Bolton 0-2 Manchester City

By Chris WhyattBBC Sport
Manchester City
Resurgent City played some free-flowing football at a windy Reebok Stadium

Joyous Manchester City secured a place in the Champions League group stages by easily clinching third spot, their highest league finish since 1977.

After wasting a number of good chances, they led when Joleon Lescott headed in fortuitously just before half-time.

Bolton fought for parity but classy City took control when substitute Edin Dzeko hooked in after 62 minutes.

With time running out, Bolton forward Daniel Sturridge was sent off for a needless high lunge on Dzeko.

For the hosts - who ultimately finished 14th in the Premier League after a series of results went against them on a dramatic final day - it was a disappointing end to a season in which they had been in the top 10 since October by playing a refreshing brand of football.

By contrast, manager Roberto Mancini's first full season in charge represents one of Manchester City's best campaigns in their rollercoaster recent history.

They controlled a relatively low-key match, their crisp passing indicative of a team glowing with confidence after ending the club's 35-year trophy drought with last week's FA Cup final victory over Stoke - to be celebrated with a parade through Manchester on Monday.

Clad in a head bandage, Pablo Zabaleta was promoted to the starting XI just before kick-off to replace Micah Richards, who was injured in the warm-up.

But that last-minute change did little to knock them out of their stride.

Carlos Tevez had an early chance to pull away from Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov as the Premier League's top goalscorer, though they both finished the season on 20 goals.

But, after a brilliant move down the left culminated in a cut-back from David Silva, his close-range shot was blocked by Zat Knight.

Bolton's veteran striker Davies should then have done better than to head Lee Chung-Yong's corner wide after a typical leap left him free to direct the ball where he wanted.

With Silva and Adam Johnson to the fore, City posed the more attacking threat -though they also displayed the defensive nous which manager Mancini has worked to instil as the bedrock of his side.

That crown slipped briefly when former City striker Sturridge, on loan at Bolton from Chelsea, set up Johan Elmander tidily in the penalty area, but his rising left-footed strike was beaten away alertly by Joe Hart.

With the match becoming increasingly feisty amid a swirling wind, both captains - Davies and Tevez - were shown yellow cards.

After a couple of scares during a period when City keeper Hart seemed to lose concentration, the visitors should have taken the lead.

Yet after another well crafted move, from which Dedryck Boyata whipped a perfect ball across the six-yard box from the right wing, the onrushing Gareth Barry could only head against the bar with the open goal gaping.

Bolton keeper Juusi Jaaskelainen was called into frantic action minutes later, Boyata forcing a decent save before Jaaskelainen blocked sharply from Tevez, after which Silva skied a shot over the bar using his weaker right foot.

After all their craft, City's opening goal arrived in an accidental manner.

From Johnson's outswinging corner, Vincent Kompany looked the likeliest candidate to head the ball towards goal.

Having hurtled just beyond his reach, it crashed into the forehead of unsighted defensive partner Lescott - who appeared to close his eyes - before looping into the top corner.

Lescott proved his defensive credentials after half time with a decent block from Cahill's vicious volley.

And after Silva, one of City's most influential figures this season, dribbled a weak shot into the arms of Jaaskelainen, City put breathing space between them and Bolton with a well-worked second.

Tevez charged through gaping hole in Bolton's defence to pass into path of Barry.

The England midfielder's unselfish lay-off across the face of the goal was only half-cleared by Cahill, which allowed Bosnian forward Dzeko - who had just replaced Johnson - to turn swiftly while guiding a low volley in from six yards.

Though nearly 30 minutes remained, the match naturally diminished in its intensity.

Substitute Ivan Klasnic and Sturridge both managed decent attempts for Bolton, although Tevez came closest to adding to the goals.

The only remaining drama came five minutes from time when Sturridge's tackle was deemed too high for the liking of referee Chris Foy.

But the win, coupled with Arsenal's 2-2 draw at Fulham, ensured that the Gunners will be the only one of England's four Champions League teams to have to enter in the qualifying rounds.