Manchester City 4 Southampton 1

FA Premier League
Saturday 5 April 2014, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho (Garcia 45), Toure, Nasri, Silva (Jovetic 77), Navas, Dzeko (Negredo 65)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Milner
Goals: Toure (pen 3), Nasri (45+1), Dzeko (45+4), Jovetic (81)
Booked: Fernandinho, Garcia, Toure

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: David Silva

Dzeko competes with Lallana for possession.

Dzeko competes with Lallana for possession.

City had to ride their luck at times against a good Southampton side, but the home team did enough to emerge victors ahead of a tough fixture with Liverpool in the title run-in. The Saints will rue the first half stoppage time, where most of the damage was done, when they had a firm grip on the match before it.

It started well for City – who were gifted the chance to open the scoring from the spot. Dzeko went down very easily under the challenge of Fonte. The forward jinked past the defender, whose trailing leg brushed against the Bosnian’s stomach and, when the striker hit the deck, the referee pointed to the spot. Toure did the rest, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

From there, though, City just did not impose themselves on the match. Nasri had an effort from the edge of the box that dropped just wide, but it was the visitors who had the better of the ball – even though they failed to work Hart. Lambert couldn’t connect to a corner when he rose highest in the box, before the England hopeful curled a free kick wide of Hart’s post.

Rodriguez will fear for his England place following an incident mid-way through the first half, too. The striker tried to bring the ball down just inside the City half and, under no pressure, went down holding his knee – leaving the action early, on a stretcher, to a standing ovation.

Dzeko came close to doubling City’s lead with a free header at the back post, but he nodded Nasri’s free kick onto the bar and over. It could have been a costly miss – as Zabaleta brought down Cork inside the home side’s box moments later and Lamber scored the resulting penalty. Hart guessed correctly, but there was too much power on the spot kick and it hit the back of the net.

As the board went up for stoppage time, though, a below-par City put themselves into an almost unassailable position. First, a stroke of good luck: Silva was clearly offside from Dzeko’s flick, but the linesman didn’t raise his flag. The Spaniard weaved his way through and squared for Nasri to slot into the net.

Dzeko adds City's third goal.

Dzeko adds City’s third goal.

Then, as the fans were readying themselves for a 2-1 lead going into the second half, Dzeko added the Blues’ third. A good spell of possession ended with Kolarov picking up the ball on the left and firing in a good cross for the Bosnian. Gazzaninga came for it, but missed, and Dzeko redirected it over the line, via the back post.

The second half, though, was a completely different story. The introduction of Garcia allowed City to see more possession and they began to look good for their lead – Silva was frustrated the referee didn’t play advantage when he pulled back with one man between him and the goal, before Kolarov had a shot deflected behind for a corner.

On the hour mark, Dzeko should have netted his second. He was played through by Silva and was one-on-one with the goalkeeper. From a tight angle, he forced Gazzaniga into a good save and, despite being on his stronger foot, he couldn’t volley the rebound in – it actually went out for a throw-in.

Quite how Negredo didn’t score is a question City fans will be asking too – first, he was played through by Navas, but chose to check back inside his defender instead of taking on the shot and lost possession, before second, he hit the goalkeeper on a one-on-one on his left foot.

However, the missed chances didn’t matter as, with just under ten minutes to play, the Blues added their fourth: A low cross from the right flank was inches away from Negredo, but the Spaniard couldn’t touch it towards goal. Gazzaniga came, but missed it, and Jovetic was arriving in time to touch it into the goal at the back post.

It was a confident second half from City, though the scoreline was very harsh on the Saints. City in a good vein of form ahead of that huge game at Anfield up next.

Arsenal 1 Manchester City 1

FA Premier League
Saturday 29 March 2014, 17.30 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri (Garcia 81), Silva, Navas (Milner 64), Dzeko (Negredo 85)
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Lescott, Jovetic
Goals: Silva (18)
Booked: Toure, Kompany, Silva, Garcia

Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: David Silva

Kompany tackles Giroud.

Kompany tackles Giroud.

City have missed a chance to overtake Chelsea in the Premier League table following a draw at Arsenal. In the bigger picture of the season, however, it could be a valuable point for the Blues, with some tricky fixtures ahead.

The visitors began the game much in the same vein as they did at Old Trafford earlier in the week, but the breakthrough was slower to come. Zabaleta twice found himself in behind the Gunners’ defence, but on both occasions the pull-back didn’t find a City shirt. Navas picked up the rebound to the first and tried an effort from range, but it flashed just wide of the top corner.

The away fans had their hearts in their mouths on 12 minutes when Rosicky went down under a challenge from Zabaleta. The referee, though, was unmoved, pointing for a goal kick, and it was the correct decision. In fact, the Arsenal man was lucky not to be shown a yellow card for a dive.

Just before the 20-minute mark, the Blues took the lead, in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of the way they opened the scoring in Tuesday’s Manchester Derby. Silva lead the City breakaway and fed Dzeko on the left side of the box. The Bosnian’s effort slammed into the near post and landed perfectly for the Spaniard to prod the rebound into the net.

Flamini thought he had equalised a few minutes later, but his volley – which he bounced down into the ground and over Hart into the net – was correctly ruled out for offside. City’s offside trap was still looking very disciplined and had worked. At the other end, Nasri was desperate to get on the scoresheet, but his low volley was well held by Szczesny.

Sagna battles with Toure.

Sagna battles with Toure.

The feeling, though, was very much that City hadn’t scored more when they were in control of the game – and they could have been punished for it. Dzeko had the chance to make it two for the Blues, but Szczesny got down well to make the save. It turned out to be crucial, as Flamini peeled away from Fernandinho inside the City box, as the Brazilian slipped on the greasy turf, and turned Podolski’s cross into the net.

On the hour mark, City were thankful to Hart for a brilliant save in a spell of Arsenal pressure. Podolski was clean through on goal on the left side and, with Hart bearing down, smashed a shot towards the net – but the England goalkeeper diverted it behind at the near post with his boot.

City were being restricted to breakaways as the home side had wind in their sails, but Fernandinho was close to giving the Blues the lead for the second time with a long range effort. The ball fell nicely for him to volley and it was smashed back towards the net – with Szczesny flicking it over the bar with a fingertip.

Despite the home side having more of the ball, it was still the Blues with the better of the chances. A goalmouth scramble almost had City back in the lead, but Toure couldn’t force the ball over the Arsenal goalkeeper after trying to go round the Polish international, before the rebound wouldn’t fall for Nasri or Dzeko waiting in the middle.

With tricky games to come, City seemed content with a point from the evening – but, on another day, they could have had all three.

Manchester United 0 Manchester City 3

FA Premier League
Tuesday 25 March 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri (Milner 74), Silva, Navas (Garcia 68), Dzeko (Negredo 80)
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Lescott, Jovetic
Goals: Dzeko (1, 56), Toure (90)
Booked: Kompany, Fernandinho

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: Fernandinho

Silva wriggles past Rafael.

Silva wriggles past Rafael.

City made the quickest start to the derby… opening the scoring inside 45 seconds. With the first attack of the game, the Blues almost netted twice before Dzeko eventually put the ball over the line – Silva was slipped in brilliantly by Toure, but was tackled by Rafael. The ball was played back in to Nasri on the left, whose effort left De Gea standing and struck the post, with the rebound hitting Dzeko and going in.

With the 20 minute mark approaching, City should have doubled their lead. Pressure on Ferdinand meant a bad back-pass to De Gea, whose clearance fell to Toure. He knocked it through to Silva who was onside and he squared for Dzeko one-on-one. The Bosnian, though, could only find the gloves of the United goalkeeper.

Five minutes later, Fellaini should have equalised. He found himself unmarked at the back post on a United breakaway, following a quick throw-in from Rooney. It was flicked to the Belgian, but his volley was straight at Hart, who held on to the effort well. The Belgian was then lucky to stay on the pitch after only receiving a yellow card for an elbow on Zabaleta.

Mata missed a golden opportunity to pull the hosts level on 40 minutes, following a fresh-air shot by Rooney. The low cross into the box was missed by the striker and fell to the Spaniard’s feet just inside the area. His effort, on his right foot, flashed over Hart’s crossbar.

City could – perhaps should – have doubled their lead early in the second half. Dzeko found space on the left to shoot, but it was well blocked by Ferdinand, before a cross was cleared as far as Zabaleta on the edge of the box. He volleyed it, but it was deflected behind by Carrick. Dzeko won the header from the corner, but he couldn’t find the target, while a near post corner was won by Kompany, but Fernandinho couldn’t turn the defender’s flick into the net.

Nasri fends off Cleverley

Nasri fends off Cleverley

Ten minutes into the half, though, the Blues did double their lead. A near post corner was missed by the front runner in Demichelis, but it fell nicely to the Bosnian to turn in around the corner with his right foot. It was a cute finish, cool and controlled.

United could have pulled a goal back with 20 minutes to play, as Demichelis gave the ball away trying to play from the back. It fell to Valencia to cross and Welbeck turned it towards goal, but a reaction save from Hart kept it out. The Argentine defender recovered to head clear.

With seconds to go before the fourth official showed the board for stoppage time, City sealed the win. A perfect breakaway from Milner allowed Toure to find space on the edge of the box and, when the Englishman knocked it square, the Ivorian took a touch to control and then belted it into the bottom corner. City were in control from first whistle to last and three goals could have been more.

It was one of City’s games in hand over Chelsea and one they won in emphatic style, racking up a record-breaking fifth consecutive Premier League clean sheet in the process.

Manchester City 5 Fulham 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 22 March 2014, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Lescott, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure (c) (Rodwell 77), Milner, Nasri (Jovetic 82), Silva (Navas 68), Negredo
Unused: Pantilimon, Boyata, Clichy, Garcia
Goals: Toure (pen 26, pen 54, 65), Fernandinho (84), Demichelis (88)
Booked:

Referee: Jon Moss
Man of the Match: Yaya Toure

Toure scores from the spot.

Toure scores from the spot.

City eased past Arsenal in the Premier League standings to close in on top spot, following their emphatic 5-0 win over Fulham. Yaya Toure will grab the headlines for his first ever hat-trick, but the Blues were forced to dig in deep to produce the goods in a performance that wasn’t a classic.

The opening stages were something of a non-event. The closest either side came to opening the scoring was a Milner volley – as a cross to the back post found the midfielder – but Stockdale got down well to beat it away. At the other end, Richardson hit a free kick into the City wall, before he fired a rebound just wide of the post.

But, soon, the Blues had the lead. Amorebieta gave Negredo a kick up the bottom inside the box as the City striker tried to race onto a ball over the top and the linesman flagged for the penalty. The defender was booked and Toure slotted the spot-kick home.

It looked like the Blues might begin to capitalise on their advantage last in the first half, as Silva drove past Hangeland and got himself into a shooting position. He dinked his effort over Stockdale and it looked to be on its way in until Amorebieta nodded it off the line. It was then Kolarov who went close, forcing the goalkeeper to touch his powerful drive onto the crossbar.

Shortly after the break, however, the game changed in the Blues’ favour. Silva was through on goal after a neat bit of interplay on the edge of the box and Amorebieta chopped him down when going for the last-ditch tackle. It was a red card for the defender and a second penalty for the hosts – Toure stepped up again and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way for the second time from the spot.

Milner runs at Riise.

Milner runs at Riise.

Milner and Kolarov came close to adding City’s third, but it was the Ivorian midfielder who netted again on 65 minutes. A free kick on the left side of the box was played short between Silva and Nasri, who squared for Toure some 30 yards out. He picked his spot and wellied it into the corner of the net to complete his first ever hat-trick.

The floodgates could have opened at this point: Milner had an effort deflected wide, before Kolarov forced a good save out of Stockdale with a shot from range. Demichelis then had a header cleared from the line as he rose to meet a corner from the right flank.

With six minutes to go, it looked like Fulham’s punishment was over – but City suddenly put their foot on the gas. First, pressure from a corner chipped to the edge of the box ended with the ball at Fernandinho’s feet. The Brazilian took a touch inside and belted it into the top corner at the near post.

And, as stoppage time was approaching, it was Demichelis who rounded off the scoring. A Jovetic drive from the right was well blocked by Stockdale, but the defender was in the right place at the right time to stick out a boot and redirect the loose ball into the empty net.

Deep into added time, it should have been six, but Negredo was just out of luck. Sidwell tried a diving header back to his own goalkeeper, but he got nowhere near enough power on it and the Spanish striker got in first to toe-poke towards the top corner. The whole ground thought it was in – but it flashed an inch wide.

A vital win for City at the start of a very crucial run of games.

Hull City 0 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Saturday 15 March 2014, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho, Toure (Lescott 71), Nasri (Navas 81), Silva (Kolarov 90), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Milner, Rodwell, Negredo
Goals: Silva (14), Dzeko (90)
Booked: Zabaleta, Hart
Sent Off: Kompany

Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Nasri takes on Figueroa.

Nasri takes on Figueroa.

City’s hopes of an easy afternoon following a disappointing week were always going to be a pipe dream, with a visit to Hull a potential banana skin to slip on. And it didn’t get off to the best start for the away side, who found themselves a man down after just ten minutes. Kompany was given his marching orders after Jelavic stole the ball and the captain pulled him back when clean through on goal – the Belgian felt he was fouled, but the referee disagreed and sent him to the stands.

But the visitors didn’t let the red card affect them: Four minutes later, they were in the lead. After riding pressure from the hosts, City broke down the other end of their first attack since losing a man. Toure found Silva on the edge of the box and, after cutting back inside onto his left, the Spaniard fired a delightful shot into the corner of the net, leaving McGregor with no chance.

Despite being down a man, it was the Blues who were looking the more likely to score the next goal, too. Hull had dominated possession, but hadn’t been able to test Hart, when Zabaleta unleashed a blistering shot for the top corner. It smashed into the underside of the bar and dropped down onto the line, before bouncing out.

City weren’t happy with the referee shortly after, as he showed Elmohamady a yellow card for a nasty challenge on Silva – with studs showing, he caught the midfielder on the shin – and it could easily have been a red. Hull had the ball in City’s net a moment later, after the Blues made nothing of the free kick, but there was an offside in the build-up and Meyler’s brilliant finish didn’t stand.

Silva opens the scoring.

Silva opens the scoring.

The visitors were playing a very organised game at the back since the red card and that showed early in the second half. Time after time, the Blues held their line well on the edge of the box to catch Hull forwards offside and it helped the away side ease the early pressure.

Long stung Hart’s fingers with an effort from range, before Jelavic tried to turn a low free kick around the corner and into the net, but he couldn’t connect well enough to divert the ball. Huddlestone curled a free kick into the middle, but the goalkeeper was also there to gather.

With 70 minutes on the clock, there was more controversy. Boyd looked to go around Hart and hit the deck as the goalkeeper challenged. There was no touch and the Hull man dived, but wasn’t shown a yellow card by the referee – in the resulting altercation, Hart reacted angrily and, as the two came together, Boyd appeared to spit in the goalkeeper’s face. Somehow, it was only City’s number one who saw yellow.

A minute later, Fernandinho should have doubled City’s lead as a deflected shot fell into his path on the edge of the six-yard box. In on goal, he scuffed his effort wide – and it could have been costly as Jelavic won a header in the visitors’ box, but Hart got up well to collect it.

Three minutes from the end, Dzeko should have sealed victory. Silva played a beautiful pass inside to send the Bosnian clean through on goal – but one-on-one with the goalkeeper, his effort lacked conviction and power, and McGregor blocked well at the striker’s feet.

However, as the clock ticked to 90, Dzeko got a second chance to seal the points and this one he took. Silva was again involved as he played an even better pass to send the striker clear. This time, he passed the ball around the goalkeeper on his left foot, and, with stoppage time approaching, confirmed the victory.

It was a tough afternoon for the Blues, but they coped well – especially played a man down for 80 minutes.

Barcelona 2 Manchester City 1 (4-1 agg)

UEFA Champions League, Round of 16
Wednesday 12 March 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Milner, Silva (Negredo 72), Nasri (Navas 75), Aguero (Dzeko 45)
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Boyata, Garcia
Goals: Kompany (89)
Booked: Fernandinho, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Kompany
Sent Off: Zabaleta

Referee: Stephane Lannoy
Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany

Kolarov and Lescott deny Neymar.

Kolarov and Lescott deny Neymar.

City have been knocked out of the Champions League following defeat to Barcelona. The Blues felt aggrieved by refereeing decisions on the night, but ultimately the damage had been done in the first leg.

Lescott was lucky to avoid a yellow card for a pull-back on Messi, before he was lucky not to concede a penalty for a foul on the same man. Hart was off his line quickly to deny Messi, who almost did brilliantly – having kept the ball in – but Kompany recovered to clear.

With 16 minutes gone, City wasted their first good chance. Kolarov played a powerful, low ball into the middle where Milner was unmarked, but the midfielder wasn’t expecting the cross to land at his feet and he shanked his effort wide of the post.

A moment later, though, the visitors should have been behind: The offside flag went up against Alba when he was actually onside – Neymar slotted his square ball in, but it didn’t count. City were riding their luck.

With ten minutes of the half to play, Silva should have done better with time and space on the corner of the box. A great break from Toure played Milner in down the left and he pulled it back across for the Ivorian. He slipped in Silva on the right and, cutting inside, the Spaniard shot for the top corner – but skied the effort.

The home side almost took advantage of a slip from Kolarov. The full back lost his footing when one-on-one with Neymar and the Brazilian shot for Hart’s near post, but the goalkeeper pushed it behind. A clever corner almost caught City out – but Hart again stood up well to block and Lescott and Toure completed the clearance.

Toure competes with Pique.

Toure competes with Pique.

Excellent play from the visitors almost opened the scoring again – Toure chipped a neat ball in to Silva with Zabaleta making a decoy run on the right. The Spaniard flicked it back to Nasri, who volleyed at goal, but it was straight at Valdes. Either side and he’d have scored. The Frenchman was unlucky. At the other end, Fernandinho was required to head off the line, after Neymar rounded Hart.

City began the second half as they did the first – but this time with more impetus. A cheeky run inside from Milner opened up space and Kolarov found the midfielder, who turned to shoot. It was blocked to Silva, who picked out Dzeko and the Bosnian’s effort – low and hard – forced Valdes into a comfortable stop to his left.

Five minutes into the half, Lescott was lucky again facing off against Messi. The defender gave the ball away and chased back, where he did his best to slow the Argentine down. Messi, though, wriggled free and shot low to Hart’s right – who threw himself at it, but couldn’t reach. It bounced back into play from the post.

Immediately, City went down the other end on the attack. Kolarov found space to cross from a Silva pass and he picked out Dzeko at the back post. The Bosnian did all he could to direct it back across goal and it was dropping into the top corner until a brilliant save from Valdes pushed it behind. Zabeleta was then on the end of a deflected cross, but he couldn’t turn it in on his left foot.

With 66 minutes played, though, City were ruing their missed chances. A through-ball deflected off Lescott and straight into the path of Messi, one-on-one with Hart. The goalkeeper did his best to cover the goal, but he could do nothing about the Argentine’s deft chip into the far corner of the net.

It went from bad to worse for City with just over ten minutes to play. Dzeko was denied a clear penalty when he was chopped down by Pique when he was about to pull the trigger and, for his protests, Zabaleta was shown a second yellow card. It was an awful decision, compounded by a red card for the full back.

With a minute of the game left, the visitors equalised. A corner was played into the middle by Navas, where Dzeko headed at goal. Kompany, just onside in the six-yard box, turned it into the net.

However, with seconds of the game remaining, Iniesta got his head up after rounding Hart when played through and found Alves. The defender smashed the ball past Milner on the line and the result was confirmed.

Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 2

FA Cup Sixth Round
Sunday 9 March 2014, 16.05 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards, Demichelis, Lescott, Clichy, Navas (Dzeko 53), Toure (c) (Silva 53), Garcia, Nasri, Negredo (Milner 53), Aguero
Unused: Hart, Kompany, Kolarov, Rodwell
Goals: Nasri (68)
Booked: Nasri, Toure, Milner, Dzeko,

Referee: Anthony Taylor
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri

Garcia wins a 50-50 with McManaman.

Garcia wins a 50-50 with McManaman.

Wigan have knocked City out of the FA Cup for the second successive season. The Blues threw the kitchen sink at the visitors, but a sloppy first hour of the game was too much to recover from and the Latics fully deserved their place in the semi-finals, defending well against a sluggish City.

There was little in the way of early action – aside from some neat footwork from Pantilimon to escape the attention of McManaman – and when the chances came, they were for the away side. Gomez lashed a shot over the crossbar, before Navas almost forced an own goal with a low cross.

But City’s sloppiness was soon punished. A quick throw-in on the right wasn’t dealt with and Fortune got the wrong side of Demichelis, who brought him down inside the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Gomez sent Pantilimon the wrong way. It should have been a wake-up call… but it wasn’t.

And that was that for the first half – City huffed and puffed in possession, but got nowehere, with Wigan holding firm. Tackles flew in and players argued, but, in truth, there was little in them – though quite how Boyce avoided a yellow card for clatting Negredo from behind is a mystery.

The fans’ hopes that Pellegrini might have given his team a kick up the backside at half time were snuffed out inside two minutes of the second half. Richards didn’t cut out a low cross into the box, while Pantilimon remained rooted to his line when he might have claimed the ball. To complete the hat-trick of errors, Clichy was daydreaming and allowed Perch to get there first to slot home.

Pellegrini reacted with three substitutions, but it still took City after the hour mark to come close to pulling a goal back. A high ball into the box was headed back across goal by Dzeko, but the effort clipped the inside of the post and bounced clear – with Silva unable to touch it home.

With just over 20 minutes to play, Nasri dragged City back into the tie. A corner was only half cleared to the edge of the box, where Richards nodded it to the Frenchman. His volley missed Lescott in the middle and found the back of the net, via the inside of the post.

Two minutes later, City should have been on terms – Richards had a right-footed effort from inside the box, but it bent away from the top corner when he had a golden chance to hit the target. Aguero then almost added the luckiest goal he would have ever scored, blocking a clearance that Carson needed to back-peddle to catch.

Milner played in a brilliant low cross for Dzeko and the Bosnian must have thought he’d scored from six yards, but Boyce got there first to clear over his own crossbar. The striker then headed wide from a brilliant Nasri cross.

Pellegrini has gone out of his first cup competition as City boss and questions will be raised about his team selection and tactical approach – the manager was probably naïve, while his team were complacent. Wigan fully deserved to progress and knock the Blues out for the second season running.