Dzeko earns City win
Edin Dzeko lived up to his super-sub billing by firing Manchester City to a 2-1 victory against Tottenham.
Dzeko struck three minutes from time to complete a defiant second-half comeback from the unbeaten Blues, who closed the gap on Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United to two points.
It was the Bosnian's seventh goal of the season, six of which have come from the bench, after Sergio Aguero had cancelled out Steven Caulker's first-half header. It also extended City's unbeaten home Premier League record to an incredible 35, and their present unbeaten league run to 16, adding weight to manager Roberto Mancini's pre-match dismissal of any sense of crisis at the Etihad Stadium.
Arriving at the ground, it was hard to escape the feeling of agitation at City, no matter what soothing words are spoken.
In his programme notes, Mancini accentuated the positives. That long, unbeaten home run, a 10-game total of 22 points exceeded only once by the Blues during the Premier League era - last season - and the opportunity to equal the club's unbeaten record in this particular competition.
"None of this evidence points to us being as badly out of form as some people would have the world believe," the Italian said.
There is another view though - that City are now conceding goals that would have been unimaginable 12 months ago.
Two against Ajax in this stadium on Tuesday leave City knowing even a defeat of the mighty Real Madrid will probably not save their Champions League skins and midway through the first half today came another calamity.
A straightforward free-kick delivered from the touchline by Tom Huddlestone found Caulker, who had been given too much room to make his run. The header should still have been stopped. This time, goalkeeper Joe Hart, so often City's saviour, only managed to shovel it in.
Mancini, seeming to make a conscious effort to curb his trigger-happy temperament, could only watch on in disbelief.
This might not have been so bad if City had been awarded at least one of the two penalties they were adamant should have come their way before the break.
William Gallas was the first offender. And whilst he did block Aguero's flick at close quarters, his arm was extended in a manner that, in the modern game, tends to result in an infringement.
On the second occasion, Pablo Zabaleta was bulldozed over by Huddlestone. That referee Michael Oliver declined both merely intensified City ire against the official, with Zabaleta and the returning David Silva among the more demonstrative home players.
Back after five matches out with a hamstring strain, Silva had started brightly without finding a killer pass.
For the visitors, Emmanuel Adebayor, starting his first game of the season against his old club, was an irritation more than anything, luring Zabaleta into a tackle he dived over to get his one-time colleague a booking.
The introduction of Maicon for his belated home debut offered an extra twist given it put him up against Gareth Bale, who famously terrorised the Brazilian during his Inter Milan days.
It also triggered a return to the much-derided three-man defence.
Yet Mancini's rejig worked.
On a day when little seemed to be going right for the hosts, they profited from a couple of fortunate bounces, allowing Yaya Toure to get on the end of Silva's pass, then Aguero to collect possession inside the Spurs box.
Caulker got a quick lesson in how swiftly the Argentinian can turn as he found himself heading in completely the wrong direction as Aguero dispatched his precise shot into the bottom corner.
From that moment on, there only seemed likely to be one winner.
With Aguero scheming, Andre Villas-Boas was forced into his own reshuffle.
Silva was denied by Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel's flying feet-first save before the veteran American denied Aguero.
Tottenham were creaking though. And when Silva found Dzeko in the box three minutes from time, the Bosnian kept his nerve to complete another memorable comeback.