FA Premier League
Saturday 18 January 2014, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Navas (Clichy 82), Toure, Garcia, Silva (Milner 80), Negredo (Aguero 62), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Nastasic, Fernandinho
Goals: Dzeko (14), Navas (33), Toure (76), Aguero (79)
Booked: Negredo, Kolarov
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia
City weren’t at their best but put in a good showing to see off Cardiff at the Etihad. Pre-match questions of who would get the club’s 100th goal of the season were also soon answered.
Inside the opening minute, City could have had a penalty as a challenge from behind appeared to take the legs of Dzeko, but nothing was given. The ball ran on to Navas, but his low shot across goal was wide of the target.
Navas came close to forcing the opener as his low ball was almost touched into his own net by Turner but it was pushed behind at the near post by Marshall.
There was controversy over the centenary strike of the season. A lucky ricochet fell to Silva to keep in play on the by-line, where there were appeals it hit his hand. It would have been a harsh handball and he squared for Dzeko to shoot. It was scuffed, but it crossed the line, confirmed by the Goal Decision System.
Negredo twice came close to doubling the lead, but couldn’t quite find the net. First, he ran on to Silva’s lofted ball and his chip over Marshall flicked the keeper’s hand as it dropped wide. Second, his first touch set him up to shoot after Zabaleta played him in, but his outside-of-the-foot strike flashed wide.
Once more, City were punished for not taking their chances. Kolarov was out of position and Demichelis had to come across to cover, leaving Noone the chance to cut in. He stepped around Kompany and fired low past Hart.
The Blues were soon back in the lead. Toure’s sublime pass sent Dzeko through and, as he was tackled on the edge of the box, it ran through for Navas to side-foot under Marshall and into the net.
Hart was called into action early in the second half, as he was needed to push Mutch’s effort away. He was also down quickly to deny Campbell from a corner, soon after.
On the hour mark, it could have been three, as Silva shot inches wide. Kolarov squared for Dzeko and the Bosnian touched it through for the Spaniard to take a touch and shoot. His dink bounced marginally wide.
Hart tipped a Noone effort around the post as the Cardiff man stepped around Demichelis, before Aguero – on his own in the visitors’ box – turned and shot, but it was curling just over the bar.
Cardiff’s chance in the game was soon slipping away and Toure quickly put the hosts in full control. Aguero touched it across the box for the Ivorian, whose shot was blasted into the net from just inside the box.
The victory was confirmed with ten minutes to play. A moment of brilliance from Aguero allowed him room to shoot after a twisting and turning run. He drilled a shot into the net from close range.
With three minutes left to play, it was almost five for City. Clichy drilled a low ball into the box for Dzeko, but the Bosnian’s effort was dropping wide until Aguero touched it towards goal. Marshall, though, was down well to make the block and then pounce on the ball.
In stoppage time, Cardiff pulled a second goal back to reduce the deficit. A corner from the left wasn’t defended well by the Blues and it broke to Campbell in the middle to side-foot powerfully into the net, leaving Hart with no chance.
It was a solid win for the Blues, who keep the pressure on Arsenal at the top of the table.