Manchester City 2 Sunderland 2

FA Premier League
Wednesday 16 April 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Fernandinho (Rodwell 87), Nasri, Aguero (Jovetic 57), Negredo (Dzeko 69)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Fernandinho (2), Nasri (88)
Booked: Zabaleta

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: Martin Demichelis

Negredo hurdles a challenge from Alonso.

Negredo hurdles a challenge from Alonso.

Manchester City’s title challenge is on the ropes following a draw with relegation threatened Sunderland. It could have been worse, with a late goal pulling the Blues level, but, in truth, a point helps neither side.

It couldn’t have started better for the hosts, who scored with their first attack of the match. A great step-over by Negredo allowed Fernandinho to run in one-on-one with the goalkeeper from Aguero’s pass. He slotted it into the near post.

But having taken the initiative, City allowed the visitors back in – who probably should have gone in level at half time on the balance of play. O’Shea headed wide from the penalty spot, while Borini blazed wide from close range and Cattermole could only find Hart from a long range effort.

City never got out of second gear – summed up by the little work for the Sunderland goalkeeper: Aguero’s strike from outside the box the best the hosts could offer before the break. Mannone parried it, but Fernandinho couldn’t convert Zabaleta’s knock-down from the rebound.

The second period brought little change to the home side’s impotent attack. Negredo headed over and Aguero couldn’t get a shot in as he tried to turn Brown. Pellegrini introduced Jovetic in an attempt to improve things, but it changed little – his long range efforts were regularly blocked.

With just over 15 minutes to play, the Blues’ casual performance was punished. A ball down the left flank was squared perfectly for Wickham to touch home, leaving Hart helpless. It had always been on the cards with City easing off the gas.

Dzeko couldn’t turn Kolarov’s low cross in at the near post, before it got worse for the home side: With seven minutes left Wickham added his second of the evening and put the visitors in front, following another cross from the left.

The Blues salvaged a point thanks to a Mannone blunder – a Nasri’s 88th minute effort slipped from his grasp and trickled into the net. The Frenchman should have won the game in stoppage time, but his left foot strike from eight yards was ballooned over.

City now need more favours from elsewhere if they’re to win the league – and it looks very unlikely.

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.

Swansea City 2 Manchester City 3

FA Premier League
Wednesday 1 January 2014, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri (Milner 69), Navas (Rodwell 90), Dzeko, Negredo (Garcia 59)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Clichy, Boyata
Goals: Fernandinho (14), Toure (58), Kolarov (66)
Booked: Nasri, Dzeko, Kompany, Zabaleta, Milner

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Aleksandar Kolarov

Nasri breaks with the ball.

Nasri breaks with the ball.

Neither side were showing signs of a New Year hangover as the game got underway. Inside the opening five minutes, both City and Swansea had a good opportunity to open the scoring. First, Negredo slipped a good ball inside for Dzeko, whose side-footed effort was just wide of Tremmel’s far corner, before Bony took on a shot from range that had Hart scrambling across his goal. The England keeper couldn’t get there as it clipped the post.

Soon, though, the visitors had settled the better. Zabaleta’s overlapping run with Navas earned the away side the first corner of the match and that was what led to them opening the scoring. The ball in was cleared to the edge of the box, where Fernandinho hit it first-time. It travelled through the crowded area and past Tremmel, into the net.

The response almost came on 24 minutes. A quick break from the home side allowed a run through the middle by De Guzman to go untracked. He was found and a last-ditch challenge from Navas was enough to put the Swansea man off, and his side-footed effort low to Hart’s right was well blocked by the goalkeeper.

On the half-hour, Navas pulled off a great dummy to allow him space to run into on the right. He squared for Dzeko, whose shot was deflected, and had Tremmel stretching to his left – but it dropped just wide of the post.

With two minutes of the half left, Swansea were close to pulling level. The hosts had been growing in confidence since the City goal and a touch lay-off to Bony allowed the forward to belt an effort across Hart’s goal. It was just wide of his right-hand post, but the goalkeeper was worried.

Kompany wins possession.

Kompany wins possession.

It was inevitable that the equaliser would come in stoppage time. Bony drifted away from Kompany and Nastasic and was found with a dinked cross from the right. He nodded inside Hart’s left post, leaving the keeper with no chance of saving it – though the linesman should have flagged; he was offside.

Five minutes into the second half and the visitors should have been in front. Negredo capitalised on a Flores mistake to nick the ball away from the defender ahead of Tremmel, but his effort towards to half-unguarded goal was too weak and the goalkeeper was able to pounce on it. He should have buried it.

Just before the hour mark, though, a good spell of pressure from City resulted in the visitors’ second goal. Zabaleta kept a loose ball alive inside the Swansea box and flicked it to Toure, who smashed a shot towards goal. It was deflected and that change of direction beat Tremmel, with the ball hitting the net via the base of the post.

A break-away from City added to their tally on 66 minutes. Swansea had been pressurising the visitors’ goal when a good tackle from Kolarov set the left back free. He carried it to the edge of the box, where a run from Toure opened the space for him to shoot. Kolarov needs no second invitation – and his deflected right-footed effort went through Tremmel and into the net.

Bony stung Hart’s gloves with an effort from the edge of the box on 71 minutes, before the England keeper came flying out for a corner but missed the ball entirely. Fortunately for the visitors, Williams couldn’t react in time to head into the empty net.

As the game meandered into stoppage time, Swansea pulled a goal back. Bony found a pocket of space mid-way into the City half and took a touch to get the ball out of his feet. His effort from 25 yards swerved away from Hart and found the bottom corner.

It was too late for the hosts, though, and City hung on for their first back-to-back away wins in the league for 12 months.

Manchester City 1 Crystal Palace 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 28 December 2013, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Boyata (Negredo 55), Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho (Nasri 55), Navas, Silva, Milner (Kolarov 75), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Toure, Rodwell
Goals: Dzeko (66)
Booked: Silva

Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: Fernandinho

Milner jumps to challenge.

Milner jumps to challenge.

The game very quickly slipped into a pattern that would take seemingly forever to break, as Crystal Palace’s intentions to leave with a point became clear from the off. The visitors packed their defence and a much-changed home side were finding it very difficult to break through. Dzeko’s turn and shot was well wide, Fernandinho had a shot deflected over, while Silva powered wide.

The ball was coming back to Palace throughout the first half, but City just could not trouble Speroni. Milner curled an effort over from the edge of the box, Dzeko nodded a high cross back across the area but it was deflected over, and Kompany’s piledriver from range was gathered by the goalkeeper.

As the half hour came up, the visitors enjoyed a spell of possession in the City half – even if it was brief. Bolasie volleyed an effort straight at Hart, before Kompany and Nastasic combine to snuff out a quick break. Jerome threw himself at a low cross into the box, but Hart was there first and took a blow to the face that would see him finish the game with a black eye. Jerome couldn’t continue after the clash.

On the stroke of half time, Silva blasted just wide from a tight angle, before Fernandinho picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box to shoot. The Brazilian flicked it over the challenge and volleyed with his left foot, but it was just over the bar – the home fans were frustrated, but that’s exactly what Palace were aiming for.

Early in the second period, the Blues were thankful for their goalkeeper as the away side could have taken the lead. A long range effort from Puncheon looked destined for the bottom corner until Hart was down and across to palm it behind. From the resulting corner, Chamakh headed wide – when he should have headed in.

On the hour mark, Palace came even closer – though the combination was the same. Puncheon belted a shot from range and Hart, even more impressively this time, was across to his left to get a fingertip on the ball and nudge it around the post. Jedinak then forced the England keeper into a good save, touching his effort over the bar.

But it was the Blues who took the lead, as they got back into the swing of things. Navas picked up a high ball to the back post by Nasri and pulled it back across the area. It missed Negredo at the front post, but Dzeko was waiting on the penalty spot to side-foot it into the net.

The goal, though, didn’t do much for the game. In the end, it was one of the last few meaningful efforts on goal – with two Dzeko headers being the closest either side came in the final 25 minutes. The first – from deep – was from a Kolarov cross, but was a difficult chance and easy for Speroni, while the second – from a tight angle – couldn’t find the net from a Navas driven ball across.

It wasn’t a pretty game, but City did what they needed to. They enjoy a Saturday night on top of the table and have broken the Premier League record for the most number of goals scored at the midway point in the season.

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.