If Manchester City were looking for a performance to cheer up their supporters after the Ajax defeat that looks to have put paid to this season's Champions League adventure, this was not it. Roberto Mancini's team are still unbeaten in the Premier League, and can proudly point to another three points picked up when not playing particularly well, which is not something they have always been able to boast about, but any other boast based on this display would be hollow. With only slightly better finishing Swansea would have earned at least a point, food for thought for a team that now needs three wins against Ajax, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
"We deserved a point," Michael Laudrup said. "They didn't create really big chances, we had the best ones. Their goal came out of nothing, it wasn't really a chance, but that's what champion teams can do to you."
The Swansea manager's opposite number did not bother to pretend his side had played well. "We were so tired," Mancini said. "After the defeat in Europe this was a difficult moment for us, the only important thing was to win. We did that, we took three points. Now we can rest for a week."
With a whopping 12 minutes and 38 seconds of added time after two second-half injuries, the game was officially the Premier League's longest ever, which will come as no surprise to anyone who watched it. It was slow to get properly started, with both teams passing the ball around midfield but failing to find any real penetration. Sergio Agüero whisked purposefully past Chico Flores in the opening minutes without managing to open a route to goal, then Wayne Routledge did the same to Vincent Kompany at the other end, obliging the Manchester City captain to concede a foul. In the absence of goalmouth incident early on the chief talking point was an outrageous dive on the edge of the Manchester City penalty area by Angel Rangel, for which the Swansea full-back was correctly booked.
Swansea are capable defenders, and when Gareth Barry wasted a rare opportunity to play Carlos Tevez into space behind the back line after half an hour it was a reminder of how much the home side are missing David Silva. The Spanish maestro is an expert at unlocking well-organised defences and without him Manchester City were predictable and somewhat short of ideas, with neither Tevez nor Agüero as involved in the game as they would have liked.
The visitors were content to contain and threaten danger on the break, which is exactly what they did with two separate thrusts upfield just before the interval. Manchester City got away with the first one at the expense of a booking for Micah Richards for a foul on Routledge, Kompany clearing Pablo Hernández's eventual shot off the line, but Swansea should have taken the lead with the second when Joe Hart came off his line to smother a shot from Michu. It was a good stop by the goalkeeeper, yet Michu should have done better after staying onside to accept a wonderfully timed pass from Ki Sung-yueng. Manchester City's offside trap was well and truly sprung, yet just when it appeared scoring would be easier than missing a slightly heavy first touch from Michu gave Hart his chance.
When Aleksandar Kolarov skied a free kick at the end of the first half a few boos were audible as the home side left the field. You never quite know when City fans are being ironic, but there certainly hadn't been much to cheer about in an underwhelming first half. Mancini conceded his side have a mountain to climb in Europe after defeat in Amsterdam in midweek – his cliche, not mine – and playing like this they will face an uphill task defending their Premier League title.
Probably wisely, Mancini sent on Mario Balotelli for the second half, perhaps recognising that something was needed to enliven the proceedings, and with three at the front Manchester City quickly began to look more like their old selves. Agüero shot too high as the second half opened, and Balotelli was unable to reach a cross from the right from Samir Nasri a couple of minutes later before appearing to be hampered by Flores as he attempted to reach another from Richards, but at least these efforts brought the crowd to its feet and turned up the background noise. During the first half Eastlands had been as quiet as a library, apart from the Swansea fans occasionally breaking the silence by saying so.
Swansea were not going to take this lying down and once again gave their hosts a lesson in how to create a clear opportunity as the hour approached. Hernández's cross from the right found Michu unmarked in front of goal, only for Swansea's leading scorer to squander another a good chance, directing his firm downward header straight at Hart. The visitors quickly came to rue their profligacy, for within a minute Manchester City had taken the lead, Tevez conjuring a goal from almost nothing by shooting on sight after doing well to control an overhit pass from Gaël Clichy. Furthermore, the partially unsighted Michel Vorm was unable to continue after injuring himself in diving to try to keep out the shot.
Typically generous, Manchester City offered Swansea the chance of an equaliser when Nasri's attempted clearance went straight to Jonathan de Guzman, though the midfielder could not quite summon Tevez's accuracy and his shot flew a couple of feet wide.
Having survived that scare, the home side had to negotiate the last 16 minutes with Kolo Touré on in place of Richards, who collapsed on his own in the penalty area when his knee appeared to give way. Worrying about switching formations in mid-game suddenly does not appear to be Richards's greatest concern.