|"Officer Hart did WHAAAT?"|
For Mr Wilfried Bony, it must have felt like he had played the whole game with a grand piano parked on his big toe.
A dull match illuminated by ten extravagantly ridiculous minutes right at the end.
And so things were at the Etihad. What should have been a gentle picnic ended up giving everybody indigestion. Norwich's garishly-coloured blanket kept them comfortable and warm, while City tugged at its edges with varying degrees of failure, until the whole thing finally blew off in a fully fledged hurricane right at the end.
With Yaya chugging in midfield and a front two unable to deal with Norwich’s extra numbers at the back (five at all times, ably abetted by four more that were midfielders by name only), it was down to what creativity City had at their disposal to break the green and yellow barrier down. Unfortunate then that this comprised a slightly below-par Kevin de Bruyne and a speedy and eager Jesus Navas. The former contributed the corner from which Nicolas Otamendi, the game’s outstanding player, thumped an imperious header, the latter a series of runs down the outside, delivering crosses that a big, fast, intelligent centre forward would have dined out on.
Unfortunately for City, not only did they not have one of those on the pitch, they don’t possess one in the squad. Thoughts wandered idly to Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo, feeding on a stream of such lofted balls in Rome and Valencia respectively. Instead we were treated to the Wilfried Bony Show, an epic catalogue of trying too hard, leathering decent chances like he was trying to hit a far off planet and running head-down-headlong like a man trying to escape from a padlocked barn.
By the end, with a looking-at-the-floor run that ignored two colleagues well placed in open space, it and he had become a parody of himself. When an argument broke out right at the end as to who would take City’s second penalty in Yaya Toure’s absence, you closed your eyes and hoped the ball didn’t end up in his fellow Ivorian's hands, because – on a day like this, in a season like this, in fact – he would have taken some poor punter’s head clean off somewhere towards the back of the second tier of the North Stand.
Instead it was left to Aleksandar Kolarov to offer the final slapstick image of a last ten minutes that had copied the script of The Keystone Cops in Love, Loot and Crash starring the Bangville Police and a heavily sweating Fatty Arbuckle, when the Serbian swiped City's second penalty of the match casually wide. It was the hilarious culmination to a late period in the game, where everything had melted like the middle of Delia's chocolate drizzle cake.
With City sauntering to an ill-gained one-nil win, Joe Hart took it upon himself to drop Brady’s speculative left foot cross onto the knee of a deeply surprised Cameron Jerome. The big striker didn’t know whether to laugh or do the hopscotch, but the chance to score could not have been easier if Hart had produced a silver tray and rolled the ball onto a well folded napkin.
City were duly asked to show some mettle and – bless their socks – they did just that, with Sterling, who had
rejuvenated the attack when replacing Iheanacho, playing his part in a
desperate late onslaught. Still it took another goalkeeping howler to put City
back in front, Ruddy fumbling a cross out to the edge of the box, where Sterling's goal-bound shot was shouldered away by Martin. A red card and penalty brought us the climactic end to the hair-brained chase.
|The penalty went that way. After it.|
Touré, an increasingly peripheral figure as the game had gone on, hit a lovely penalty low into the corner and all seemed well again. Still there was time for a ridiculously elastic stop from Hart as a deflected shot almost zipped past him and for Sterling’s late trickery in the box to end with a second penalty when he was dumped on his stomach by O'Neill.
By then we had all been thoroughly scorched by the contents of the game’s last 10 minutes . City’s Cake of Many Layers had done for us once again. Cue credits and fast music.