Manchester City escape like champions as winning will saves Mancini again

The Premier League title holders needed a late winner from Edin Dzeko to keep up the chase on their rivals after a disjointed performance highlighted the Italian's flawed system
By Jonathan Birchall at Etihad Stadium

Manchester City and Roberto Mancini have yet to find their tiki-taka but sometimes, as they keep on making clear, sheer will is enough.

The champions, having been all but dumped out of the Champions League in midweek, went in at half-time a goal down to Tottenham with their unbeaten home league record, all 692 days of it, hanging in the balance.

45 minutes later, Edin Dzeko had secured three points and Mancini was embracing David Platt, with sheer, utter relief etched on his face. You wonder if he ever really doubted it.

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It is, after all, a familiar great escape at the Etihad Stadium, with late wins now commonplace amongst the Italian and his squad. If anything, snatching three points at the death has come to define the early years of east Manchester's blue revolution.

Maybe it's something in the water. As Manchester United had shown themselves against Aston Villa with a 3-2 win on Saturday, playing badly and maintaining a credible title challenge aren't mutually exclusive. City, like their neighbours, did both against Spurs.

For the onlooking Txiki Begiristain, the former Barcelona supremo and new City Director of Footballer, the quality of his new side's football will have been a troubling eye-opener against Andre Villas-Boas' side. Gareth Barry's passing display was a showing of unintentional, ugly largesse, as he bestowed possession to the Spurs midfield time and again, while Aleksandar Kolarov cut a forlorn, even confused figure within Mancini's system.

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If there even is one. Yet again, City looked disorganised and were yet again forced to rely on David Silva's brilliance and the cool-headed opportunism of Dzeko and Sergio Aguero, with whom the Tottenham defence simply couldn't cope. But even on an off day for City, the Spurs collapse seemed inevitable.

The champions knocked on the door and Tottenham, like West Brom in October and QPR on that glorious day last May, cowered. 'Blue Moon' from the fans got that little bit louder and Villas-Boas's side retreated. Fear instilled, City scented blood.

And then the unavoidable came, with a touch of genius from Silva and an emphatic finish from Dzeko, City's new super-sub in chief. It was taken from the champions' playbook.

Begiristain will no doubt be looking to make it all a lot more painless, with the Etihad Campus that will soon stand parallel to the stadium with which it shares a name the mapped-out future of the club. Tasked with creating an identity to match Barcelona, the Catalunyan wants to build a legacy and create an identity with the club's youngest recruits - The City Way.

But for now, what Mancini has found is even more valuable. With no blueprint and no seeming logic, City are simply winning. You can't teach that.

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