Premier League – Carlos Tevez hits three as Manchester City beat Blackburn

Carlos Tevez bagged a hat-trick as Manchester City cruised into the top four of the Premier League with a 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

Tevez scored twice either side of a barnstorming Micah Richards goal, while Morten Gamst Pedersen pulled one back for Rovers with 19 minutes left.

The former Manchester United striker took his tally to 12 league goals for the season with an injury-time third, matching his all-competitions tally of 15 for the 2008-09 campaign halfway through this term.

City boss Roberto Mancini was given the brief to finish in the top four and is well on track with four wins in four matches, and only one goal conceded.

The Blues was helped greatly by Benjani, doing the dirty work Tevez often performs for his team and involved in the first three goals.

They dominated Rovers until the Lancashire side were given hope by Pedersen’s curling effort to rally for an entertaining finish.

City went in 2-0 at half-time and did so at a canter.

Rovers were poor, with home keeper Shay Given limited to claiming a couple of high balls and one foray out of his box to clear a long ball to touch.

Their hosts were calm and controlling, keeping a short-passing, mesmerising mid-pace throughout and drawing opposition defenders inside and out with a front four that featured target man Benjani with Tevez, Martin Petrov and Craig Bellamy switching positions and wreaking havoc around him.

They took an early lead thanks to some poor goalkeeping and a big slice of luck.

On seven minutes, a Petrov corner was flapped at by Robinson, whose view was obscured by Keith Andrews but who should have done better than to double-palm the ball into Benjani’s path.

The Zimbabwe striker, preferred to ex-Rovers man Roque Santa Cruz, mishit his finish against the leg of the falling Robinson and the deflection took it into the path of Tevez, who cleverly adjusted his body-shape to prod the ball home with the top of his right thigh.

That allowed City to set the rhythm of the match, keeping possession and making Rovers chase shadows, although the visitors occasionally got past halfway but, with Franco di Santo isolated and ineffectual, nothing ever stuck and their only real chance was a Steven N’Zonzi drive deflected over by Richards.

The Blues doubled their lead and it was all down to Richards.

Out in the cold earlier this season, the one-time great prospect of English football has worked his way back into the first team and improved performances and fitness have made him an Eastlands regular again.

And, on 39 minutes, he showed just why he was City skipper and England right-back at 19 with a bulldozing run from the edge of his own box, putting Benjani clean through.

The African rammed his finish against the post but, in a testament to his determination, Richards had continued his run and slid in a far-post finish – 80 yards up-field from his starting position.

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce made two changes at half-time, bringing Nikola Kalinic and David Hoilett on as they went 4-4-2.

They initially had little effect as within two minutes it was 3-0, Tevez curling a superb shot to the right of goal from the edge of the box after a give-and-go with Benjani.

He should have had a hat-trick just before the hour mark but the former Manchester United striker sent his header wide when found unmarked by Pablo Zabaleta.

Blackburn then had a spell of pressure that yielded their goal.

With Hoilett providing good running off the bigger Kalinic, Rovers were keeping the ball better and stretching the home defence and, after N’Zonzi headed a David Dunn free-kick wide and Brett Emerton forced a diving save from Given, Pedersen reminded everyone why he was coveted by the bigger clubs a few years back.

After a rare error from Vincent Kompany, failing to clear his lines on the edge of his penalty area, Norway midfielder Pedersen took a touch inside and sent a glorious effort around Richards, De Jong and Given into the left-hand side of goal.

Rovers sensed a comeback, with Pederson very close to converting a Jonas Olsson cross minutes later, but City regained control and substitute Robinho had one disallowed for offside before forcing a super stop from Robinson with a low drive.

Former Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz made a cameo and should have squared it to Tevez but sensed glory and fired over from the right, but the summer signing from United got his first hat-trick for City with another low, curling effort in the first minute of stoppage time.

Blackburn stay 13th in the Premier League, having failed to win in nine league games, while City move fourth – a point above Tottenham and four behind Arsenal.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

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