BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City at Ewood Park on April 25, 2011 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
It wasn't pretty, but at this stage of the season when the stakes are getting higher by the game it is points rather than aesthetics that count.
City started fast, with Blackburn content to allow plenty of time and space. Often when City come out quickly they get an early reward but failed to do so on this occasion (although you wonder if David Silva's shot had been a shade the other side of the post) and Blackburn got into game.
The front pairing of Benjani and Jason Roberts were lively and offered plenty of movement and although Joe Hart wasn't troubled too much, Blackburn caused enough problems to see City pinned back to some degree and unable to either maintain possession and create opportunities. Unlike at Wembley, Yaya Toure had little impact and this isolated Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson.
With the game goalless at the break, the odds were that this would be how the game would finish. Over the course of the season, City had won only 4 of 18 when not winning at half-time whilst Blackburn fared even worse: going on to win just 2 of 24 when drawing or losing at the break. The positives for City though were that Blackburn's defence tended to be prone to collapse in the second-half, shipping 38 goals (compared to 17 in the first-half).
The difficulty was that Silva couldn't quite effect the game and Johnson continued to struggle, one or two burst excepted (perhaps fitness may be an issue?) and with the clock ticking down the draw looked most likely when Dzeko was introduced. The Bosnian has barely been on the pitch when Silva's shot deflected to him and he struck sharply and intuitively for what was a smart finish and earned City three vital points, something Roberto Mancini felt the side fully deserved:
"In the first half, we played a fantastic game. We should have scored two goals minimum. In the second half, the game changed, Blackburn played very strong and hard."
Despite a prediliction for conceding late in games this season, City held firm for another clean sheet (Joe Hart's 15th in the Premier League alone as he closes in on the clubs overall season record. It was another one too for the pairing of Kompany/Lescott, their eighth in total in 16 games (compared to Kompany/Toure's 12/23).
Make no mistake, this was an important win and by opening up a four point lead over Tottenham (not to mention extinguishing faint Liverpool hopes of a late rally) it leaves City needing - by my calculations - eight points from the remaining five games. This also assumes that Tottenham will be able to post a decent return from their final fixtures, which includes games against Chelsea and Liverpool as well as that trip to the City of Manchester Stadium.
Whilst the Tottenham game still looms large, there is a sense that this a big weekend coming up; Tottenham go to Stamford Bridge on Saturday whilst City are at home to West Ham the following day. Should Tottenham lose (or even draw) it will be a huge opportunity presented to City and although four games will still remain, the battle may well have been won.