Stoppage time goal lifts City over Reading
By Agence France-Presse
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 22, 2012 (AFP) - Gareth Barry scored a controversial late winner as Manchester City kept in touch with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League after a 1-0 victory over struggling Reading on Saturday.
Barry rose to head in David Silva's cross in the third minute of stoppage-time, leaving Reading to protest furiously that the England midfielder had climbed over his marker Nicky Shorey before scoring.
Not for the first time this season Roberto Mancini's men laboured to turn their possession into chances, but the win at least moved them within three points of leaders United, who travel to Swansea on Sunday.
Returning to Eastlands for the first time since seeing a two-year unbeaten home league record come to an end in the Manchester derby, City should have decided the game during the first half.
Sergio Aguero might have won a penalty after 10 minutes when he breezed to the by-line, being tripped by Adrian Mariappa in the process, but elected to stay on his feet and won only a corner from his far-post cross.
Silva then collected a pass from Carlos Tevez and saw his shot deflected behind.
Barry's cross was laid off superbly by Aguero for Tevez whose near-post strike was well saved by keeper Adam Federici, when the City forward should have arguably been more clinical.
City really should have ended the home fans' frustration after 34 minutes when neat passing play between Tevez and Silva ended with the former picking out Barry with a cross which the England midfielder headed too close to Federici.
Pablo Zabaleta went close after 41 minutes when his shot hit Jem Karacan and looped over the keeper, landing on the roof of the net.
The second half opened with Zabaleta required to head clear a dangerous cross from Karacan and, after 53 minutes, Ian Harte's corner was met by Alex Pearce's powerful leap and a header which just cleared the City bar.
But, once more, the traffic flowed in one direction only. Tevez was found in the area by Zabaleta's pass, shooting disappointingly into the side-netting soon after, and Tevez's 18-yard free-kick might have curled in at the far post had Federici not made an emphatic punched clearance.
Mancini brought on Edin Dzeko, the scorer of so many vital goals off the bench for the City this season, in place of defensive midfielder Javi Garcia just before the hour mark, leaving City with four front-line strikers in their ranks.
Dzeko might have made an immediate impact, after 62 minutes, when Zabaleta worked his way to the by-line but the full-back's cross was frustratingly behind the substitute who had an open net at his mercy.
The Bosnian forward again showed his aerial threat after 65 minutes, meeting Silva's corner with a trademark, powerful header which again threatened, but ultimately missed, the Reading goal.
City could count themselves lucky, however, after 75 minutes when Reading might have claimed the most implausible opening goal.
Pavel Pogrebnyak pounced on an error by Kolo Toure and surged down the left before crossing into the City area, where Matija Nastasic appeared to handle as he attempted to intercept.
The visitors appealed for a penalty before Jimmy Kebe picked out Pogrebnyak whose deflected shot was easily saved.
As City pushed forward relentlessly, Kebe launched a late counter-attack and should have done better in his attempts to find Pogrebnyak in a two-on-one situation, a miss that proved especially costly given the late drama.