Fitting epitaph to anaemic City campaign

Man City 2 Norwich 3

Having chosen the anniversary on Monday of that 3-2 win over QPR, and their first league title in 44 years, to dismiss Roberto Mancini, the man who delivered it to them, this was perhaps an entirely predictable affair.

The players who, if reports are to be believed, could not wait to rid themselves of Mancini, failed to perform to anywhere near the levels that brought them the 2012 title and Jonny Howson’s 65th minute winning goal served as a fitting epitaph to this anaemic campaign.

The Norwich midfielder collected the ball in his own half before slaloming his way half the length of the field, leaving Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards, among others, in an embarrassed heap on the floor, before confidently beating Joe Hart with a well-struck shot from just inside the City area.

It was no more than Norwich deserved for their efforts in twice taking the lead and, had it not been for the performance of and two equalisers from Jack Rodwell, the margin of victory would have been even more convincing.

Amazingly, for all Mancini’s well-publicised shortcomings, this was only City’s second home league defeat in the last 48, the other having come against champions Manchester United this term.

But there is clearly no room for sentiment, or second chances, in this bright new era for City, as Mancini found to his cost this week.

“It’s been an emotional week with the events at the club,” said City caretaker Brian Kidd who will lead the club on a meaningless end of season tour to the United States today.

“I understand the cheers for Roberto, he would have been disappointed if there wasn’t for what he did here.

“I don’t know about changes, but the main change will be the appointment of a new manager, whoever that’s going to be.

“I’ve been blessed and been grateful for what football has given me. I was asked to take charge for two games and a tour of America, which has been tough with the boss going.

“The club make the decisions and you abide by it. I’m a big boy. We have fallen short of the standards we set last season, but it hasn’t been for a lack of effort.”

This game served as an opportunity for his loyal supporters to serenade him for one last time with their familiar refrain of “Mancini, wo-oh” although one sharp City supporter also unfurled a Chilean flag, a nod to Mancini’s successor-in-waiting, the soon to be former Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini.

City’s hopes of a victorious, if belated, winning send off for Mancini did not last long as Norwich, free of their own late season anxieties over relegation, played with far more zest, energy and imagination.

Moments after Lescott cleared a Ryan Bennett header off the line, Wes Hoolahan showed great persistence on the edge of the City area to hold off three half-hearted challenges and pass to the unmarked Anthony Pilkington, who converted from 16 yards.

It took just three minutes for City to finally show some interest in proceedings as Samir Nasri’s ball into the area was laid off neatly by Edin Dzeko and Rodwell, whose debut season at the Etihad has been ravaged by injuries, scored his first goal for the club from inside the area.

Norwich opened the second half as impressively as they had the first, with only a superb Hart save from Bradley Johnson’s close-range header, keeping the scores level although the England goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Norwich’s second.

Howson’s magnificent crossfield pass freed Robert Snodgrass and his cross from the byline was met at the far post by Grant Holt who converted clinically.

Again City — or, more accurately, Rodwell — responded in the 59th minute after Yaya Toure turned a Norwich attack into a City counter and found his team-mate in the inside left channel. The former Evertonian showed Steven Whittaker a clean pair of heels before finishing superbly past John Ruddy.

Howson’s winner followed after 65 minutes although, with a nod to his heroic winning goal 12 months ago, there was almost the opportunity for substitute Sergio Aguero to rescue a point for City as he exchanged passes with David Silva and saw his near-post shot deflected behind.

Norwich’s own substitute Alexander Tettey might have had the final word, however, when played clean through in injury-time only for his blistering shot to fly wide.

“I’m absolutely delighted with that,” said manager Chris Hughton of the victory and Norwich’s 11th-placed finish. “It shows, irrespective of the anxiety and nervousness of relegation, it’s about where you finish in the end.”

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