Barclay’s Premier League
Sunday 1 May 2011, 16.10 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Kolarov, Barry (Dzeko 75), de Jong (Milner 45), Y Touré, Silva, A Johnson, Balotelli (Vieira 87)
Unused: Taylor, Boyata, Wright-Phillips, Jo
Goals: de Jong (11), Zabaleta (15)
Booked: Zabaleta, Barry, A Johnson
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Gareth Barry
With Tottenham having lost to Chelsea the day before and Liverpool smashing past Newcastle earlier in the day, this was a must-win game for City if they wanted to stamp their authority on that Champions League place. And it was City that started the brighter, with Touré having a shot blocked and Balotelli heading wide from a corner.
And, soon enough, that early goal came through the most unlikely of sources. A Silva shot was deflected behind for a corner and that cross was cleared to the edge of the box, where Nigel de Jong was waiting. He placed it expertly into the bottom corner and got his first ever City goal, in almost 100 games for the club.
Just four minutes later, though, and it got better and from another unlikely source. Silva picked up the ball on the right and spotted the run of Zabaleta in behind the full back. He chipped a delightful ball over the top for the Argentine to run on to and his low shot was helped over the line by the defender, via his own crossbar.
City began to slow down in possession and allowed West Ham to get themselves back into the game. Joe Hart produced another save similar to his against Berbatov at Wembley, this time as Robbie Keane broke the line, before the visitors pulled a goal back. Demba Ba reacted first as the ball his Lescott’s hand and he fired it past Hart for 2-1.
West Ham continued to press for their equaliser before half time, but weren’t able to fashion another shooting chance, while City were struggling to get hold of the game, despite starting so well.
With ten minutes of the second half played, City were almost further in front. Balotelli was found by Silva on the far side of the box and he cut it back onto his right foot, before aiming for the top corner. Green was rooted, but was relieved to see it crash back off his crossbar to the flagged-offside Yaya Touré.
Da Costa then forced a good save from Joe Hart, as West Ham looked for an equaliser from a corner, but it was a strong hand from the City keeper and he was able to gobble up the rebound.
Five minutes later and City had another golden chance to wrap up the points, as Silva was onside and played through for a one-on-one with Green. He took too many touches and couldn’t find room for the shot, so he squared for Balotelli, whose shot was cleared off the line by Tomkins.
With ten minutes of the game to play, City had gotten themselves comfortably on the ball again and could have sewn up the points with an effort from Dzeko, but Balotelli was offside as he tried to get to the rebound as it bounced off Green’s body.
City saw the game out with some possession play by the corner flags and almost caused West Ham more problems with a late charge by Zabaleta from right back, as Green made a meal of keeping the ball in play from a pass-back. It didn’t matter that the third goal never came because City were able to hold on and fourth place in the Premier League is looking good for the blues.