Manchester City 2 West Ham United 0

FA Premier League
Sunday 11 May 2014, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Garcia, Toure (Negredo 86), Silva (Milner 76), Nasri, Dzeko (Fernandinho 69), Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Clichy, Jovetic
Goals: Nasri (39), Kompany (49)
Booked: Demichelis, Aguero

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: Yaya Toure

Kompany lifts the Premier League trophy

Kompany lifts the Premier League trophy

Manchester City are champions of England and have secured their first ever league and cup double. Indeed, victory over West Ham on the final match of the 2013-14 season ensured the Blues took only their second double – the first coming in 1970, when Joe Mercer’s City won the League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup. Manuel Pellegrini’s City added a top-flight championship to the League Cup.

The home side went into their final match of the campaign knowing that a draw would be enough for them to take the crown – barring any sort of goalscoring miracle at Anfield. Compared to the title win of 2012, the mood inside the stadium was much more relaxed – though there was still the feeling things could go wrong if the Blues weren’t professional.

There was little danger of the team letting this one escape, however, as Pellegrini’s City were always in control of the match and eased to victory. The Manchester weather had been unwelcoming at the start, raining buckets onto an already soaked pitch – though, if anything, it aided the hosts’ slick passing moves.

One of the best moves of the campaign almost finished with a beauty of a goal. Zabaleta, Garcia and Nasri combined to work an opening for the cross from the right, and, as the ball fell to the back post, Silva arrived in time to volley at goal. He caught it sweetly, but got under it slightly too much and it was blasted just over the crossbar.

The home side wanted a penalty two minutes later as Zabaleta appeared to be felled by Diame inside the box, but the referee waved play on. He trod on the defender’s leg and tripped him up – the West Ham man was lucky.

Aguero had his first shot of the game, but he slipped in unleashing the long range effort and it went straight at the goalkeeper. That’s as news came through the Newcastle had taken the lead at Anfield and that the unlikely wasn’t happening in Liverpool. As the fans were settling down to the positive news from Merseyside, Kolarov blasted from long range, too – Adrian tipped his 40-yard effort over the bar.

Zabaleta in a tackle with Taylor.

Zabaleta in a tackle with Taylor.

As it looked like the Blues might end up being level with their visitors at half time, Nasri came up with a cracking strike to break the deadlock. He picked up the ball on the edge of the West Ham box and, after knocking it out of his feet, belted if for the bottom corner. Adrian got his fingers to it, but couldn’t redirect it enough – tipping it onto the post and into the net.

And it could have been two on two occasions going into the break. First, Aguero deflected Nasri’s free kick across the face of goal and the diving Kompany couldn’t reach to touch over the line, before, second, Silva’s deflected effort crashed into the crossbar. The Spaniard wriggled free inside the box and shot for the far post, but it deflected up off a defender in front of him, hit the underside of the bar and bounced to safety.

Early in the second, the home side doubled their advantage: a corner to the near post was half headed away by the visiting defence and half knocked down by Dzeko. Waiting was the captain and Kompany turned to belt the ball past Adrian and into the back of the net.

City were sensing the kill was on the cards. Nasri stung the goalkeeper’s gloves with another long range effort, Aguero tried to angle a header into the top corner but just got slightly too much elevation on the effort, while the Argentine should have scored with just over 20 minutes to play. A low cross from Zabaleta picked out the striker, but he couldn’t adjust his feet quickly enough to turn it into the empty net.

The result never looked in doubt in truth and, with just over 10 minutes to play, the Blues almost had their third. Toure chipped a cute ball over the static Hammers’ back line for Nasri or Zabaleta to run on to. The Frenchman took control and smashed his shot for goal, but Adrian got his foot in the way to keep it out.

In the end, the Blues weren’t able to get their third goal and they finished the season with a solid, professional and comfortable 2-0 win. It was more than enough for the club to lift their second ever Premier League title.

Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 0

FA Premier League
Wednesday 7 May 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Garcia, Toure, Milner (Jovetic 60), Silva (Fernandinho 76), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo 86)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Dzeko (64, 72), Jovetic (89), Toure (90+3)
Booked: Jovetic

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: Stevan Jovetic

Dzeko celebrates the opening goal.

Dzeko celebrates the opening goal.

Manchester City are a point away from their second Premier League title, following a comprehensive win over Aston Villa at a very rainy Etihad. It was a nervy atmosphere until Dzeko opened the scoring in the second half, when it seemed to lift a weight from the fans’ shoulders – and, to round of a good evening, Toure bagged the Blues’ century of league goals too.

The rain pounded down onto the pitch and it added an extra layer of drama and tension to proceedings – which could have been calmed inside five minutes, as Kolarov tested Guzan at his near post. The goalkeeper parried it away and began a frantic five minutes for his side that saw Kompany head just over the bar and Guzan block with his left foot to deny Toure.

Silva came close to stealing in ahead of the Villa goalkeeper, when Guzan let a Kolarov cross slip from his grasp. The American goalkeeper, however, managed to dive on the loose ball before the Spaniard could prod it into the goal. Nasri wasn’t too far away from opening the scoring, too, as he exchanged a one-two with Silva on the corner of the box, but his effort didn’t bend enough and sailed wide.

It could have been even less comfortable for the home fans mid-way through the first half. First, a cross from the left found Bowery unmarked in the box and he couldn’t connect well enough to trouble Hart – scuffing his half-volley into the side netting. Then, a City corner broke down and left Zabaleta one-on-one with Weimann. The Argentine slowed the forward down and forced him to shoot wide when he should have tested the goalkeeper.

City, however, should have gone in at half time in the lead. Zabaleta could have had a shot on goal, but instead chose to square for Silva – the Spaniard’s effort was blocked after his first touch got away from him a little. And then Nasri somehow prodded wide from a Milner cross into the box, after Guzan had come and been found wanting.

Nasri comes under pressure.

Nasri comes under pressure.

Early in the second half, the breakthrough almost came in spectacular style from the captain. A ball into the box was cleared, but Silva returned it quickly with a header and the Villa defence hadn’t pushed out far enough. Kompany tried a bicycle kick to turn the ball towards goal, but he couldn’t direct it away from Guzan, who was able to hold at the second attempt.

Ten minutes into the half, Kolarov had a free kick pushed away from goal, as he curled it towards the top corner from 30 yards. It had clearly been frustrating for the players, too – as there were long discussions between the left back and Toure over who would get to have the strike at goal.

Pellegrini introduced Jovetic to try and add a new dimension to the game and, just four minutes after the Montenegrin was introduced, the Blues took the lead. It had been coming – a cute ball through to Zabaleta on the right allowed him to drive a low cross into the box, where Dzeko was arrived to nutmeg Guzan. The Etihad erupted.

A few minutes later, the same combination created another City goal. Zabaleta was played in by Silva and the defender drove the ball into the box once more. This time it was for Nasri, whose shot was well saved by Guzan, but the goalkeeper was helpless as Dzeko touched the rebound into the empty net.

The visitors came inches away from pulling a goal back with eight minutes to play, as a free kick from the right caused City all kinds of problems. A ball to the back post saw Hart go wandering to try and collect, but it was nodded back across and – with the goalkeeper out of position – it looked like a simple task for Weimann to head home. He hit the bar, with the ball bouncing down onto the line and out – and the Goal Decision System said it wasn’t in.

The game was sealed with two minutes to play. Toure looked like he’d spent too much time inside the Villa box with the ball and hadn’t found room for the shot, as he jinked inside and outside the tight defence, but the Ivorian found Jovetic arriving late from the left. The Montenegrin hit it first time straight into the bottom corner.

However, in stoppage time, Toure rounded off the win with City’s 100th league goal of the season. It was a typical Toure move, as the midfielder picked up the ball midway inside his own half and – as the furthest home player forward – drove towards goal. He couldn’t be stopped by any of the four Villa defenders trying to keep pace with him and, one-on-one with Guzan, he blasted it into the net.

The win put City back on top of the table and a point against West Ham on Sunday will be enough to clinch the title. It’s City’s to lose.

Everton 2 Manchester City 3

FA Premier League
Saturday 3 May 2014, 17.30 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Milner, Garcia, Toure (Kolarov 66), Nasri (Silva 74), Dzeko Aguero (Fernandinho 28)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Negredo, Jovetic
Goals: Aguero (22), Dzeko (43, 48)
Booked: Garcia, Demichelis, Dzeko

Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the Match: Joe Hart

Zabaleta under a challenge from Naismith.

Zabaleta under a challenge from Naismith.

The game had quite a muted start, with both teams just testing the water and seeing what was what. The visitors had the better of the early chances, but Garcia’s header from a corner was straight at the goalkeeper, before Zabaleta skied an effort from just inside the box, following a very cute ball from Aguero.

But Everton’s first effort of the match found the net. It was a superb effort on ten minutes from Barkley from 20 yards out, as he curled it over and around Hart and into the top corner. The City goalkeeper didn’t stand a chance and the visitors had it all to do.

Five minutes later, Toure should probably have equalised. Some neat build-up between Clichy and Nasri found the Ivorian inside the left corner of the box. Holding off Osman, Toure worked it towards the centre of the goal and blasted for the top corner – Howard was beaten, but it flashed over the bar.

The home side wanted a penalty for a Kompany tackle on Barkley, but the referee ruled the Belgian had won the ball and from that the visitors broke. The ball fell kindly for Garcia who slid it through to Toure in the middle. There, the Ivorian played it through for Aguero in space on the right and his effort beat Howard at the near post for the equaliser. It was joy short-lived, though, as Aguero injured himself in scoring.

It looked like the game was going to trundle to half time as City looked well below par, but the Blues somehow got themselves in front. Dzeko took too many touches when played through and his low cross was blocked by Howard. Milner picked up the rebound and produced a lovely turn to get a cross in, where Dzeko’s header found the bottom corner.

Demichelis battles with Lukaku in the air.

Demichelis battles with Lukaku in the air.

In the opening minute of the second half, Hart pulled out a brilliant save to keep the visitors in front. Barkley broke with the ball past Garcia – who couldn’t stop him on a yellow card – and played in Naismith, who went through on a one-on-one. Hart was out quickly and tipped the placed effort around the post.

Immediately, though, City went on to boost their advantage. Nasri did brilliantly to keep possession on the right and cut inside. The Frenchman drilled a ball across the face of goal and Dzeko stabbed it into the roof of the net. The home players appealed for offside, but he was level and the goal stood.

There was a response from Everton: City sat on their laurels and allowed the hosts to control possession. Happy to allow the hosts more of the ball, on 64 minutes they were punished. A ball in from the left from Baines was well met by Lukaku and his header hit the inside of the post and hit the back of the net. City wanted offside, but the linesman kept his flag down.

With 20 minutes to play, City had a golden chance to add to their lead again. A cute ball inside by Milner allowed Zabaleta to run clean through on goal, but his left footed drive was blocked by Howard. The rebound, picked up by Kolarov, was curled over the bar.

Ten minutes later, there was a truly bizarre passage of play. Dzeko, clearly needing medical attention, wasn’t allowed it by the referee and was instead booked for timewasting for not getting up from the ground. The referee remained steadfast and wouldn’t allow the physio on and Dzeko wasn’t moving. Eventually, he allowed the striker to get treatment and showed him the yellow card.

City were under immense pressure – Deulofeu wriggled through most of the City defence after Demichelis blocked Barkley’s cross to the edge of the box. He got through to a one-on-one with Hart, who pulled off another good save to get the ball behind.

Despite the late pressure and six (becoming seven through timewasting) added minutes, City held on to the rare win at Goodison Park and went back to the top of the table.

Crystal Palace 0 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Sunday 27 April 2014, 16.10 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Toure (Fernandinho 66), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo 88), Aguero (Jovetic 78)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Dzeko (4), Toure (43)
Booked: Zabaleta

Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Zabaleta crunches into a challenge.

Zabaleta crunches into a challenge.

What a funny old game football can be. After a defeat to Liverpool and a draw with Sunderland, the title was but a pipe dream for City fans – but after Chelsea’s win at Anfield and the Blues’ visit to Crystal Palace, it’s now back in their own hands.

As has been a feature of City’s games, it was them who made the brighter start – and had an early goal to match. Aguero was close to getting in behind, while a Zabaleta low cross was cut out, before the ball fell to Toure on the edge of the box. He crossed well for Dzeko, who had slipped in between the two central defenders, and his header powered past the goalkeeper.

The visitors were almost in again a moment later, as a short backpass was intercepted by Aguero as Speroni came to close down the angle. The Argentine was forced wide and couldn’t find the gap through to goal – in the end the goalkeeper managed to get the ball behind.

With just over 20 minutes gone, City were close to doubling their lead. First, Zabaleta got in behind on a floated ball by Toure, but he couldn’t generate power on his header, so chose to square for Aguero. It wouldn’t sit up for him to shoot, though, and, as it came out to Milner, the cross was deflected behind. Kompany’s free header from the corner was a just wide from six yards.

City wanted a penalty with 10 minutes of the half to play, but it would have been harsh: Toure’s shot from the edge of the box was blasted towards goal and it caught Delaney on the arm in front of his chest. He was close to the shot, though, and the referee rightly played on.

As half time approached, City doubled their lead. A one-two between Toure and Nasri sent the Ivorian clean through. He took a bad first touch and got the ball caught under his feet, but had the awareness and strength to power through and knock it back onto his left foot inside. As the goalkeeper came out, he curled it into the top corner on his weaker foot.

Milner battles to win back possession.

Milner battles to win back possession.

City came out for the second half sloppily – the hosts had the initiative from the off and, in the first minute, forced Hart into his first save of the match. Puncheon fired an effort from the edge of the box that might have crept it and, being unsure, the goalkeeper touched it behind. He was then off his line quickly to punch the resulting corner clear.

A marauding run from Toure down the right, after he was set free by Dzeko in the centre of midfield, came close to picking out Aguero in the middle as he’d powered his way down the flank. He tried to cross low, but it was cut out by Dann en route to the Argentine.

With 20 minutes to play, Aguero went close with an outside-of-the-foot shot from inside the box on a quick breakaway – Milner fed it back inside and allowed the striker to get a shot in. Dzeko went close from the other corner of the box a moment later, as his effort took a deflection and almost sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Speroni, though, was able to stick out a foot to make the save.

The hosts tried to pile pressure on the City goal in the closing stages, but the visitors were firm in defence, with little getting through to Hart. It was a vital three points for Pellegrini’s men, who can now take the title should they win all three of their remaining games.

Manchester City 3 West Bromwich Albion 1

FA Premier League
Monday 21 April 2014, 20.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho Nasri, Silva (Milner 70), Dzeko (Kolarov 89), Aguero (Jovetic 64)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Negredo
Goals: Zabaleta (3), Aguero (10), Demichelis (36)
Booked: Demichelis

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Dzeko and Ridgewell challenge for the ball.

Dzeko and Ridgewell challenge for the ball.

Manchester City bounced back from disappointing results against Liverpool and Sunderland with a comfortable win over West Brom – though the fans will be leaving disappointed that it finished at just 3-1, given how dominant the Blues had been and, should Chelsea beat Liverpool in their coming game, goal difference could be a factor in the title race. City still need favours from elsewhere – but they went about their business just in case of a slip up from their opponents.

It started brightly and, just as with their last match, the hosts took the lead very early on. Aguero latched on to a short clearance and, having taken a touch to control, he volleyed at goal. Foster pushed it away well, but Zabaleta was following in to head home the rebound.

It got better just a few minutes later. Criticism of the week before when the Blues failed to capitalise on their lead and took their foot off the gas was gone – as Aguero doubled the advantage. He picked up the ball on the left side of the box, jinked inside and belted it into Foster’s bottom corner. City were in full control.

However, a botched free kick gave the visitors the chance to break. Fernandinho and Silva dallied over a routine that could have come from the hotel bar rather than the training ground and West Brom stole in to break – and Dorrans scored a brilliant volley with one of the best counter attacks of the campaign.

Ten minutes before the break, though, and the hosts’ two-goal advantage was restored. Nasri’s corner to the front post was flicked across the face of goal where Demichelis was able to adjust his feet to redirect it into the net – completing City’s trio of Argentine scorers, but also completing the scoring for the evening.

Pellegrini will be hoping that the decision to ease off and control possession instead of making goals the priority doesn’t come back to haunt his side – especially as a block from Kompany on a shot from eight yards left Hart stranded, but the defection took it over and onto the roof of the net.

The second half was dominated by the home side, but with very little penetration. Silva slipped Zabaleta in cutely down the right, but his low cross to the front post was cut out brilliantly before Nasri could arrive to turn it into the net.

With 20 minutes to play there was a blow for the home side. Silva – who had, once more been the architect of everything City had done well offensively and who had only just returned from injury – went down after a collision with Jones and Amalfitano and didn’t get back up. He needed the stretcher to leave the field with what looked like another ankle injury.

For the remainder of the game there was plenty of huffing and puffing, but little in the way of action. Hart was down well to block Amalfitano’s effort as it came at him suddenly past Anichebe, while Dzeko and Jovetic both fired wide after some near build-up at the other end. Milner also went close after Nasri played him in, but his low drive from a tight angle was well blocked by Foster.

While the most importing thing for City was to get the win, the Blues will be disappointed not to capitalise on their early dominance.

Manchester City 2 Sunderland 2

FA Premier League
Wednesday 16 April 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Fernandinho (Rodwell 87), Nasri, Aguero (Jovetic 57), Negredo (Dzeko 69)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Fernandinho (2), Nasri (88)
Booked: Zabaleta

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: Martin Demichelis

Negredo hurdles a challenge from Alonso.

Negredo hurdles a challenge from Alonso.

Manchester City’s title challenge is on the ropes following a draw with relegation threatened Sunderland. It could have been worse, with a late goal pulling the Blues level, but, in truth, a point helps neither side.

It couldn’t have started better for the hosts, who scored with their first attack of the match. A great step-over by Negredo allowed Fernandinho to run in one-on-one with the goalkeeper from Aguero’s pass. He slotted it into the near post.

But having taken the initiative, City allowed the visitors back in – who probably should have gone in level at half time on the balance of play. O’Shea headed wide from the penalty spot, while Borini blazed wide from close range and Cattermole could only find Hart from a long range effort.

City never got out of second gear – summed up by the little work for the Sunderland goalkeeper: Aguero’s strike from outside the box the best the hosts could offer before the break. Mannone parried it, but Fernandinho couldn’t convert Zabaleta’s knock-down from the rebound.

The second period brought little change to the home side’s impotent attack. Negredo headed over and Aguero couldn’t get a shot in as he tried to turn Brown. Pellegrini introduced Jovetic in an attempt to improve things, but it changed little – his long range efforts were regularly blocked.

With just over 15 minutes to play, the Blues’ casual performance was punished. A ball down the left flank was squared perfectly for Wickham to touch home, leaving Hart helpless. It had always been on the cards with City easing off the gas.

Dzeko couldn’t turn Kolarov’s low cross in at the near post, before it got worse for the home side: With seven minutes left Wickham added his second of the evening and put the visitors in front, following another cross from the left.

The Blues salvaged a point thanks to a Mannone blunder – a Nasri’s 88th minute effort slipped from his grasp and trickled into the net. The Frenchman should have won the game in stoppage time, but his left foot strike from eight yards was ballooned over.

City now need more favours from elsewhere if they’re to win the league – and it looks very unlikely.

Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Sunday 13 April 2014, 13.37 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Toure (Garcia 19), Fernandinho, Navas (Milner 50), Nasri, Silva, Dzeko (Aguero 68)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Negredo, Kolarov
Goals: Silva (57), Johnson (og 62)
Booked: Garcia, Fernandinho, Zabaleta

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: James Milner

Hart organises his defence.

Hart organises his defence.

The afternoon at Anfield kicked off seven minutes late as a mark of respect for the 96 fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough in 1989 – and the minutes’ silence was well observed by both sets of player and fans. It was a fitting tribute for the 25th anniversary of the disaster.

The visitors were behind early on and it was the hosts who had put them under pressure from the off. Suarez played a neat through-ball for Sterling to run in behind Kompany and, facing Hart on a one-on-one, side-stepped past the goalkeeper and slotted it into the net. City couldn’t have asked for a worse start.

It was almost two after 15 minutes, as Clichy was too easily beaten by Sterling on the right flank and the youngster whipped in a cross behind the City back four. Kompany couldn’t reach it and Sturridge – free in the middle – side-footed it wide. He was stretching, but should have done better. It did get worse for the Blues, though, as Toure had to leave the pitch injured.

Gerrard should have doubled Liverpool’s lead – and he had done everything but beat Hart, who produced a brilliant reaction save to touch the free header over the bar. But from the resulting corner, Skrtel escaped Kompany and flicked the ball into the net. City had a mountain to climb.

City were denied a penalty on the half hour when Dzeko was brought down by Sahko, but the referee decided there was no foul, as the Bosnian over-egged his fall. It was a poor call from the official. Coutinho should have made it three from a breakaway, but he dragged his shot wide.

Mignolet was then bailed out by Johnson, as he came for the cross and missed it, with Dzeko heading towards the empty goal – the full back nodded off the line and it looped up onto the bar. As City broke back again after Hart claimed the ball back, Navas crossed for Fernandinho to volley, but the goalkeeper got down well to push it away.

With 52 minutes on the clock, Suarez should have been shown his second yellow. Demichelis dived in on the forward, but missed the ball and missed the man, yet the striker dropped to ground clutching his foot. He’d dived, the referee saw it, but didn’t show the yellow card – instead giving a goal kick. He bottled it.

City dug deep and dragged themselves back into the game. A good series of passes worked the opening on the right flank and Milner – via a one-two with Zabaleta – got in behind to square for Silva. The Spaniard dinked the ball into the net, past the desperate dive of Skrtel, who tried to slide it off the line.

The visitors twice came close to equalising minutes after their goal: First Silva caused trouble in the box as Skrtel miss-kicked a clearance, before the Spaniard drilled a low cross towards Dzeko. The Bosnian, though, couldn’t connect as he threw himself at it.

City did get their equaliser, though, just after the hour mark. Silva and Nasri linked up down the left flank and the Frenchman played the Spaniard in. He drilled it into the box once more and it ricocheted off Johnson and sent Mignolet the wrong way – it followed a great challenge by Zabaleta, who won the ball from Sturridge with a last-gasp tackle in the box.

With 15 minutes to play, City were inches away from getting in front. Aguero rolled Skrtel on the left flank and drove towards the box. Instead of taking the shot on, he played it in for Silva in the middle – the Spaniard had to dive to reach it, but he couldn’t turn it into the net.

Two minutes later, though, City hit self-destruct. The Blues were in control of the game, but a throw-in was miss-kicked by Kompany straight to Coutinho. The Liverpool man hit it first time and curled it around Hart into the bottom corner. City had it all to do again.

In stoppage time, the away side were denied a penalty when Skrtel punched the ball clear, before Henderson over-ran the ball and dived in on Nasri as the Blues tried to break again with possession. The Liverpool man went in with a straight leg and was rightly dismissed, but City felt the red card should have come at the start of the second half, not the end – it came too late to change the game.