Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko scored his first English Premier League as his side edged Blackburn 1-0 at Ewood Park on Monday.
The 27 million-pound January signing from Wolfsburg scored a 76th-minute winner three minutes after coming off the bench, sending City four points clear of nearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur and greatly bolstering their Champions League qualification claims.
Defeat leaves Blackburn without a win in 11 games and deep in relegation trouble, just a point above the drop zone with games away to sides below them still to come.
Rovers were without loan striker Roque Santa Cruz, who was ineligible to play against his parent club, while Blues boss Roberto Mancini stuck with the side that triumphed in the FA Cup semi-final showdown over neighbours United on April 17.
And City took the confidence from that victory into the game, dominating the early exchanges and slamming the post with a vicious David Silva volley from 20 yards in just the third minute.
Striker Mario Balotelli then tested Paul Robinson with a 25-yard free-kick and Michel Salgado was needed to clear off the line from a Gareth Barry flick as a goal looked increasingly inevitable.
But Blackburn fought their way back into the game and almost broke the deadlock themselves in the 40th minute, when captain Christopher Samba’s far-post header drifted inches wide.
They went even closer after the break as Brett Emerton’s cross found its way to Martin Olsson at the far post, but the Swede smashed his volley into the side netting from six yards out.
Rovers had come out for the second half a different side and City goalkeeper Joe Hart had to be alert to half-chances for Benjani and David Dunn.
But they fell behind in the 75th minute on a rare second-half City attack when Barry broke down the left and pulled the back for Silva.
The Spanish attacker’s shot was deflected into the patch of Dzeko, who steadied and fired home from eight yards.
Rovers threw everything forward in search of an equaliser and star man Phil Jones went closest with a header just over the bar.
And in a desperate fifth minute of injury time, Olsson hit a thumping 30-yard free-kick that Hart dived full length to keep out.
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