Manchester City 1 Stoke City 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 22 February 2014, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho (Navas 63), Toure, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko, Negredo (Jovetic 56 (Garcia 69))
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Clichy, Milner
Goals: Toure (70)
Booked: Kompany, Fernandinho, Dzeko

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Nasri is fouled.

Nasri is fouled.

A second-half strike was enough for City to scrape their way to a vital three points on a day when their title rivals all won. The pressure was on the Blues to begin with, following Chelsea’s last-gasp winner at Stamford Bridge, and it looked like it was showing in the early stages. Stoke had a game plan to defend and it was paying off.

The early chances fell mainly to the home side, but Dzeko headed well over from a corner and Fernandinho drove an effort straight at Begovic from the edge of the box. Negredo slipped Zabaleta in on the right, but the full-back’s shot ricocheted off the goalkeeper and behind; the Blues were struggling to create clear-cut opportunities and Stoke packed the box.

The visitors could have opened the scoring on 20 minutes as the ball broke kindly for Adam on the left corner of the area. The Stoke man hit it towards the far side of the goal, and it looked like it was creeping in until Hart’s fingertips intervened and pushed it around the post.

Begovic collected efforts from Kolarov, Toure and Fernandinho, as City tried their luck from range – but their luck was pretty similar each time, as the shots bobbled through for the goalkeeper to hand on to comfortably. It then fell to Negredo and Nasri to hit from the edge of the area, but both of their shots were over the bar, as City struggled for an opening.

Dzeko was inches away from opening the scoring just before half time as he picked up the ball on the edge of the box and carried it across the 18-yard line. He put his foot through it and curled it towards the bottom corner – and Begovic was worried – but it dropped inches wide of the post.

There was some improvement from the hosts after the break, but it was still an arduous process for them to create chances. Dzeko scooped over from a Silva pull-back, before Toure hit a free kick into the Stoke man-wall.

When it looked like the goal might not come, an injury to substitute Jovetic forced the manager’s hand: He moved Toure forward and, as the Ivorian gambled into the box, he connected to a Kolarov cross and forced it past Begovic. The goalkeeper got a hand on the effort, but the ball trickled over the line.

The goal didn’t open the game up as many thought it might: Dzeko (somehow) missed an open goal from less than a yard out, as his shot ricocheted off his right foot and onto his left before falling clear of the six-yard box. Garcia hit a belter from the edge of the area, before Ireland had the opportunity to stun the fans at his old stomping ground, but his volley was well wide.

It was by no means a classic – but it was a vital three points for City.

Stoke City 0 Manchester City 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 14 September 2013, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Garcia, Nastasic, Kolarov, Milner, Rodwell, Toure (c), Nasri (Navas 73), Negredo, Jovetic (Aguero 63)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Boyata, Fernandinho, Dzeko
Goals: -
Booked: Garcia

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: Joe Hart

stoke1

Nastasic beats Jones to the header.

Having not performed brilliantly in their previous two games, City would have been looking for a quick start to the match. The visitors had all of the early possession, but the best chance of the opening stages went to the home side: As Walters had a glorious opportunity to head home from an Adam cross, but he nodded it wide.

A familiar pattern was beginning to emerge. City were controlling the ball for large spells, but unable to find a way through a packed Stoke defence – and it was almost to the visitors’ disadvantage on the half hour, as a lucky break sent Nzonzi clean through. He checked back, though, and allowed Garcia to get back to block from Adam.

If there were any criticisms lingering around Joe Hart, the England keeper wasn’t letting them cloud his judgement. Nasri was dispossessed on the edge of the City box with no cover behind him and, with Jones on a one-on-one, the keeper blocked well to keep the scores level.

At the end of the half, the best City had to show for their efforts was a Kolarov free kick, which, despite a big dive from Begovic, was never in danger of finding the top corner, being over the bar. The Blues were level. Just.

There was no change at the start of the second half: Stoke were inches away from taking the lead as a low ball across the box missed everybody, with Walters sliding in to try and get the vital touch. He couldn’t and the visitors were off the hook. A volley flashing over the bar from Jovetic was all the Blues could muster in response.

As the game wore on, the chances stacked up and they were all for the home side. Adam put a great ball into the box for Jones, who peeled back from Nastasic, but his header flashed over the crossbar. A couple of minutes later, Etherington was almost through on goal and about to pull the trigger, until a cracking tackle from Zabaleta nicked the ball away.

With Stoke pressing City’s goal for the breakthrough, it almost came via the feet of their own defender in Nastasic. He slid in to try and clear the ball, but almost diverted it into his own net. However a fantastic save from Hart kept the scores level.

As the game moved into stoppage time, though, the visitors came into life. Suddenly, it was City who were pressing for the winner, as Yaya Toure blitzed through but was unable to find a blue shirt, before Negredo missed his volley from a deep corner.

City had got away with a poor performance, earning a point.

Stoke City 0 Manchester City 1

FA Cup Fourth Round
Saturday 26 January 2013, 12.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c) (Clichy 40), Lescott, Kolarov (Aguero 62), Milner, Barry, Garcia, Silva, Dzeko, Tevez (Rodwell 86)
Unused: Hart, Rodwell, Sinclair, Rekik, Lopes
Goals: Zabaleta (85)
Booked: Kolarov, Milner, Dzeko

Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Stoke1It was City who started the brighter in the opening stages, as Dzeko earned the visitors a corner with his first touch. The blues took that flag kick quickly and caught the hosts out, but Silva was only able to find the fans behind Sorensen’s goal, despite having time and space in the area. Shortly after, the Spaniard found Tevez in the area and his turn and shot forced the goalkeeper to palm it behind at his near post.

A great break by Tevez allowed him to step past two Stoke defenders before finding Dzeko in the middle. The Bosnian’s shot was blocked as far as Milner, who won a free kick on the right wing. It was taken quickly to Silva, whose shot rebounded off the inside of the post, with Sorensen left standing. A moment later, Tevez was brilliantly found by Dzeko, but as Milner’s shot rebounded to him, he couldn’t sort his feet out quickly enough to divert the ball on target.

Stoke had the ball in the net just before the half hour, but it didn’t count as Shawcross was offside as he poked the effort past Pantilimon following a free kick. It was a warning shot for the visitors, who had been well on top, but hadn’t taken any of the chances they had created.

Two low crosses from Kolarov almost got the blues ahead just before half time. The first skimmed through the box ahead of Dzeko and Silva couldn’t quite keep the ball in. The second was touched by Dzeko, but he wasn’t able to get his shot on target, leaving Tevez to try and scoop it into the net, but, stretching, he couldn’t quite make it.

A minute into the second half and City should have been playing ten men – Javi Garcia did brilliantly to win the ball back inside his own half, but was on the receiving ends of a two-footed stamp from Whealan. It was late and dirty, but the referee missed it completely.

By the hour mark, the game had become scrappy and City’s grip on the tie was loosening. Stoke had grown into the match without really testing Pantilimon, but the blues were struggling to create chances like they were before the break. Dzeko could have had a shot when Barry couldn’t quite reach his own touch, before Silva’s through ball was slightly too far ahead of Tevez.

Stoke2With 65 minutes on the clock, Silva played a beautiful ball over the top for Barry to collect on the blindside of the Stoke defence. He controlled and tried to take it round Sorensen, but it was good goalkeeping that stole the ball from the City midfielder’s feet. Barry could perhaps have hit it earlier, but chose to try and round the keeper.

Ten minutes later, City were cranking up the pressure. Dzeko shot just wide from the left side of the box, before Aguero hit the side netting with a deflected effort from the other side. From the resulting corner, Sorensen missed his punch, but the home side were lucky as Silva couldn’t get to the loose ball ahead of the defence.

With five minutes to play, City gambled with men forward and it paid off. A ball came in from the right side of the box and it skipped passed Silva as the Spaniard slipped, but following him in at the back post was Zabaleta. The acting-captain hit it first time past Sorensen at the near post, giving the visitors the lead.

Despite the Stoke pressure towards the end, they couldn’t threaten Pantilimon’s goal and the blues were able to see out their first win at the Britannia Stadium since the dark days of Division Two.

Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0

FA Premier League
Tuesday 1 January 2013, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Barry, Y Toure, Silva (Sinclair 83), Dzeko (Razak 90), Aguero (Tevez 77)
Unused: Pantilimon, K Toure, Nastasic, Garcia
Goals: Zabaleta (43), Dzeko (57), Aguero (pen 76)
Booked: Dzeko, Lescott

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: Gael Clichy

Stoke1From the first whistle of the game, City looked in control of the match and were pushing to make their dominance pay off. Inside the first couple of minutes, Aguero had forced Begovic into a good save at his near post, before Clichy put in a good cross towards Dzeko, but it was cleared before it reached the Bosnian.

With ten minutes on the clock, the Stoke back-line had dropped deep into their own half and the visitors were under pressure from the home side. Barry chipped a beautiful pass in for Aguero to volley, but his effort flashed just over the bar. This followed Yaya Toure’s first shot of the game, but he didn’t get hold of it properly and it skewed high and wide from long range.

A free kick from the right wing followed Yaya Toure’s second skewed effort wide: And it should have been the opening goal, as Milner’s cross landed perfectly on the head of Silva, but the Spaniard nodded wide of the target from the middle of the goal. Begovic was a spectator, but fortunately for the Stoke keeper, Silva’s effort flashed the other side of his post.

On 28 minutes, City had a rare opportunity to get men forward without the restriction of facing a sea of red and white shirts, as the blues caught their opponents on the break. Dzeko’s shot, however, from the right side of the box wasn’t troubling Begovic, as he scooped it over the bar when he really should have tested the goalkeeper.

Missing chances, though, was proving to be doubly annoying for the home side’s fans as Stoke – who had clearly come for a point – were taking their time over every dead ball and the supporters were feeling like Begovic was a serial offender. And it earned him a talking to from the referee following Aguero’s header from a Barry cross that struck the post and bounced behind. Yaya Toure then smashed a low drive into the wall, as he took charge of a free kick on the edge of the box.

Just as it looked like the blues would be going into half time frustrated, the lead came from a rather unlikely source. Milner crossed low towards the near post and Begovic got down to push the ball away, but he could only steer it to Zabaleta. The Argentine, on his left foot, prodded the rebound into the open goal and the hosts had the breakthrough.

Stoke2The second half quickly settled back into the pattern of the first: Aguero was felled mid-way into the Stoke half, but the free kick came to nothing, before Dzeko half-volleyed from a Yaya Toure ball over the top. The crisp, dipping drive, though, dropped just over the bar. It was all City.

But it soon got better for the blues, as Dzeko pounced to double the home side’s lead. Aguero wriggled his way through the line of red and white shirts on the edge of the box and found room to fire the shot away. Begovic made the save, but he could do nothing about the rebound, as Dzeko, in the right place at the right time, tapped the ball home.

With 62 minutes on the clock, the visitors should have pulled a goal back through Walters. Despite having been under pressure for most of the game, a corner from the left wing allowed Stoke the chance to get men in the box – that flag kick left the midfielder with virtually an open goal at the back post, but he, somehow, volleyed wide from close range.

There was controversy about City’s third goal – a penalty from Aguero that wriggled under Begovic’s dive – as it looked like the foul that had been punished was outside the area. The referee, though, decided that it wasn’t and pointed straight to the spot, leaving the Argentine to roll his kick to the bottom right side of the goal. That was to be his last action, though, as he pulled up on his next run from kick off and had to leave the field through injury.

Hart preserved his clean sheet with a brilliant save with four minutes to play: A long range drive from the visitors looked destined for the bottom corner, until the England international sprung low to his left to tip the ball onto the post. At the other end, Milner did well to keep possession all on his own on the right flank, before beating his two opponents and sending in a low drive towards Sinclair. The winger, though, couldn’t stretch to knock it home.

It was a winning start to 2013 for the blues with a very comfortable home victory, leaving Stoke’s fifth Premier League visit to The Etihad Stadium as their fifth without scoring a goal. It was a dominant performance from the home side, who will be looking to build on a good end to the Christmas period.

Stoke 1 Manchester City 1

FA Premier League
Saturday 15 September 2012, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Maicon, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Garcia, Y Toure, Nasri, Sinclair (Silva 74), Balotelli (Dzeko 90), Tevez (Barry 63)
Unused: Wright, Kolarov, K Toure, Rodwell
Goals: Garcia (35)
Booked: Garcia

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

The early pressure came from the visiting side, as Tevez unleashed a shot at goal that curled just around the post. There was confusion, as City believed they should have had a free kick when the referee had played advantage, but it was eventually decided a corner was the correct outcome. Stoke were able to get the ball away, as Begovic claimed under pressure.

But it wasn’t long until Stoke responded and they did so with a goal. City couldn’t clear their lines from a corner and it broke to Crouch on the penalty spot. He stumbled his way through the crowded box and through the challenges from Garcia and Lescott to slide it past Hart.

With 21 minutes gone, the visitors should have been level. Tevez picked up the ball in midfield from Toure and slid a cute pass into the box for Balotelli. A neat turn by the Italian gave him the chance to shoot cleanly at goal. However, his effort on his left foot was poor and he whipped it straight over the bar.

Ten minutes before the break, City had pulled themselves level. Balotelli turned inside the Stoke half and earned a free-kick on the left flank. Tevez curled the ball into the box between the goalkeeper and the line of defence, where Javi Garcia connected to it and nodded it into the back of the net. City’s pressure had paid off. A minute later, Maicon tried a volley coming into the box on the right hand side, but Begovic was able to spoon it behind.

City ended the half stronger: Begovic was twice in action to collect the ball as first Kompany crossed to the middle as it broke to him from a corner, before Yaya Toure smashed an effort right at the goalkeeper from well outside the box. Tevez was lurking, but there were no rebounds. The Argentine had an effort himself on the left side of the box, but again it was right down the goalkeeper’s throat.

The start of the second half, though, belonged to the hosts. City were struggling to cope under pressure from Stoke and Lescott didn’t get tight enough to Crouch as the former England international hit a shot at goal. Hart, though, was able to gather it and take control of the situation. Javi Garcia picked up a yellow card for a hefty challenge on Kightly.

Crouch should have done better as he won a header at the back post, but Hart was in the right place to collect it and set City away on the attack. From it, Sinclair found Yaya Toure in the box and he shot low, but Begovic blocked his one-on-one behind for a corner. Maicon’s flag kick was well cleared. City were still on the back foot.

A Gareth Barry cross then found its way to Yaya Toure in the box, but it was difficult for him to control. Instead of trying to trap it, he laid it off for Nasri to shoot, but the Frenchman’s effort was blocked en route to goal. City were slowly getting themselves a foothold into the half. A crossfield pass aimed towards Maicon was well cut out and the header back to Begovic had just enough to stop the full back intercepting.

City were beginning to keep the ball well as the game entered the final ten minutes, but it was the final pass that was proving a problem. Maicon tried to return a one-two with David Silva, but his pass was overhit and ran behind, rather than putting the Spaniard through. This was after Garcia tried an effort at goal from long range, but it was blocked by the home side’s defence.

With minutes to play, Nasri smashed a shot at goal from the edge of the box and it forced Begovic into a good save. He pushed the ball back into the middle, but there was nobody there to capitalise for the visitors. City also had a shout for a penalty turned down, as Barry went down in the box.

Yaya Toure picked out Clichy with a fantastic ball over the top and the full back forced a corner with his pull back on the volley. From that, Garcia rose higher than anybody and nodded at goal, but Begovic got down superbly to block and hold it.

Dzeko almost won it for City as he was played through over the top – he lobbed it over the onrushing Begovic and it looked destined for the net, but Shawcross didn’t give it up and he toe-poked if off the line with just 30 seconds left to play. City had themselves a point and, overall, probably just shaded it, but it’s not to be sniffed at, given the blues’ recent record at the Britannia Stadium.