City earn the points for Mancini

Manchester City 2 Stoke 0

Roberto Mancini made a winning start to life as Manchester City manager as the Blues put a turbulent few days behind them by beating Stoke.

Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez supplied the first-half goals that marked Mancini’s coronation.

Yet the Italian would also have been aware it took two brilliant Shay Given saves, the first to deny Tuncay when the sides were still deadlocked, and another to turn away a ferocious James Beattie effort when the visitors were enjoying their best spell, for City to consolidate their place in the top six - and edge to within three points of third.

Even for a club as well versed in shooting themselves in the foot as City, it has been a pretty torrid week.

Exactly seven days previously, Mark Hughes had been presiding over a win over Sunderland; a success it turned out would be his last game, both the sacking and its handling opening the Blues’ owners up to ridicule.

Chief executive Garry Cook has copped most of the flak, although chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak was not without his critics either as the accusations flew.

In fact, the one man who remained aloof from the warfare was Mancini.

Monday’s explosive press conference to unveil him almost seemed amusing to the Italian, who has been exposed to equally fractious situations a number of times back home.

He is also a man whose last three completed league campaigns have ended with him being crowned champion.

Mancini has already been asked to do the same for City as he did at Inter Milan, top spot the expectation next term after a fourth-placed finish this.

In this most bizarre of seasons, higher than fourth is not beyond the realms of possibility, especially if Mancini can mould a team out of the collection of impressive individuals Hughes gathered together.

Robinho for instance has been a big disappointment, while Petrov has hardly been used.

Yet it was that pair who combined to put City in front just before the half hour.

In fairness, Robinho’s contribution was wholly accidental as he scuffed his shot terribly after being set up by Tevez.

The ball ran on to Petrov, who fired past a despairing Thomas Sorensen at the far post.

As the Bulgarian had started on the left of a four-man midfield and had just been switched to the right, it could be claimed as a tactical masterstroke, even if a terrible finish from a similar position moments later suggested the Bulgarian cannot entirely be trusted on that side of the field.

Tevez was the star man for City and it was appropriate he should snaffle the second in first-half stoppage time when Gareth Barry cushioned a header into his path, allowing the Argentine to lift the ball delicately over Sorensen.

Yet, as he reflected on such an advantageous position, Mancini would have been aware City were indebted to a brilliant feet-first save from Shay Given to deny Tuncay when the scores were still level.

Tony Pulis was so unimpressed by his side’s efforts that he made all three substitutions in a 10-minute spell right after the re-start.

Those introduced included James Beattie, who seems certain to leave next month but did at least create a half chance for Matthew Etherington with his extra aerial ability.

Beattie’s altercation with Pulis looks like being costly for Stoke because he brings a greater focus to their attack.

It was evident when he controlled Abdoulaye Faye’s wayward header at the far post before letting fly with a ferocious volley that Given kept out with a brilliant one-handed save.

Goalkeeper is clearly one area Mancini will not have to analyse over the coming days as he ponders who he needs to keep, who can be discarded and what replacements are needed.

The issue of Robinho is not quite so straightforward.

His axing for Hughes’ final supper was a clear indication of what the last City boss felt about a player the club spent £32.5m to buy.

And he did little of note for Mancini, who could not have failed to notice the enthusiasm with which home supporters greeted his exit and the arrival of Craig Bellamy.

The Welshman should have had a penalty too when he was barged over by Robert Huth but inexplicably, referee Lee Mason did not give it.

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