West Ham United 0 Manchester City 3 (agg 0-9)

League Cup Semi Final Second Leg
Tuesday 21 January 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Clichy, Nastasic, Lescott (c), Boyata, Fernandinho, Garcia (Rodwell 63), Lopes, Navas (Kolarov 79), Negredo, Aguero (Jovetic 65)
Unused: Hart, Demichelis, Zabaleta, Dzeko
Goals: Negredo (3, 59), Aguero (24)
Booked: Aguero, Clichy

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: Marcos Lopes

Lopes jinks past Taylor.

Lopes jinks past Taylor.

With the tie already won from the first leg, West Ham seemed dead on the feet even from kick off. It took the visitors less than three minutes to extend their lead from the previous game – Lopes found space on the left flank and crossed to the middle, where the marking was non-existent. Negredo met it unchallenged in the six-yard box and found the net.

The Hammers responded by putting the ball in City’s net through Nolan latching on to a Diame cross, but the linesman’s flag put an early end to any celebrations from the home fans. Nolan had been a yard offside when the cross was put in.

Carroll connected to a header inside the box as Lescott wasn’t aware the forward was there, after Diame fired over from a Carroll flick on. At the other end, Aguero forced Jaaskelainen into a good save, pushing the Argentine’s effort from the edge of the box around the post.

The visitors added their second of the night – and eighth of the tie – just before the 25 minute mark. A mazy run from Lopes opened up the West Ham defence and the ball fell kindly for Aguero after the Portuguese winger tried to slide the striker through. Jaaskelainen committed himself and Aguero dinked it over the goalkeeper and into the net.

Early in the second half, a great tackle from Lescott denied Morisson inside the box, with the former United man looking for a penalty – though the referee waved away the claims. Pantilimon stood big to deny Cole, before a challenge on Nolan by Nastasic could have also been a penalty, but once more the referee turned down the appeals.

On the hour mark – despite West Ham’s spell of pressure – the visitors went on to score their third. Negredo picked up the ball on the edge of the box and simply bullied his way through the home side’s defence. Three players tried to stop him, but he bulldozed his way through, before flicking the ball over Jaaskelainen.

Lopes came close to scoring – completely by accident, it must be said – as his left-footed cross dropped onto Jaaskelainen’s crossbar, before both Negredo and Rodwell couldn’t find room for a shot as they wriggled inside the West Ham box – both won corners.

With 15 minutes to place, West Ham twice came close to a consolation: First Rodwell got up ahead of Diame to head the ball behind and, from the resulting corner, the Hammers’ midfielder headed wide from inside the six-yard box. Navas responded with a blast over the bar, from a cute lay-off by Jovetic.

In the end, the game meandered to a close, with City coasting to victory. It was nine on aggregate in total, but could have been so much more – City strolled to Wembley.

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Manchester City 5 Blackburn Rovers 0

FA Cup Third Round (Replay)
Wednesday 15 January 2014, 20.10 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (Huws 77), Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy, Navas, Garcia, Milner (c), Fernandinho (Kolarov 45), Dzeko, Negredo (Aguero 72)
Unused: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Lopes
Goals: Negredo (45, 47), Dzeko (67, 79), Aguero (73)
Booked: Milner, Kolarov

Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the Match: James Milner

Pantilimon clears under pressure.

Pantilimon clears under pressure.

City will play Watford in the next round of the FA Cup following their replay win over Blackburn. In truth, the away side never really looked like upsetting the apple cart, but they did make life difficult for the hosts. Dzeko struggled to find the target – first, with a header inside the area, second, he skied a blast from a touch down by Fernandinho on the edge of the box, and third, he blasted a long, long, long range effort over.

In between his chances, Marshall curled a free kick straight into Pantilimon’s arms after Cairney was felled by Nastasic on the edge of the box. Garcia blasted a shot from range that looked to be curling into the bottom corner, until Robinson beat it away low to his left.

Ten minutes before half time, City got even closer. Navas beat Marshall on the right flank and fired in a low, driven cross through the six-yard box. First Negredo, then Fernandinho threw themselves at it, but they were both inches away from touching it into the net.

As it looked like the hosts were going to be frustrated at the break, the Blues found the breakthrough: Fernandinho’s cross was missed by Dzeko, but behind him was his strike partner in Negredo – the Spaniard met it and nodded it into the corner of Robinson’s net, with virtually the last touch of the half.

And, the same man scored with virtually his first touch of the second half. Kolarov picked up the ball on the left flank and crossed from deep towards the run of Negredo. The covering defender couldn’t intercept and the striker dinked it over the top of the substitute goalkeeper Eastwood.

Blackburn responded with some good chances. King found space in between Lescott and Nastasic to flick a header towards the top corner, but he got too much on it and headed over. A few moments later, the same man escaped the attention of Nastasic to go one-on-one with Pantilimon, but the Romanian keeper stood up well to make the save.

With just over 20 minutes to play, though, the hosts effectively ended the game. Navas raced through on the right to a Milner pass and, after wriggling his way to the by-line, he played it in low for Dzeko at the front post. The Bosnian’s effort towards the top of the net was too powerful for Eastwood.

Blackburn were deflated and, when Pellegrini introduced Aguero into the action, the Chilean was rewarded as the Argentine scored with his second touch. Dzeko received the ball inside the box on the left and he squared for his strike partner. Aguero took a touch to control and spin, then his second – a low shot – beat both covering defenders and the goalkeeper.

Goal number 99 for the season came with ten minutes to play. In a move not too dissimilar to create the third, the Blues added their fifth of the evening with the same combination – Navas to Dzeko. The Bosnian got across his man to touch the Spaniard’s cross around the corner and into the net at the near post.

Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Sunday 12 January 2014, 14.05 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Toure (Garcia 60), Fernandinho, Silva, Nasri (Milner 79), Negredo, Dzeko (Navas 52)
Unused: Pantilimon, Richards, Lescott, Clichy
Goals: Dzeko (8), Negredo (90+5)
Booked: Fernandinho, Zabaleta

Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the Match: Aleksandar Kolarov

Zabaleta battles for the ball.

Zabaleta battles for the ball.

Newcastle had started the game brightly and had the Blues under some early pressure, but weren’t able to test Hart. And, having been stoic in their resistance from the off, the visitors took the lead inside eight minutes – Kolarov slipped in behind the home side’s defence on the left flank and drove a low cross in towards Dzeko. The Bosnian hammered it into the net left-footed at Krul’s near post.

The home side, though, responded well: A free kick to the back post almost caught City napping, but a combination of Demichelis and Kolarov got the ball clear. Taylor then almost knocked a corner in at the near post but for a great touch by Negredo blocked it. Hart had to then react well to divert a Cabaye shot over the bar.

Then controversy: Newcastle pulled level with an effort from the edge of the box by Tiote, but City’s defenders appealed for an offside. The referee checked with his linesman and ruled that Hart’s vision had been blocked by a man in an offside position, however the replays showed Gouffran didn’t touch the ball and wasn’t in the goalkeeper’s line of sight. It should have stood.

That decision seemed to spur the hosts on and City couldn’t get a kick. The Blues were camped on the edge of their own box until the half time whistle, but fortunately for the visitors, Newcastle weren’t able to get a strike at Hart’s goal.

The second half, though, started as the first ended: Newcastle were pressuring and City were giving the ball away too cheaply. Remy was slipped through neatly, but some good defending from a combination of Kompany and Zabaleta ensure he couldn’t get a shot in. Anita hit an effort from range that Hart gathered at full stretch.

Demichelis nods clear.

Demichelis nods clear.

Negredo twice almost extended the City lead ten minutes into the half. First, a one-two between Silva and Nasri gave the Spanish striker chance to swivel and shoot, but he couldn’t get his effort on target. Then a free kick from Silva found Negredo’s head, but Krul pulled off a brilliant reactions block to keep it out.

Just before the hour, Hart was called into action again. Cabaye picked up a loose ball 30 yards out and, after knocking it out of his feet, belted it towards the far corner. The City keeper did well to push it around the post.

Cabaya was skating on extremely thin ice with two fouls – first on Navas and then on Kolarov, both of which could have seen him shown his second yellow card – but it was his play that sought out Remy in the middle. Kompany and Zabaleta got caught together and the striker was clean through. He belted it, but Hart produced a top save with his boot to keep it out.

With four minutes to play, City came close to winning the game – a free kick from Silva was flicked towards goal by Kompany and the rebound fell kindly for Fernandinho inside the area. His effort looped over Krul and crashed off the top of the bar, with Negredo unable to keep the ball in to shoot again. Two minutes later, a shot from the centre-forward was cleared off the line after good work by Silva.

The game, though, was won deep into seven minutes of stoppage time. A quick break by City as Newcastle piled men forward saw Milner slide it through for Negredo to race away from the back four. One-on-one, he got lucky, as his shot hit Krul and deflected off his own shin towards goal. It just needed touching into the empty net.

Manchester City 6 West Ham United 0

League Cup Semi Final First Leg
Wednesday 8 January 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Nasri, Toure (Demichelis 66), Garcia, Silva (Lopes 73), Negredo (Kolarov 79), Dzeko
Unused: Hart, Nastasic, Fernandinho, Milner
Goals: Negredo (12, 26, 49), Toure (40), Dzeko (60, 89)
Booked:

Referee: Jon Moss
Man of the Match: Alvaro Negredo

Negredo doubles City's lead.

Negredo doubles City’s lead.

With the way that City have been knocking goals in at home this season, Pellegrini was making his intentions clear: Get the job done in the first leg, as he named a strong starting line-up. It paid off as Pantilimon’s work was little more than collecting crosses and clearing back-passes in a game that the Blues dominated from start to finish.

It started to go downhill for the Hammers on 12 minutes. There was a certain sense of irony in the manner in which the Blues scored their first; City have the reputation as the one-touch specialists, while it’s Allardyce’s teams who carry the long-ball reputation. But Toure played it long for the run of Negredo, whose superb volley, over his shoulder, nestled in the bottom corner.

The second goal of the night virtually killed any competitive edge in the tie – not that there was much to begin with. Negredo dummied the ball for Dzeko to receive it mid-way into the West Ham half. The Bosnian controlled, turned and laid it off into the path of his strike partner, who took a touch and, on the slide, powered it into the top corner from just inside the box.

As the first half wore on, City should have been further in front. Garcia stabbed over from a Silva corner, before a great run by Nasri set-up Dzeko to shoot from just inside the box. The Bosnian, however, got under the ball and it ended up in the fans behind the goal.

With five minutes until the break, however, the home side made it three. The ball bounced kindly for Negredo in the centre-circle and Toure took it off the Spaniard’s toes to run at the West Ham defence. He just kept going until he was inside the box, where his shot took the slightest of deflections on its way past Adrian and into the net.

Negredo’s hat-trick came a mere four minutes into the second period. A corner from the left was cleared as far as Silva, who wriggled his way into the box to square towards Dzeko. It was deflected straight into the path of Negredo, whose side-footed shot picked out the left side of the net.

Nasri has an effort on goal.

Nasri has an effort on goal.

But City weren’t done. Toure tried an effort from a free kick on the edge of the box, but his shot was just over the bar, before a Dzeko blast from range missed the top corner by inches. The Bosnian, though, didn’t have to wait much longer to get his name on the score sheet, touching in a low Clichy cross on the hour mark.

It quickly became a training exercise for the home side, who were keeping the ball expertly and barely out of second gear, despite the scoreline. Negredo had a shot deflected around the post, before Dzeko’s header was superbly saved by Adrian – who was doing his level best to keep the score down.

That was until a minute from the end, when Dzeko added his second of the evening to make it six for City, and five for him in four appearances in the competition for this season. Kolarov’s pull-back found the Bosnian just inside the box and the striker got a good connection to smash it past the stationary goalkeeper.

At the mid-way point in the semi-final, City look already on the way to Wembley, barring a miracle at Upton Park for the Hammers. If anything, 6-0 flattered the visitors; it could have been much more.

Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester City 1

FA Cup Third Round
Saturday 4 January 2014, 12.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Boyata, Lescott (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Milner, Fernandinho (Toure 64), Garcia, Silva (Zabaleta 88), Negredo (Navas 74), Dzeko
Unused: Hart, Kompany, Kolarov, Lopes
Goals: Negredo (45)
Booked: Nastasic, Boyata
Sent Off: Boyata

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: Alvaro Negredo

Nastasic and Clichy combine to win the ball.

Nastasic and Clichy combine to win the ball.

It was a dreadful start to the match with neither side really imposing themselves on the game. Negredo ran the ball out of play in the Blackburn box, while Milner’s over-hit pass didn’t find Clichy. The first decent chance took almost 20 minutes to arrive, as a Blackburn corner was headed towards goal by Dann, but it was well held by Pantilimon.

With 35 minutes played, City’s first real spell of pressure should have resulted in the opening goal. The ball was cleared as far as Garcia mid-way into the Blackburn half and he knocked it back for Boyata on the right. He neatly found Silva in the middle, but the chance was on his right foot and he hit the top tier rather than the target.

On the stroke of half time, City took the lead. Dzeko headed a corner into the box at goal, but the striker’s effort was well wide of the goal. Fortunately for the visitors, it fell kindly for Negredo, who touched the ball into the net. It was a dubious goal, as the Spaniard may have been offside.

Ten minutes into the second half, the hosts were level. City were feeling aggrieved with the officials after two clear corners weren’t awards, while Negredo might have had a penalty as he tried to latch onto a through ball. However, on the break, Blackburn won a corner – it was floated to the middle and the initial header was straight at Pantilimon. He spilt it and Dann tapped in.

Just after the half hour, Negredo should have doubled his tally for the afternoon. Silva chipped the ball into the Spaniard on the edge of the box and he nodded it down for Dzeko to shoot. Robinson parried the effort straight back to Negredo, but he couldn’t direct his diving header into the unguarded net.

A long range shot from Navas, shortly after the Spaniard had joined the action, was close to sneaking in at the back post but for a strong hand by Robinson. It was one of a few isolated chances in the second half, where neither side were able to really impose themselves on the match.

A long-throw in from Blackburn was well defended by the visitors and they were able to break. A great ball from Dzeko found Milner on the right and he flicked it through to Navas to go clear into the box. The winger’s shot, however, was on his weaker side and flashed wide of Robinson’s goal.

A late challenge by Boyata with five minutes to play saw him receive his second yellow card. His first seemed soft, but he could have no arguments with the second and it left City a man light for the closing stages. It almost cost the visitors immediately, as Cairney’s turn and shot flashed just wide.

There wasn’t another chance to win the game, though, and there’ll be a replay.

Manchester City 2 Liverpool 1

FA Premier League
Thursday 26 December 2013, 17.30 KO

City: Hart, Kolarov, Kompany (c), Lescott, Zabaleta, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva (Garcia 87), Nasri (Milner 72), Navas, Negredo (Dzeko 77)
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Nastasic, Boyata
Goals: Kompany (31), Negredo (45+1)
Booked: Zabaleta

Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the Match: Fernandinho

Silva skips away from a challenge.

Silva skips away from a challenge.

Given City’s previous home games this season, many were expecting a high scoring game as Liverpool rocked up at the Etihad. However, both Pellegrini and Rodgers opted for more cautious set-ups and it was a strong performance from the home side to take the points.

The Blues settled the quickest – Navas flicked a header onto the bar, before Kompany got in front of Skrtel at a corner, but could only nod it wide.

The visitors responded: Suarez flicked a corner wide of Hart’s post, and Kolarov was needed to put in a last-gasp tackle in the box as Sterling raced through – that chance came as Zabaleta’s short pass was picked up in the middle.

The flag wrongly went up against Sterling – who rounded Hart and netted, though the City keeper had stopped, before the away side did open the scoring. Some good work set Sterling through and he rounded Hart, leaving Coutinho to slot into the unguarded goal.

The lead lasted five minutes. A left wing corner was curled into the box and Kompany rose highest to connect. The effort skipped past Mignolet and his defender on the line and the Blues were level.

City should have added their second almost instantly – Nasri and Silva combined to release Navas following a Liverpool corner, but the winger blazed over.

Hart produced a fantastic save from Coutinho with five minutes of the half to play: The Liverpool man found space in the box to shoot, but the England keeper stood up and spread himself to block.

With the fans readying themselves for half time, the Blues took the lead with virtually the last kick of the period. A decisive breakaway saw Navas feed Negredo early and his shot – with the outside of his left foot – should have been saved by Mignolet. But he flapped at it and it bounced over the line.

As the hosts started the first half the better, it was the visitors who began the second with more purpose. Suarez stung the hands of Hart, after Henderson had fired over. City were inviting the pressure and dropping deep; Liverpool were obliging.

The home side’s best chances came from set pieces or breakaways. Kompany headed at Mignolet from a corner, before Negredo spotted the Belgian keeper off his line and tried a chip – but it didn’t quite have enough height.

Soon, City were again on the back foot. Hart saved well from Henderson’s back-heel flick, before Suarez crossed low and everybody in the box missed it, as the visitors sought their equaliser. The leveller should have come through Sterling, as he got away from Kolarov to connect to a Suarez cross and – with the goal virtually unguarded – he skied it.

Suarez curled a free kick over with five minutes to play, before he riled the City fans by going down theatrically in the box under pressure from Lescott. It was enough for the hosts to hack the ball clear and ease the pressure to see out their second win of the festive period.

Manchester City 6 Arsenal 3

FA Premier League
Saturday 14 December 2013, 12.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva (Milner 71), Nasri (Garcia 90), Aguero (Navas 49), Negredo
Unused: Hart, Lescott, Kolarov, Dzeko
Goals: Aguero (14), Negredo (39), Fernandinho (50, 88), Silva (66), Toure (pen 90+5)
Booked: Silva, Kompany

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: Fernandinho

Negredo battles with Wilshere.

Negredo battles with Wilshere.

Where to begin with this one? Goals, defensive lapses, attacking flair, injuries, contentious penalty decisions, chances galore, two stoppage time goals… There’s not enough bandwidth on the internet to be able to go into too much detail, I fear.

It started with City on the front foot. A series of corners looked threatening, but the Blues didn’t manage to test Szczesny even if the visitors were pinned into their own half. The Gunners could have opened the scoring through Wilshere – against the run of play – on 12 minutes, but his effort was scuffed wide.

Instead, it was one of the home side’s in-form forwards who netted first. A corner from the right flank was flicked to the back post by Demichelis, where Aguero adjusted his body to volley past Szczesny from about eight yards out. It wasn’t quite a bicycle kick, but it was a stunning finish.

The Blues should have doubled their lead shortly after, following some great skill from the captain. Kompany won the ball in midfield and had to twist and turn to keep it around two challenges, before he slid it through to send Negredo one-on-one with Szczesny. The striker, though, skewed his right-footed shot well wide.

On the half hour, though, the visitors pulled level – against the run of play and teaching City to take their chances. Toure was caught in possession on the halfway line to Ramsey, who carried it and picked out Ozil on the left. He squared for Walcott to shoot and Pantilimon was unsighted by Deminchelis, leaving the ball to bobble into the far corner of the net.

It took eight minutes for the Blues to be back in front – and Toure was redeemed for his mistake. He played a sublime ball wide to Zabaleta, whose first touch gave him time to cross into the centre. Negredo was arriving the wrong side of Koscielny to slot it underneath the goalkeeper. The defender was injured in challenging and that was the end of his game.

Toure shows his power.

Toure shows his power.

The second half showed no signs of slowing the tempo: It started when Kompany found himself as the furthest man forward and took it upon himself to take on the Arsenal team. He tried to pick out Negredo as he worked it to the left flank, but his pass was short.

There was then a blow for the home side as Aguero was forced to leave the play injured. On came Navas and City doubled their advantage through an unlikely source. Fernandinho raced onto a loose ball in midfield and bent an effort around Szczesny and into the bottom corner. It was a beauty to open his account.

But it was at this point where the visitors stepped up to the next level and began to blitz the City goal. First Giroud should have equalised, but somehow missed the target on a low cross at the back post, skewing his effort high and wide, before the French striker headed wide when he was unmarked in the middle.

There was a shout for a penalty for the visitors on the hour mark, as the ball deflected off Zabaleta’s chest and onto his arm, but there was nothing doing from the referee. The Arsenal players were furious.

The Gunners reduced the arrears shortly after. The winger picked the ball up on the edge of the box and bent it both over and around Pantilimon, who was left flapping at thin air, as the shot hit the net. It came as the visitors were having their best spell and, at 3-2, they would have fancied their chances.

That is until Silva restored the hosts’ two goal lead a mere four minutes later. Navas wriggled free on the right flank and played a low, driven cross into the middle, where his compatriot was arrived to glide it home, over Szczesny.

With just over 20 minutes to play, Pantilimon preserved that two goal cushion with a cracking save from a Wilshere shot from range. The midfielder belted it towards the top corner, but the Romanian was up quickly to touch it over the bar.

Navas came close to increasing City’s lead after stealing the ball back from Monreal and playing a neat one-two with Nasri to set himself through on goal. He rounded Szczesny, but the angle was too wide and his shot only hit the side netting. Toure then blazed wide after one of his trademark runs, before the Ivorian rose highest at a corner, but could only head over the bar.

Fernandinho’s second City goal came two minutes before stoppage time. He won the ball back in the centre of midfield, before setting Nasri through. The Brazilian continued his run into the box and got the ball back from the Frenchman, before skipping the challenge and dinking it over Szczesny, who had gone to ground. It was cool and calm, and it flicked the post as it crossed the line.

As stoppage time was coming to a close, the visitors pulled another goal back – though now only a consolation. Mertesacker was left unmarked inside the six-yard box and he nodded straight past Pantilimon from a cross from the right. It could have been 5-3 earlier, with Bendtner nodding in from an offside position – it was ruled out, but City didn’t heed the warning.

The final say of the day, though, went to Toure. With many fans expecting the final whistle to come, Milner was slotted through on the left and, as he skipped past Szczesny, the goalkeeper brought him down. Toure stepped up and sent the Polish shot-stopper the wrong way, giving the Blues a three goal lead with seconds left on the clock.

City close the gap on the league leaders and provide possibly the best game of the season so far.