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Gareth Barry headed a last-gasp winner as champions Manchester City denied Reading an unexpected and morale-boosting point with a 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium. City created numerous chances in a mostly one-sided affair completed in heavy rain but the visitors looked set to hold firm and lift themselves off the bottom of the Barclays Premier League. But City fought to the end and Barry got on the end of a cross from David Silva to head home to much relief in injury time.
A seventh successive defeat was harsh on Reading, who after slumping 5-2 to Arsenal on Monday were much more resilient. Manager Brian McDermott always knew the game was a tough assignment but was moments away from claiming a more than creditable draw. McDermott had made four changes with Jem Karacan returning from injury to make his first appearance since October while Chris Gunter, Ian Harte and Alex Pearce also came in.
It took less than two minutes for Adrian Mariappa to collect the game’s first booking as he clattered into Carlos Tevez. Thereafter the visitors spent most of the rest of the first half on the back foot, with Mariappa and Pearce particularly working hard to repel attack after attack.
City could only curse their luck as they carved out several opportunities but failed to take them. The hosts were so dominant that 18-year-old Karim Rekik, making his Premier League debut at left-back in the absence of Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov, was able to get through mostly untested.
The centre-back pairing of Kolo Toure and Matija Nastasic, while senior duo Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott looked on from the bench, also had a largely comfortable afternoon. Tevez played in strike partner Sergio Aguero for City’s first serious opportunity but Adam Federici rushed out to claim. Aguero made another good run to reach the byline but his cross evaded everybody before Javier Garcia planted a firm header straight at Federici. Silva played a neat one-two with Tevez but shot wide and Aguero then teed up Tevez but Federici saved. The ball rebounded to Tevez but his follow-up was deflected over.
A rare attack from Reading led to Karacan shooting wide but City responded with Tevez crossing for Barry to head at Federici. Silva jinked his way through the area to create another opportunity but Reading scrambled clear as Yaya Toure and Tevez jostled to reach his cross. Toure claimed he was impeded but referee Mike Dean saw nothing untoward.
Pablo Zabaleta had an effort deflected over and Nastasic also missed the target as City maintained the pressure. Aguero burst through just before the break but Reading closed down shooting angles and Tevez could not get on the end of his cross.
Tevez threatened after the restart but could only shoot at Federici. He tried his luck again from a free-kick outside the area but his curling effort was pushed away from the top corner by the Reading goalkeeper. Reading could have snatched a shock lead when Pearce got forward to win a clear header from a Harte corner but his effort was well wide.
City manager Roberto Mancini decided it was time for change and sent on Edin Dzeko for Garcia. The Bosnian was quickly into the action and was millimetres away from connecting with a header after good work by Zabaleta. Dzeko did win a clean header at a corner after 66 minutes but his attempt flew narrowly over the bar.
Mancini made another change as Scott Sinclair came on for Tevez but it was Reading who next threatened as Pavel Pogrebnyak broke and crossed for Jay Tabb. The Reading midfielder went down after colliding with Rekik but Dean did not feel there was a foul and nor did he see a possible handball against Nastasic as the ball came in. Reading grew in confidence and Pearce headed another good chance wide after Jimmy Kebe had won a corner with a good break down the right.
As the game moved into four minutes of injury time, City launched a final push. Aguero fired into the side-netting but Barry came good as he jumped above the defence to reach Silva’s ball and head firmly past Federici.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: “It’s more important to score early on in games – my heart is not strong for these late goals. We deserved to win but when you are in the last two or three minutes it can be difficult if you don’t score in the first half when you have lots of chances. You have to be strong because they defended really well with lots of players behind the ball and we didn’t find the space to play. In the end I’m happy with this victory.
“Our attitude was good, we kept our concentration until the end – we tried until the last second, in this game it’s important that we play well like we did in the first-half. I told the guys before the game, maybe Reading conceded a lot of goals in their last game [against Arsenal] but they were excellent against Everton when I saw them.”
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "My players did not deserve that today. They were terrific, they worked their socks off and lost in the 93rd minute to a team that cost millions and millions to put together. I could not have asked any more from them.
"We stayed in the game, had a couple of sniffs first half and if we'd got a break then who knows we might even have won. We changed the shape, we were resolute and stayed in it. We got stick after Arsenal and we take that, but after today there are massive positives; Jem coming back, Danny Guthrie coming on, Jimmy Kebe was awesome from back to front.
"But it's no consolation for the result, of course. We've got results over the past three years; today we just haven't got what we deserved. We are paid to get results and whatever we need to do, we will. Tactically, we were spot on.
"I'm also gutted for the fans, they travelled such a long way and got soaking wet out there, I want to thank them for their support. We deserved a result for them at one of the most difficult grounds to come and play. We have a lot of positives to take.”
|26 Dec 2012||v Sunderland (A)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Norwich (A)|
|01 Jan 2013||v Stoke (H)|
|13 Jan 2013||v Arsenal (A)|
|19 Jan 2013||v Fulham (H)|
|29 Jan 2013||v QPR (A)|