Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Sunday 13 April 2014, 13.37 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Toure (Garcia 19), Fernandinho, Navas (Milner 50), Nasri, Silva, Dzeko (Aguero 68)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Negredo, Kolarov
Goals: Silva (57), Johnson (og 62)
Booked: Garcia, Fernandinho, Zabaleta

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: James Milner

Hart organises his defence.

Hart organises his defence.

The afternoon at Anfield kicked off seven minutes late as a mark of respect for the 96 fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough in 1989 – and the minutes’ silence was well observed by both sets of player and fans. It was a fitting tribute for the 25th anniversary of the disaster.

The visitors were behind early on and it was the hosts who had put them under pressure from the off. Suarez played a neat through-ball for Sterling to run in behind Kompany and, facing Hart on a one-on-one, side-stepped past the goalkeeper and slotted it into the net. City couldn’t have asked for a worse start.

It was almost two after 15 minutes, as Clichy was too easily beaten by Sterling on the right flank and the youngster whipped in a cross behind the City back four. Kompany couldn’t reach it and Sturridge – free in the middle – side-footed it wide. He was stretching, but should have done better. It did get worse for the Blues, though, as Toure had to leave the pitch injured.

Gerrard should have doubled Liverpool’s lead – and he had done everything but beat Hart, who produced a brilliant reaction save to touch the free header over the bar. But from the resulting corner, Skrtel escaped Kompany and flicked the ball into the net. City had a mountain to climb.

City were denied a penalty on the half hour when Dzeko was brought down by Sahko, but the referee decided there was no foul, as the Bosnian over-egged his fall. It was a poor call from the official. Coutinho should have made it three from a breakaway, but he dragged his shot wide.

Mignolet was then bailed out by Johnson, as he came for the cross and missed it, with Dzeko heading towards the empty goal – the full back nodded off the line and it looped up onto the bar. As City broke back again after Hart claimed the ball back, Navas crossed for Fernandinho to volley, but the goalkeeper got down well to push it away.

With 52 minutes on the clock, Suarez should have been shown his second yellow. Demichelis dived in on the forward, but missed the ball and missed the man, yet the striker dropped to ground clutching his foot. He’d dived, the referee saw it, but didn’t show the yellow card – instead giving a goal kick. He bottled it.

City dug deep and dragged themselves back into the game. A good series of passes worked the opening on the right flank and Milner – via a one-two with Zabaleta – got in behind to square for Silva. The Spaniard dinked the ball into the net, past the desperate dive of Skrtel, who tried to slide it off the line.

The visitors twice came close to equalising minutes after their goal: First Silva caused trouble in the box as Skrtel miss-kicked a clearance, before the Spaniard drilled a low cross towards Dzeko. The Bosnian, though, couldn’t connect as he threw himself at it.

City did get their equaliser, though, just after the hour mark. Silva and Nasri linked up down the left flank and the Frenchman played the Spaniard in. He drilled it into the box once more and it ricocheted off Johnson and sent Mignolet the wrong way – it followed a great challenge by Zabaleta, who won the ball from Sturridge with a last-gasp tackle in the box.

With 15 minutes to play, City were inches away from getting in front. Aguero rolled Skrtel on the left flank and drove towards the box. Instead of taking the shot on, he played it in for Silva in the middle – the Spaniard had to dive to reach it, but he couldn’t turn it into the net.

Two minutes later, though, City hit self-destruct. The Blues were in control of the game, but a throw-in was miss-kicked by Kompany straight to Coutinho. The Liverpool man hit it first time and curled it around Hart into the bottom corner. City had it all to do again.

In stoppage time, the away side were denied a penalty when Skrtel punched the ball clear, before Henderson over-ran the ball and dived in on Nasri as the Blues tried to break again with possession. The Liverpool man went in with a straight leg and was rightly dismissed, but City felt the red card should have come at the start of the second half, not the end – it came too late to change the game.

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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.

Fulham 2 Manchester City 4

FA Premier League
Saturday 21 December 2013, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Clichy, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Nasri (Milner 75), Fernandinho, Toure, Silva (Garcia 84), Dzeko (Navas 58), Negredo
Unused: Pantilimon, Boyata, Rodwell, Guidetti
Goals: Toure (23), Kompany (43), Navas (78), Milner (83)
Booked: Demichelis

Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: David Silva

Fernandinho holds off Sidwell.

Fernandinho holds off Sidwell.

It was the home side that were off to the better start, as they forced a goalmouth scramble from a corner. Minutes later, Hart pulled off a great save to deny Taarabt, after Clichy had slipped in the build-up. The return ball in was well cleared by Kompany. It sparked City into life and, on the break, Dzeko fed Silva, whose effort crashed back off the crossbar.

The game had been struggling to get any momentum behind it. Hart held onto an effort from Taarabt from range, before Toure smashed a free kick into the net from the edge of the box. All eyes were on Kolarov, but the Ivorian smashed it off the underside of the bar, leaving the goalkeeper standing.

On the half hour, the visitors should have gone two goals up but for a poor decision from Dzeko. Negredo broke with power and pace and found the Bosnian inside the box, but he tried to place his effort instead of sliding Fernandinho in beside him, but Hughes blocked it. From that breakaway, Taarabt had the opportunity to shoot and it needed Hart to push it behind.

Five minutes later, again the Blues should have doubled their lead. Dzeko fed Kolarov on the left and found space in the box for the return pass. There, the striker’s side-footed shot was too close to Stekelenburg and he parried it to safety. A minute later, the Bosnian could only head straight at the keeper as he broke the offside trap.

Another goalmouth scramble followed a great block by Kompany from Taarabt. The resulting corner allowed Fulham to smash the ball into the box and it needed a toe-end from Toure to get it clear, as three different white shirts tried to find room for the shot.

On the stroke of half time, the Blues did double their lead. A free kick from the right flank found Demichelis totally unmarked and the Argentine headed across goal for the far post. Stekelenburg parried and Kompany was on hand to stab the rebound into the roof of the net.

Hart makes an important block.

Hart makes an important block.

A minute into the second half and it could – perhaps should – have been three for the visitors. Some good possession play released Kolarov down the left and he slid the ball back into the middle for Silva. The Spaniard had to stretch to connect and Stekelenburg was just able to grasp the shot.

Despite the good start to the half by City, it was the hosts who pulled a goal back. Silva wasn’t able to skip away from the challenge on the edge of the box and Fulham broke with pace. Taarabt beat Clichy on the right and he drove into the City area to square for Richardson, who had the simple task of touching it into the net.

With 56 minutes played, Fulham should have equalised. A cross from the right beat the whole of the City back line and Sidwell dived in to head it – but it was wide. Had he left it for Taarabt behind, he would surely have scored. There were four Fulham players offside, however the linesman didn’t flag.

On the hour mark, the Blues should have killed the game. Silva superbly picked out Negredo running into the box, but the Spaniard’s effort was blocked. It fell to Navas – just on for Dzeko – but the winger’s shot was well wide from eight yards out. It should have found the net.

It was chance that City would come to regret as a freak goal pulled Fulham level. A miss-hit cross from Riise was skewed into the air by Kompany and it lobbed over his own goalkeeper onto the underside of the bar. Despite the best efforts of Hart and Clichy, it bounced into the net for the equaliser.

The parity didn’t last long though. Despite having fallen off the pace in the second half, City got their noses in front once again – as Navas was set through down the right flank. He powered past the Fulham defence and, from a tight angle, smashed the shot through Stekelenburg’s legs.

Just as Fulham were preparing for a final onslaught, City added their fourth. Silva found Negredo wide on the right and, with the outside of his right foot, he pulled off one of the passes of the season to pick out the run of Milner into the box. The substitute finished with ease, first time.

It killed the game off and secured City’s third Premier League away win of the season.

Leicester City 1 Manchester City 3

League Cup Quarter Final
Tuesday 17 December 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta (Boyata 12), Lescott, Kompany (c), Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Rodwell, Navas, Silva (Nasri 70), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Negredo
Goals: Kolarov (8), Dzeko (41, 53)
Booked: Navas, Boyata

Referee: Roger East
Man of the Match: James Milner

Rodwell takes on Schmeichel.

Rodwell takes on Schmeichel.

City named a strong side for their trip to Leicester, with the Blues having struggled away from home. It took just eight minutes for the visitors to open the scoring, as Dzeko turned away from Knockaert and the Leicester man brought him down 30 yards from goal. Kolarov stepped up and curled it into the top corner.

However, Pellegrini’s decision to play a strong starting XI looked like it might have backfired after 12 minutes – Zabaleta was forced off through injury, which was unwelcome given the absence of Richards with a hamstring problem from the trip to Munich.

Mid-way through the first half, the visitors should have gone two goals in front. Silva slipped Kolarov through on the left flank and as he raced into the box he squared it for Dzeko. It needed touching past Schmeichel, but the striker could only find the former City keeper, who spread himself well to block. Rodwell’s follow up was skewed wide.

The away side were beginning to pile on the pressure. A Silva corner found its way to Kolarov, who volleyed towards the top corner, but Schmeichel punched it over the bar. Rodwell climbed well from the next flag kick, but that was also deflected high by one of the covering defenders.

Despite some high pressing by Leicester, a decisive City break as half time approached doubled the visitors’ advantage. Navas slid the pass through to Milner on the inside left channel and, facing Schmeichel, he chipped the cross to Dzeko, arriving at the back post. The Bosnian nodded it down and into the net.

Navas picked up a loose ball in the box following a Schmeichel save from a Milner effort, before the Spaniard had another pop after some great work between Rodwell and Silva to slid the winger in. It took a full length stretch from the Leicester goalkeeper to make this save – and this time he held on, with Dzeko closing in.

Five minutes into the second half, the home side forced Hart into a good save. A break had allowed the ball to creep through to King on the edge of the box and he tried to curl it around the England goalkeeper. He couldn’t wrap his foot around it enough and the City shot-stopper held it.

Silva skips a challenge.

Silva skips a challenge.

But just as soon as it looked like the hosts could get back into the game, the visitors added their third. Milner collected a throw-in from Kolarov on the left flank. There, he pulled it across the box for Dzeko – and the unmarked striker passed it into the bottom corner, leaving Schmeichel standing.

With just under 15 minutes left to play, the hosts pulled a goal back. It was one the City defence wouldn’t have been pleased with, as Boyata was too far from his man and allowed the ball to be knocked inside to Dyer. He smashed a shot towards goal, which deflected off Kompany and beat Hart at his near post – as he reacted to the initial effort.

A poor ball from Kompany across his own half allowed Schlupp to run at goal and it needed a big tackle from Lescott to prevent him getting a shot in. The rebound fell to James, whose shot was well held by Hart, who needed to be at full stretch to keep it out.

Deep into stoppage time, the hosts had a chance to add their second. Schlupp got in behind Lescott on the Leicester right and tried to square for Dyer, but Hart anticipated it well to drop down onto the low cross and regain possession for City. Had Schlupp shot, he may have found the net.

In the end, City never really got out of second gear – but did enough to make it into the semi-finals.

Bayern Munich 2 Manchester City 3

UEFA Champions League Group D
Tuesday 10 December 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Richards (Zabaleta 16), Kolarov (c), Demichelis, Lescott, Garcia, Fernandinho, Milner, Navas, Silva (Negredo 73), Dzeko (Rodwell 88)
Unused: Pantilimon, Boyata, Kompany, Aguero
Goals: Silva (28), Kolarov (pen 59), Milner (62)
Booked: Dzeko, Milner, Fernandinho, Zabaleta

Referee: David Fernandez Borbalan
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Silva opens the scoring for City.

Silva opens the scoring for City.

The impression that it was going to be a long night for the visitors was there from the off, as Bayern quickly took control of possession and pinned City back into their own penalty area. With just five minutes played, the first real chance sprung the opening goal – Muller, who looked just offside, got in behind Kolarov and beat Hart on a one-on-one.

City were all at sea and it was two after ten minutes. Hart had been alert to touch the ball onto the post, but from the resulting corner Lescott and Garcia fumbled over a clearance. It landed to Mandzukic, whose shot landed to the feet of Gotze. He was never going to miss facing Hart, as he was played on by Demichelis.

Milner came close to pulling a goal back after Dzeko nodded a Navas cross back to the midfielder, but it was saved by Neuer. From the resulting break, the Blues lost Richards – who had pulled up previously with a muscle injury, and in the sprint to get to the ball first seemingly made it worse.

With the half hour approaching, Bayern slowed their tempo down and City picked it up. A spell of possession allowed Navas to cross from the right and it bounced through to Milner on the left. He nodded it back to the middle, where Silva was unmarked to slot it under Neuer.

A cute through ball from Ribery picked out Gotze in behind Zabaleta, as Muller was offside in the middle and the City players stopped. Hart, however, stayed big and was off his line swiftly to make the save – and he won the goal kick, deflecting the ball behind back off the striker. Seconds later, it took a last-gasp block from Demichelis to stop Muller pulling the trigger facing the City keeper on a one-on-one.

Zabaleta passes past Alaba.

Zabaleta passes past Alaba.

Five minutes into the second half, and both sides had been feeling their way back into the match. Kolarov was needed to tidy up a skewed Demichelis clearance, after Zabaleta had blocked an Alaba cross. Some neat work by Milner and Silva forged a chance for Dzeko to shoot – but Neuer gathered his near-post effort at the second attempt.

With the hour mark approaching, City were handed the chance on a plate to pull level. Silva slipped Milner into the inside left channel and he had his ankles clipped by Dante – who was lucky not to see a second yellow card – and the referee pointed to the spot. Kolarov stepped up and sent Neuer the wrong way.

Three minutes later and City had the lead. Silva threaded Navas through on the right flank and he crossed low towards Dzeko. It should have been cleared ahead of the striker by Boateng, but he missed it completely and it fell to Milner, who slotted first time across Neuer and into the bottom corner.

With ten minutes to play, Negredo’s pressure on Dante bought him a chance to shoot on goal. He nicked the ball from the defender and was clean through wide on the left. His shot to the far corner was just – just – saved by Neuer’s trailing leg.

In the end, City came back from two goals behind and completed three away wins in the Champions League – they were one goal away from topping the group.

Manchester City 5 Wigan Athletic 0

League Cup Third Round
Tuesday 25 September 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (c), Lescott, Boyata, Clichy, Milner, Garcia, Fernandinho (Toure 46), Lopes (Navas 71), Dzeko (Negredo 79), Jovetic
Unused: Wright, Kolarov, Nastasic, Nasri
Goals: Dzeko (33), Jovetic (60, 83), Toure (76), Navas (86)
Booked:

Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: James Milner

Wigan1

Dzeko opens the scoring.

City’s first involvement in the League Cup saw a repeat of last season’s FA Cup final. Now a division between the two sides, the hosts went in as favourites and it would have to be a pretty severe beating for it to count as any sort of ‘revenge’. Wigan’s fans could have lost tonight by ten and still not had a sense of remorse over dominating the last cup meeting.

As it happens, it was half that – as City dominated the match from start to finish. The atmosphere was (understandably) some way behind that of the previous Sunday though, despite ten changes to the side, City’s performance was not.

It started after just four minutes, when the returning Richards connected to a Lopes corner, but it was well saved by the visiting goalkeeper. Less than a minute later, the combination was the same – though, this time, Nicholls tipped the ball away acrobatically.

As much as the Blues were in control of the game, it seemed flag kicks were creating their best opportunities, as on the quarter hour mark, Boyata got into a promising position from a corner. However, the Belgian couldn’t keep the effort down. It was Dzeko’s turn to miss with a header shortly after – this one from open play – as Milner found him on the penalty spot.

The hosts were getting closer. On the half hour, Lopes almost opened the scoring as he cracked a shot against the underside of the crossbar. Jovetic had slipped in the build-up, but the ball ran kindly for the youngster to shoot and he was inches away from finding the net for the second time in his second appearance.

Finally, though, the pressure told. Fernandinho picked out a sublime chipped pass over the top for Dzeko to run on to and the Bosnian made no mistake in giving the hosts the lead, sliding the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper.

As the second half got underway, City were piling on the pressure. A Toure header dropped just wide from a corner, following a spell of pinball in the Wigan box which saw a deflected Milner effort hit the post. Lopes twice came close, too – diverting a cross wide and having a volley blocked.

Wigan2

Jovetic is off the mark for City.

After an hour, City doubled their lead and it was a home debut goal for Jovetic. It was a scrappy goal following some great play by Richards to get the ball across, but the Montenegrin did enough to force it over the line. His initial shot was saved by Nicholls, but the rebound hit the striker and found the net.

With 15 minutes to play, Toure’s work on the training ground had once again paid off as he scored his third free kick of the season, from almost exactly the same position. As if it wasn’t already, the goal made the game safe and City would be in the hat for the next round.

And it showed – as Wigan waved the white flag. First, it was Jovetic to take advantage again, following a powerful run from Milner. His cross deflected to the striker and he forced it under the goalkeeper at his near post.

Then, just three minutes later, Navas grabbed his first goal for the club. It was one substitute to another, as Negredo played his countryman into the box, where the winger belted the ball into the net at the near post.

It was all too comfortable in the end.

Reading 0 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Tuesday 14 May 2013, 20.00 KO

City: Hart, Richards (c), K Toure (Maicon 15), Lescott, Clichy, Y Toure, Barry (Garcia 58), Milner, Silva, Tevez, Aguero (Dzeko 63)
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Nasri, Rodwell
Goals: Aguero (40), Dzeko (88)
Booked: Barry

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: James Milner

Reading1The game began to a chorus of Mancini chants from the away end and it was the visitors who were quickest out of the blocks. Within four minutes, City had wasted a good chance from the edge of the box as Milner skied his shot, Aguero had an effort saved and the rebound blocked, and a long potshot from Silva was well held by McCarthy. City’s post-Mancini era had started with them on the front foot.

On six minutes, City really should have been ahead. The ball was given away on the edge of the Reading box and Tevez slipped it through to Milner. His shot was well blocked by McCarthy, but the rebound fell invitingly for Aguero. The Argentine raced onto it and nearly found the back of the net, but, once again, the goalkeeper managed to block it behind.

Reading then had a spell of possession thanks to some sloppy City play. Kolo Toure had to leave the game with injury, before a bad throw from Joe Hart allowed the home side to take the ball. Robson-Kanu took on a shot from the edge of the box, but the goalkeeper recovered to save it comfortably. And the game subsequently became scrappy, as both sides began to give the ball away in the wet conditions.

With half an hour played, both sides had great chances to take the lead. Reading forced a great save from Hart, as a low shot skipped off the ground and needed to be pushed away. At the other end, Yaya Toure was played in by Aguero and he found Tevez in the middle, but he couldn’t dig the ball from his feet and McCarthy was out to smother the effort.

A flowing move from the visitors almost led to the opening goal with 39 minutes played. Silva was played in cutely by Maicon and the Spaniard’s low ball into the box was left by Tevez for Aguero. He shot first time, but it was deflected over. From the resulting corner – which was taken short – a series of one-twos between Milner and Silva gave the England international the chance to square it low. He picked out Aguero, who opened his body to divert the ball into the back of the net.

With the half coming to a close, there was more brilliant football from the visitors. Aguero via Maicon found Toure and he ran at the box. He slipped it to Milner, who did the same back to Aguero and, after dancing around the last-ditch challenge, he fired at goal, but it was well saved once again. The rebound fell nicely for Clichy, but his effort was over the bar.

Reading2The second half started much how the first ended: Both sides attacked and there could have been goals aplenty. McCarthy palmed out a Tevez low cross straight between Barry and Milner lurked on the edge of the box, before Hart pulled off a brilliant stop from Pogrebnyak, as he skipped away from Maicon to head at goal. Tevez then robbed the ball in the Reading box, but his shot was deflected over. It was all go.

With 56 minutes played, City produced yet more fantastic build-up. One touch passing allowed Tevez the chance to touch it back to Toure on the edge of the box, and the Ivorian’s effort was aimed at the bottom corner. McCarthy, though, got down well to push the ball behind. Even though it was only a one goal advantage, the away side were cruising.

With 20 minutes to play, Reading’s first corner of the game was well defended by the visitors, who were then able to break away. Silva carried the ball towards the opposition box, before slipping it through to Dzeko, who was just onside. He cut back onto his left side to sell a dummy to the defender, but could only pick out McCarthy’s gloves. Toure did the same as a deflected Maicon effort fell nicely for the midfielder on the edge of the area.

Seven minutes later, a Reading free kick held in the wind and dropped nicely for McCleary to shoot at goal. It was deflected and, with Hart committed to the first effort, it dropped behind with the England goalkeeper only able to watch. From the corner, Tevez was in the right place at the right time to head it clear from the line.

As the game headed towards full time, the visitors managed to finally add another goal to their tally for the evening, having converted the second of their many, many chances. Dzeko missed the opportunity to square for Tevez, but it broke kindly for Silva. He picked out Dzeko again, once he was back onside, and the Bosnian side-stepped the challenge before sliding the ball under McCarthy.

City cruised to victory with perhaps their performance of the season and they secured second place in the table.