Had Manchester City's match with Swansea City been called after 45 minutes plus stoppage time, all of the players' grades would have mirrored D-Day's grades in Animal House. As Dean Wormer somberly intoned: "Daniel Simpson Day. Has no grade point average. All courses incomplete."
Yes, the first half of MCFC/SCFC was that bad.
Things picked up nicely in the second half, as Roberto Mancini must have given the Sky Blues whatever his version of Sir Alex Ferguson's "hairdryer" treatment is during his halftime address at the Etihad. City came out of the dressing room after the break with more pace, more resolve and some semblance of continuity (all of which was missing in the first half).
Even so, only complete, nearly-perfect games from Carlos Tevez and Joe Hart kept City from drawing, or even losing, to an inferior opponent on this day.
Match grades on a scale of 1 (should have feigned an injury and sat it out) to 5 (Man of the Match candidate).
Joe Hart: City is paying Hart plenty of money, but some days—like today—it must not feel like it is nearly enough. Despite playing a flat back four for the first half and then some hybrid formations once Mario Balotelli came on for Aleksandar Kolarov, Hart was still hung out to dry to deal with Michu one-on-one more than once. That Michu was trapped offside on one of those opportunities does not mean he was not running unmarked. Whatever the Premier League version of Peyton Manning's infamous rebuke of Donald Brown is, Hart must have been saying it for half the day. 5.
Micah Richards: There is plenty of sadness and angst to go around with reference to Richards' knee injury. For today, the worst part is that it came near the end of a match where Richards was one of City's best players. He made aggressive runs and he was in the right place defensively when he needed to be. Even the yellow card he picked up was a necessary play, and he navigated another 45 minutes of playing time on the yellow before coming up lame without being touched. 5.
Vincent Kompany: Another very solid defensive performance by the captain. He cleared a shot off the line. He was rarely out of position and made the necessary plays. He was not the problem today. 4.
Gaël Clichy: Up and down, down and up. It would be unfair to characterize Clichy's performance in this game as poor or even substandard. But there is not much credit to give either. Some good runs, some overhit passes. Eh. 3.
Matija Nastasic: The only things saving Nastasic from a 1 here is that neither of the under-hit back passes he played were converted into goals and that, due to Richards' injury, he had to play the entire match. But if City is going to be leaning on Nastasic in the wake of Micah going down, look out Joe Hart. 2.
Samir Nasri: He was not bad, but if the sum total of Nasri's play made most onlookers think anything in particular, it was probably "how much longer is David Silva going to be out?" 3.
Aleksandar Kolarov: Whereas Nastasic was indecisive, Kolarov was just ineffective. This might have been caused by his having to play out of position for part of the first half as he and Clichy interchanged going forward and staying home. But Kolarov's number was the one called when Balotelli was brought on. 2.
Gareth Barry: See the Kolarov summary. Barry played the whole match but it would be hard to say he had any real impact. 2.
Yaya Touré: Is he hurt? Is he already exhausted? Only Yaya knows, but his play is not that of a top-drawer two-way midfielder these days. He is more a mid-tier midfielder right now, in that he is not particularly convincing in the forward half and is having problems getting back into the play in front of Hart when he is needed there. Today was not much better. 2.
Sergio Agüero: All of the runs and industry of his striking partner Tevez, but none of the ultimate result. Still, it is hard to be a great striker without sufficient service. He spent the whole day trying to create his own shot. That works in basketball but not in this game. 3.
Carlos Tevez: So great in this match, he deserves an entire article to himself. He was the only City player not to look terrible in the moribund first half, and his energy level and skilled play throughout the contest was the only thing that made City look like they might find a way to win. He gets five points for his sterling all-around play, one point for the laser strike that won the match and one more point for scoring on a shot so good that it injured the opposing keeper. Yes, right, the grading scale was 1-5. That's why his grade stops at 7.
Mario Balotelli: Well, he ran hard, and his appearance on the pitch to start the second half seemed to wake up his teammates. Though it could as easily be argued that anyone coming on for Kolarov today would look terrific. The short distance breakaway that Balotelli did not convert nearly cost City. 3.
Kolo Touré: Normally, coming on in the 85th minute for an injured Micah Richards would not be asking much. But when the game features twelve(!) minutes of stoppage time, and your side is clinging to a narrow 1-0 lead, that's a real task. Kolo was up to it, and played quite well when he was needed. 4.
Joleon Lescott: Played very briefly at the end of the match, coming on for Agüero during the endless stoppage time. 3.
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