Early Doors: Carlos comes in from the cold

Early Doors


When the strains of a well-remunerated, high pressure job gets too much then some work on your handicap in warmer climes is the ultimate cure.

Carlos Tevez has provided the perfect case study for proof that a bit of R and R is infinitely preferable to prescribing a course of a baffling variety of happy pills.

The Argentina striker was given a six-month sabbatical by his blue-chip employers, and has returned the office playing off scratch and full of renewed vigour.

There were more than few people at the Etihad Stadium last night who voiced their disapproval at Tevez's arrival back from his extended break. The pre-match boos directed at him might have been greater in number were it not hard for people to jeer a man wearing a t-shirt bearing the message 'Get well soon Muamba'.

Still, the majority seemed to be cautiously happy to have Tevez back in the fold. Someone had even come with messages welcoming back the man who scored at a rate of one goal every 1.5 league games in his first two seasons at City.

It's not hard to see why, in spite of his infamous refusal to warm up against Bayern Munich which led to his exile from City, they are happy to see him back. After all, their title challenge had stuttered to the point where Manchester United were four points ahead of them, and it had been a while since they last looked anywhere near as scintillating as they had in the first half of the season.

Manager Roberto Mancini – who repeatedly said that Tevez was finished as a City player following that embarrassing night at the Allianz Arena back in September - had already said it was likely that the striker would make an appearance off the bench last night against Chelsea. Not long after Gary Cahill had put the visitors ahead on the hour mark, on he came.

Sure enough, after Sergio Aguero had levelled matters from the penalty spot, Tevez just how missing the vast majority of a season really keeps you sharp by slipping a canny reverse pass into to Samir Nasri's feet for the Frenchman to score the winner.

Victory sealed City's 20th consecutive home win in the league, the first time that feat has been achieved in the Premier League era and – after Liverpool, Newcastle United and Preston North End – makes them only the fourth club ever to do so in the top flight. So it was kind of a big deal.

"Carlos is not 100% but that is normal," said Mancini after the game. "But he knows the football. That was important because he did an incredible assist for Samir.

"What happened with him finished one month ago when Carlos came back and everything was finished. I have spoken to Carlos every day in the last month.

"If he can find good form in 10 days that would be important for us. Now it is important for him to play some games, for us, him and his future."

The win effectively puts City's title fate back in their own hands. With nine matches left to play they are a point behind United, who still have to come to the Etihad at the end of April.

Such a turn of events does potentially put City in an awkward position. After disciplining him and putting him in the doghouse for six months, they are now back in his debt just 24 minutes into his return.

It is hard to believe that if City had maintained or even extended what was once a five-point lead over United then they would have been quite so eager to cast their differences with Tevez aside. Both his offence and the punishment he received are seemingly without precedent in football, and for so long the thought of him even returning to Manchester, never mind running out for City again, seemed inconceivable.

But had he signed for Corinthians, Boca Juniors, Inter, AC Milan, Juventus, Paris St Germain , QPR, Limavady United, Renford Rejects or any other club he was linked with during one of the longest and most absurd transfer sagas ever then City would not have been able to bring him out of mothballs at this crucial stage in the season.

It may be morally questionable and leave a bad taste for many City fans, but if Tevez can help the club to the title then all will be forgiven. Until next time, at least.

- - -

Whilst the balance of power shifted slightly in Manchester last night, it was completely overhauled in north London.

Arsenal claimed a nervy 1-0 victory at Goodison Park - where Everton had beaten Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham in their last three league games there - while Spurs only salvaged a 1-1 draw courtesy of Rafael van set Vaart's stoppage-time equaliser.

Arsenal are having their worst season under Arsene Wenger, while Spurs are having their best campaign of the Premier League era, and yet the Gunners are now a point above their local rivals in third place with nine games to go.

At one stage this season Harry Redknapp's side sat in the final automatic Champions League spot a 10-point cushion. Now they face having to guard a play-off spot against Chelsea, who they meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Spurs had 18 shots on target against the Potters and enjoyed 71 per cent of the possession, but could not stop Stoke taking a total of four points off them this season.

In all fairness, if you can't beat a team with Salif Diao and Cameron Jerome in midfield, perhaps you have no business being in the Champions League anyway.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you're going to use the term miraculous, I guess it could be used here. I whispered into his ear: 'What's your name?’ He told me, and I replied: 'I understand you're a very good footballer.' He said: 'I try.'" - Dr. Andrew Deaner, the Tottenham-supporting cardiologist who leapt from his seat in the crowd and rushed on to the field to help Fabrice Muamba, reveals the exchange he had with the Bolton midfielder upon visiting him in hospital.

FOREIGN VIEW: Last night Real Madrid's lead at the top of La Liga was cut to six points after they were held to a draw at struggling Villarreal. After Marcos Senna scored a free-kick with seven minutes remaining, Real manager Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands for sarcastically applauding the referee's decision to give the set piece. Moments later, Sergio Ramos and Mesut Ozil were both shown red cards for separate incidents. The bottle job starts here?

COMING UP: You can watch highlights of all of last night's Premier League fixtures online right now, before voting for the best goal from the latest round of games. We will also be picking our Team of the Week for you to vehemently disagree with.

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