No Christmas Cheer For Potters
STOKE CITY could not prevent Roberto Mancini from making a winning start as Manchester City's new manager . . . slipping to a 2-0 defeat in the Premier League at Eastlands on Boxing Day.
Though the Potters wasted an excellent chance to go in front when Tuncay forced a brilliant save out of Shay Given, they were beaten by first half goals from Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez as a difficult period of four away games in five matches came to a disappointing end.
There was little Christmas cheer for manager Tony Pulis as injuries and suspensions added to his problems ahead of the Birmingham City match on Monday afternoon.
Tevez was City's chief tormentor, setting up the opening goal in the 28th minute and then flicking home the second in injury time at the end of the first half.
The fact that Pulis fielded an unchanged line-up meant that the major talking points before the match surrounded Mancini's selections, most notably the decision to leave Craig Bellamy on the bench despite the absence of three frontline strikers.
After Mancini had been introduced to the crowd, there was little to alarm the Potters in the opening stages and the home side were reduced to some rather hopeful penalty appeals in that period.
Indeed, it was City who should have taken the lead in the 20th minute when Tuncay burst through on goal after a Matthew Etherington ball forward found its way through to the Turkish star.
The Turkish international had only Shay Given to beat, but although he had time to compose himself, his eventual shot was brilliantly saved one-handed by the Republic of Ireland 'keeper.
Ironically, it was the appearance of Bellamy from the bench for a warm-up which stirred the home crowd and within minutes a tactical switch had paid off as Petrov moved over to the right.
The Potters defence was stretched when Abdoulaye Faye was caught out of position and Tevez's burst forward down the left led to the home side taking the lead in the 28th minute.
The little Argentinian's cross initially fell to Robinho, but his attempted shot deflected the ball onto Petrov at the far post and his first time shot with his weaker right foot beat Sorensen.
Another chance fell to Petrov in the same position minutes later, but this time he blazed his effort well wide of the target, much to the relief of a City defence that had not picked him up.
There was a further threat down the right hand side when the lively Tevez went on another penetrating run and his cross was met on the volley by Robinho but it flew wide.
However, Mancini's men went further in front in injury time at the end of the first half when Gareth Barry headed on a deep left wing cross from Pablo Zabaleta and Tevez acrobatically flicked it home, Sorensen being beaten despite the fact that he got his right hand to it.
The Potters were fortunate not to fall further behind immediately after the break as it took a great tackle from Andy Wilkinson and then a double save from Sorensen to deny them.
Wilkinson halted Robinho in his tracks when he was bearing down on goal and then Sorensen reacted smartly to keep out Petrov's shot and then Stephen Ireland's follow-up.
Pulis was then forced to make a change with Wilkinson being injured in the tackle and he made way for Robert Huth, while two further substitutions followed as strike pair Mamady Sidibe and Tuncay were replaced by James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller respectively.
Beattie went close to pulling a goal back shortly after his introduction as a cross from the right found its way through to him at the far post and his volley was saved by Given at his near post.
And from the resulting corner, Huth climbed well to head Etherington's centre just wide of the target, all of which gave the Potters some cause for optimism.
Despite having plenty of possession in the closing stages and causing one or two anxious moments for the home side's defence, they had only one further chance right at the end when defender Danny Higginbotham fired wide of the target from close range.