Belfast Telegraph

Roberto Mancini irritable after Manchester City defence exposed yet again

By Tim Rich at the Ethihad Stadium

Manchester City 2 Aston Villa 4: The stuff streaming down Roberto Mancini's face was rain rather than sweat but when analysing how his side came to be knocked out of the League Cup at the first hurdle, the Manchester City manager will feel very uncomfortable.

Once more, his defence was found wanting, once more a lead was lost – this time to an Aston Villa side that performed way above expectations.

This was a match for which the phrase: "later however" was invented. It was a game meandering its way to a predictable home win when Manchester City's defensive frailties turned the match on its head.

When, a few minutes into extra time, Charles N'Zogbia turned home Gabriel Agbonlahor's half-saved shot, Mancini marched towards his players, his mood unforgiving. When Agbonlahor curled in the fourth, the ground emptied.

It is hard to know with whom Mancini was angrier; a defence that has now conceded 16 times in its opening eight matches or Paul Lambert, who seemed to object when the City manager asked the fourth official why Phil Dowd had not booked Joe Bennett for a tackle on Gareth Barry.

He is not the first Scottish manager with whom Mancini has clashed on the touchline – there have been arguments with Kenny Dalglish and David Moyes. "I am tired of these managers," Mancini said. "I did not say anything to him, I only asked if it was a yellow card and he comes over [to argue] every time. I am tired of this, I am very tired.

"Some managers had better shut up because I was only asking the fourth official because I thought the referee had left his yellow card in the dressing room. I don't like this behaviour. When they go to Old Trafford, they say nothing."

City's starting line-up cost £153m and those who defied the rain that has pounded the city for two days saw a strike partnership of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.

Balotelli scored with his first real chance. James Milner, like Barry facing a club that has declined considerably since he left it, controlled a long ball from Tevez. Cutting in from the right, he played it to Balotelli, who was standing unmarked between two defenders, whose lack of attention allowed him to control a ball that sprayed water whenever it hit the turf. He then emphatically beat Shay Given for his first goal since the night he had dazzled a continent by eliminating Germany in the semi-finals of the European Championship.

As the rain beat down and the match wore on, whatever sparkle Villa brought with them began to fade until all that was bright about them was their lime-green shirts. Barry, however, was to make them glow a little longer.

The tie appeared to be drawing peacefully to its close when suddenly it exploded in everyone's face. There was no real threat when Andreas Weimann delivered another cross but Costel Pantilimon, who had a nervous, unimpressive night, failed to deal with it. The ball struck Barry on the knee before looping into the net. To the mortification of the player and the delight of the fans he had abandoned.

Within minutes, the fires appeared to have been stamped out as Aleksandar Kolarov, whose free-kicks are more accurate that Roberto Carlos's and struck more powerfully even than Stuart Pearce's, sent one screeching past Given.

These days, however, Manchester City have lost the art of closing out games and their defensive statistics would embarrass any Italian, let alone Mancini. Agbonlahor ran at the centre of their defence and kept on running until he had scored. Extra-time and embarrassment beckoned.

Man of the match Agbonlahor.

Match rating 7/10.

Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Attendance 28,015.

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