City booed off after Brum draw

Just as against Manchester United on Wednesday, the entertainment

value was sadly lacking, except this time City were playing against

a side who could be in the bottom three by Sunday evening. James

Milner came closest to breaking the deadlock, 15 seconds after the

interval, when his shot was cleared off the line by Stephen Carr.

It was not impressive stuff though for a side who, whilst remaining

in a Champions League position, have now won just one match from

their last five Premier League outings and have not scored a league

goal on home soil since the beginning of October. That Mancini

compounded this by taking crowd favourite Carlos Tevez off before

the end, and replacing him with Gareth Barry, just heightened a

sense of unhappiness at the sight of an obdurate Birmingham outfit

heading back down the M6 with a precious point. As Birmingham

turned out in a red away kit that could have passed for Manchester

United, it was easy to believe this was simply a continuation of

Wednesday night’s awful fare. There were obvious differences. For a

start, Birmingham were intent on defending their penalty area, a

tactic that became apparent within the first five minutes.

Aleksandar Kolarov was introduced for only his second start of the

season, a notable figure if only because he came across from his

left-back station to take City’s right-wing corners. And Adam

Johnson was picked, offering the England star to match his words of

discontent about forcing himself into Mancini’s plans so

infrequently, with meaningful action. Unfortunately, the end

product was depressingly similar to a midweek derby generally

acknowledged to be one of the worst of recent times. If anything,

due to a chronic lack of atmosphere mainly, this was even worse.

Ben Foster did not have a first half save to make, or at least the

one he did need to make but failed, turned out to be of no

consequence anyway as Carlos Tevez was ruled to have handled David

Silva’s cross to get it past the England man. Referee Mike Jones

got that call right, just as he was probably correct to rule it was

not a penalty when Liam Ridgewell went down under Johnson’s

challenge. It was more a case of accidentally tripping over

someone’s feet by the Birmingham full-back, who did not complain,

even if manager Alex McLeish did. Kolarov, Tevez and Johnson drove

ambitious efforts wide, drawing groans from home supporters who

clearly expect much better. They came very close to getting it

within 15 seconds of the restart. Having organised his defence so

well, McLeish must have been startled at how easily they were

undone in route one fashion when James Milner breached their

defences. Foster repelled the midfielder’s first effort but Milner

seemed sure to tuck the rebound home, only for Carr to pop up and

make a fine goalline clearance. It emphasised the greater purpose

City had found during the interval, even if Tevez, Milner and, most

glaringly, Yaya Toure wasted decent chances. Toure is yet to win

over the Blues support since his summer arrival from Barcelona on a

reputed salary in excess of £200,000 a week. For that money,

more is anticipated that a rushed finish to a move in which both

Milner and David Silva created space for the imposing Ivorian to

shoot. Toure has been part of a spending spree over the past two

transfer windows that has turned Roque Santa Cruz into City’s

forgotten man. The Paraguayan, signed by Mark Hughes from Blackburn

in an £18million deal 17 months ago, admitted earlier this

week that he would be seeking pastures new in January. However,

with Emmanuel Adebayor missing due to a bruised heel and his side

starting to run out of ideas, Mancini opted to introduce Santa Cruz

into a Premier League encounter for the first time this season. The

Paraguayan almost had an instant impact too, slipping an

intelligent pass through for Tevez, who dragged his shot wide. As

thoughts of an upturn in fortunes increasingly looked like being an

illusion, frustration in the stands turned to fury when Tevez was

replaced by Gareth Barry seven minutes from time. Tevez raised a

rueful eyebrow as he took his place in the dug-out, leaving Mancini

to face the ire of his own supporters.