probably also aimed at referee Mike Jones.

Tevez had actually turned the ball into the Birmingham goal after 39 minutes but clearly used his hand in steering David Silva's intelligent header past Ben Foster. To add insult to injury, the Argentinian was cautioned for the deliberate handball.

The early exchanges saw the game bogged down in midfield and it was not until the 17th minute that Tevez came up with the game's first shot, a low skidding effort, which he drilled wide left of the Birmingham net.

Eight minutes later James Milner intelligently found Aleksandar Kolarov and the full-back tested Ben Foster with a low shot which skidded over the wet surface but presented the former Manchester United keeper with few problems as he smothered comfortably.

Birmingham responded with a shot of their own, an ambitious and wayward Keith Fahey shot that passed harmlessly wide, before manager Alex McLeish finally had something to shout about, leaping from his bench to join his players' appeals for a penalty after Liam Ridgewell went down under an apparent trip from Adam Johnson, although replays suggested referee Jones had made the correct call.

City took just 14 seconds of the second half to come closest yet to ending their futile scoring streak, Milner winning a tussle in the area with Foster and shooting goalwards only for defender Stephen Carr to appear and make a magnificently-timed goal-line clearance.

Johnson was becoming more influential and showed great footwork as he surged into the area just after the hour but his promising strike hit team mate Milner and deflected wide.

As they came under increasing pressure, Birmingham's Barry Ferguson misjudged a back pass which fell straight to Tevez and allowed him to sprint into their area before shooting inches wide of the diving Foster.

The pressure was lifted, momentarily, by a Fahey snap-shot which Joe Hart was required to save with a swift dive low to his right.

Sebastian Larsson, with a low shot, and Scott Dann, from a set-piece header, also saw glimpses of the City goal without truly testing Hart while the home side's final flurry came from Nigel de Jong's 84th minute chip which Foster leaped to catch and an even later Gareth Barry shot which the goalkeeper kept out at full stretch.

AFP

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