Crystal Palace 0 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League
Sunday 27 April 2014, 16.10 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Toure (Fernandinho 66), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo 88), Aguero (Jovetic 78)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Dzeko (4), Toure (43)
Booked: Zabaleta

Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Zabaleta crunches into a challenge.

Zabaleta crunches into a challenge.

What a funny old game football can be. After a defeat to Liverpool and a draw with Sunderland, the title was but a pipe dream for City fans – but after Chelsea’s win at Anfield and the Blues’ visit to Crystal Palace, it’s now back in their own hands.

As has been a feature of City’s games, it was them who made the brighter start – and had an early goal to match. Aguero was close to getting in behind, while a Zabaleta low cross was cut out, before the ball fell to Toure on the edge of the box. He crossed well for Dzeko, who had slipped in between the two central defenders, and his header powered past the goalkeeper.

The visitors were almost in again a moment later, as a short backpass was intercepted by Aguero as Speroni came to close down the angle. The Argentine was forced wide and couldn’t find the gap through to goal – in the end the goalkeeper managed to get the ball behind.

With just over 20 minutes gone, City were close to doubling their lead. First, Zabaleta got in behind on a floated ball by Toure, but he couldn’t generate power on his header, so chose to square for Aguero. It wouldn’t sit up for him to shoot, though, and, as it came out to Milner, the cross was deflected behind. Kompany’s free header from the corner was a just wide from six yards.

City wanted a penalty with 10 minutes of the half to play, but it would have been harsh: Toure’s shot from the edge of the box was blasted towards goal and it caught Delaney on the arm in front of his chest. He was close to the shot, though, and the referee rightly played on.

As half time approached, City doubled their lead. A one-two between Toure and Nasri sent the Ivorian clean through. He took a bad first touch and got the ball caught under his feet, but had the awareness and strength to power through and knock it back onto his left foot inside. As the goalkeeper came out, he curled it into the top corner on his weaker foot.

Milner battles to win back possession.

Milner battles to win back possession.

City came out for the second half sloppily – the hosts had the initiative from the off and, in the first minute, forced Hart into his first save of the match. Puncheon fired an effort from the edge of the box that might have crept it and, being unsure, the goalkeeper touched it behind. He was then off his line quickly to punch the resulting corner clear.

A marauding run from Toure down the right, after he was set free by Dzeko in the centre of midfield, came close to picking out Aguero in the middle as he’d powered his way down the flank. He tried to cross low, but it was cut out by Dann en route to the Argentine.

With 20 minutes to play, Aguero went close with an outside-of-the-foot shot from inside the box on a quick breakaway – Milner fed it back inside and allowed the striker to get a shot in. Dzeko went close from the other corner of the box a moment later, as his effort took a deflection and almost sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Speroni, though, was able to stick out a foot to make the save.

The hosts tried to pile pressure on the City goal in the closing stages, but the visitors were firm in defence, with little getting through to Hart. It was a vital three points for Pellegrini’s men, who can now take the title should they win all three of their remaining games.

Manchester City 3 West Bromwich Albion 1

FA Premier League
Monday 21 April 2014, 20.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho Nasri, Silva (Milner 70), Dzeko (Kolarov 89), Aguero (Jovetic 64)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Negredo
Goals: Zabaleta (3), Aguero (10), Demichelis (36)
Booked: Demichelis

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Dzeko and Ridgewell challenge for the ball.

Dzeko and Ridgewell challenge for the ball.

Manchester City bounced back from disappointing results against Liverpool and Sunderland with a comfortable win over West Brom – though the fans will be leaving disappointed that it finished at just 3-1, given how dominant the Blues had been and, should Chelsea beat Liverpool in their coming game, goal difference could be a factor in the title race. City still need favours from elsewhere – but they went about their business just in case of a slip up from their opponents.

It started brightly and, just as with their last match, the hosts took the lead very early on. Aguero latched on to a short clearance and, having taken a touch to control, he volleyed at goal. Foster pushed it away well, but Zabaleta was following in to head home the rebound.

It got better just a few minutes later. Criticism of the week before when the Blues failed to capitalise on their lead and took their foot off the gas was gone – as Aguero doubled the advantage. He picked up the ball on the left side of the box, jinked inside and belted it into Foster’s bottom corner. City were in full control.

However, a botched free kick gave the visitors the chance to break. Fernandinho and Silva dallied over a routine that could have come from the hotel bar rather than the training ground and West Brom stole in to break – and Dorrans scored a brilliant volley with one of the best counter attacks of the campaign.

Ten minutes before the break, though, and the hosts’ two-goal advantage was restored. Nasri’s corner to the front post was flicked across the face of goal where Demichelis was able to adjust his feet to redirect it into the net – completing City’s trio of Argentine scorers, but also completing the scoring for the evening.

Pellegrini will be hoping that the decision to ease off and control possession instead of making goals the priority doesn’t come back to haunt his side – especially as a block from Kompany on a shot from eight yards left Hart stranded, but the defection took it over and onto the roof of the net.

The second half was dominated by the home side, but with very little penetration. Silva slipped Zabaleta in cutely down the right, but his low cross to the front post was cut out brilliantly before Nasri could arrive to turn it into the net.

With 20 minutes to play there was a blow for the home side. Silva – who had, once more been the architect of everything City had done well offensively and who had only just returned from injury – went down after a collision with Jones and Amalfitano and didn’t get back up. He needed the stretcher to leave the field with what looked like another ankle injury.

For the remainder of the game there was plenty of huffing and puffing, but little in the way of action. Hart was down well to block Amalfitano’s effort as it came at him suddenly past Anichebe, while Dzeko and Jovetic both fired wide after some near build-up at the other end. Milner also went close after Nasri played him in, but his low drive from a tight angle was well blocked by Foster.

While the most importing thing for City was to get the win, the Blues will be disappointed not to capitalise on their early dominance.

Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0

FA Cup Fifth Round
Saturday 15 February 2014, 17.15 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Garcia, Toure, Milner, Silva (Navas 69), Jovetic (Nasri 61), Dzeko (Negredo 81)
Unused: Hart, Richards, Demichelis, Kolarov
Goals: Jovetic (16), Nasri (67)
Booked: Kompany, Jovetic, Toure, Garcia

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Jovetic opens the scoring.

Jovetic opens the scoring.

Following the defeat to Chelsea less than a fortnight ago, the Blues looked like a team on a missing to avoid their second home defeat in a month. Chelsea – lining up very strongly, despite City’s four changes from their last match. In the end, the visitors couldn’t get a kick of the ball in a meaningful area and the hosts cruised to victory.

Jovetic teased the home crowd with what was to come as he came close to opening the scoring on the quarter-hour mark. Toure kept his feet after a foul by Matic and, with the referee playing advantage, he smashed a shot towards Cech’s goal. The goalkeeper made a hash of dealing with it, fumbling it to the feet of the Montenegrin striker, whose first-time dink towards goal clipped the crossbar.

A minute later, though, the forward hit the frame of the goal again – but this time it also hit the back of the net. Silva and Dzeko linked up well down the left flank and it was good awareness from the Bosnian to slide the ball into the path of the on-rushing Jovetic. He passed it across the sprawling Cech and into the net via the base of the post.

On 24 minutes, the Blues came close to doubling their lead with the same combination – this time in reverse. Jovetic found Dzeko in space on the edge of the box and he belted a curling effort towards the top corner, with only a double-handed flying save from Cech preventing it from going in.

Zabaleta tackles Eto'o.

Zabaleta tackles Eto’o.

Clichy played a brilliant cross into the middle that had both Luiz and Cech flapping, but Dzeko was unable to take advantage to knock home, before Jovetic rolled an effort into the goalkeeper’s hands. City were all over their opponents, who were still yet to start the game.

On the stroke of half time, it was a mystery how City hadn’t doubled their lead. Milner broke down the right flank after Jovetic had been ploughed through by Luiz – who later received a booking for the foul – and drove a low cross towards the front post. Dzeko was inches from touching it into the net, but couldn’t quite connect.

After the break, the pattern of play didn’t change. With many wondering if Mourinho’s side would raise their game, it was the hosts who looked more likely to add the next goal of the contest. And, just six minutes after coming on after his return from injury, Nasri did exactly that. He slid Silva in on the left side, and, as the Spaniard drew Cech off his line, he fed it back to Nasri to tap into the empty net.

It looked like it was three for City with 15 minutes left on the clock. Garcia rose highest at a corner and nodded back across goal. It needed a great save from Cech to keep it out, but Lescott turned in the rebound – though the linesman had (correctly) spotted he was in an offside position.

City were able to see the game out comfortably, with Pantilimon easing the pressure in taking several crosses from their air and with the hosts’ forward players keeping possession well – so well that Matic’s swipe at Toure’s legs earned him a late yellow card.

The Blues put another dent in Chelsea’s remarkable FA Cup run – being the only side to have beaten them in the competition without a penalty shoot-out in their last 33 matches – and knock them out for the second season running.

Manchester City 4 Cardiff City 2

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

Dzeko nets City's 100th of the season.

Dzeko nets City’s 100th of the season.

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.

Kompany holds off Mutch.

Kompany holds off Mutch.

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.

Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3

FA Premier League
Saturday 15 December 2012, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, K Toure, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Y Toure (c), Silva, Nasri (Kolarov 37 (Dzeko 72)), Aguero, Tevez (Lescott 79)
Unused: Pantilimon, Sinclair, Razak, Rekik
Goals: Aguero (10), Garcia (39), Y Toure (78)
Booked: Aguero, K Toure

Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabatela

Newcastle1Newcastle were out of the blocks quicker than the visitors, who opened by looking fragile at the back. Kolo Toure and Nastasic challenged for the same ball and left a gap for the hosts to attack in behind. Clichy cleared, but from the ball back in, Tiote found Cisse, who smashed a shot at goal and it took a great save from Hart to keep it out. The City keeper then needed to be alert from a Newcastle corner, punching clear from under his own crossbar.

Despite that early pressure, though, City’s first attack brought the first goal. Yaya Toure produced a wonderful pass to Nasri, breaking into the box. He drew Krul from his goal and squared it for Aguero, breaking into the six-yard box, leaving the Argentine with an open goal that he couldn’t miss.

Minutes later, it could have been two from City. Newcastle looked over-awed as Silva and Nasri played a one-two on the left flank and, as the passing move worked the Spaniard into the box, he squared for Tevez. The striker’s first touch meant it was a difficult volley and Krul produced a good save to keep it out. Nasri found himself in again shortly after and tried to square for Tevez, but it was just too far in front of him.

City were attacking like a hot knife through butter: Silva was terrorising the Newcastle back line and played Nasri in. The Frenchman, facing Krul on a one-on-one, slid it past the goalkeeper and was unlucky to see it bounce back off the post. Aguero was there for the rebound and it looked a certain goal, but Williamson threw himself at the ball and got it behind.

Newcastle, though, weren’t out of it: A free kick on the left flank was nodded back across goal and it needed Hart to come off his line to boot the ball away. From the resulting knock down, the volley was slammed towards the back post, but the City keeper got across brilliantly to keep it out.

Newcastle2Another flowing move from City saw Nasri and Tevez combine quickly to work the opening down the right flank. Nasri was in behind the home side’s defence and he squared for Aguero, whose first time shot was wide of the post. A City breakaway sent Silva running at the Newcastle back line. He played in Tevez and the Argentine’s shot deflected wide. From the corner, Garcia got up above Coloccini and planted it past Santon on the line.

The second half began as a repeat of the first, with Newcastle pressure. Ba was just offside from a deep free kick, before Cisse headed powerfully over. After blazing past Zabaleta on the left wing, Santon cut inside and drove a low shot at goal, which hit the base of Hart’s post and bounced behind.

And then the hosts got themselves back into the game. The first ball into the City box was cleared, but the back line was late in pushing out, leaving Ba onside. His header bounced over Hart, who had come for the cross and stopped, leaving himself stranded in no man’s land. Immediately, they could have been level, as Cisse found space in the box to turn and shoot, but his effort was well over the bar.

With 56 minutes played, a brilliant ball from Zabaleta played Tevez in on goal. Krul was out quickly to block the effort, as Tevez tried to lift it over him, when perhaps the better option was a square pass to Aguero.

On the hour mark, Newcastle were stepping up the pressure and City were struggling to clear their lines. Several balls into the box were just about headed clear by Kolo Toure and Clichy, before Hart was out quickly to get a Tevez knock-back away from goal. From the final corner of that spell, Ba smashed a low shot, but it could only ruffle the side netting.

But despite the Newcastle pressure, somewhat against the run of play, the visitors extended their lead. Some good work by Silva kept the ball alive on the left. He played in Zabaleta on the overlap and the Argentine’s low ball into the box was prodded home from six yards, by the stand-in captain, Yaya Toure.

With five minutes to play, Ameobi headed a great chance straight at Hart when he should have made the goalkeeper work. From Hart’s kick, Dzeko held the ball up and slid it to Aguero, who fired a shot from the edge of the box. Krul threw himself at it, but if flashed just wide of the far post. A minute later, it broke to Aguero with just one defender between him and the goal. He got away from Anita, but his chip over Krul dropped well wide of the post.

Stoke 1 Manchester City 1

FA Premier League
Saturday 15 September 2012, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Maicon, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Garcia, Y Toure, Nasri, Sinclair (Silva 74), Balotelli (Dzeko 90), Tevez (Barry 63)
Unused: Wright, Kolarov, K Toure, Rodwell
Goals: Garcia (35)
Booked: Garcia

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

The early pressure came from the visiting side, as Tevez unleashed a shot at goal that curled just around the post. There was confusion, as City believed they should have had a free kick when the referee had played advantage, but it was eventually decided a corner was the correct outcome. Stoke were able to get the ball away, as Begovic claimed under pressure.

But it wasn’t long until Stoke responded and they did so with a goal. City couldn’t clear their lines from a corner and it broke to Crouch on the penalty spot. He stumbled his way through the crowded box and through the challenges from Garcia and Lescott to slide it past Hart.

With 21 minutes gone, the visitors should have been level. Tevez picked up the ball in midfield from Toure and slid a cute pass into the box for Balotelli. A neat turn by the Italian gave him the chance to shoot cleanly at goal. However, his effort on his left foot was poor and he whipped it straight over the bar.

Ten minutes before the break, City had pulled themselves level. Balotelli turned inside the Stoke half and earned a free-kick on the left flank. Tevez curled the ball into the box between the goalkeeper and the line of defence, where Javi Garcia connected to it and nodded it into the back of the net. City’s pressure had paid off. A minute later, Maicon tried a volley coming into the box on the right hand side, but Begovic was able to spoon it behind.

City ended the half stronger: Begovic was twice in action to collect the ball as first Kompany crossed to the middle as it broke to him from a corner, before Yaya Toure smashed an effort right at the goalkeeper from well outside the box. Tevez was lurking, but there were no rebounds. The Argentine had an effort himself on the left side of the box, but again it was right down the goalkeeper’s throat.

The start of the second half, though, belonged to the hosts. City were struggling to cope under pressure from Stoke and Lescott didn’t get tight enough to Crouch as the former England international hit a shot at goal. Hart, though, was able to gather it and take control of the situation. Javi Garcia picked up a yellow card for a hefty challenge on Kightly.

Crouch should have done better as he won a header at the back post, but Hart was in the right place to collect it and set City away on the attack. From it, Sinclair found Yaya Toure in the box and he shot low, but Begovic blocked his one-on-one behind for a corner. Maicon’s flag kick was well cleared. City were still on the back foot.

A Gareth Barry cross then found its way to Yaya Toure in the box, but it was difficult for him to control. Instead of trying to trap it, he laid it off for Nasri to shoot, but the Frenchman’s effort was blocked en route to goal. City were slowly getting themselves a foothold into the half. A crossfield pass aimed towards Maicon was well cut out and the header back to Begovic had just enough to stop the full back intercepting.

City were beginning to keep the ball well as the game entered the final ten minutes, but it was the final pass that was proving a problem. Maicon tried to return a one-two with David Silva, but his pass was overhit and ran behind, rather than putting the Spaniard through. This was after Garcia tried an effort at goal from long range, but it was blocked by the home side’s defence.

With minutes to play, Nasri smashed a shot at goal from the edge of the box and it forced Begovic into a good save. He pushed the ball back into the middle, but there was nobody there to capitalise for the visitors. City also had a shout for a penalty turned down, as Barry went down in the box.

Yaya Toure picked out Clichy with a fantastic ball over the top and the full back forced a corner with his pull back on the volley. From that, Garcia rose higher than anybody and nodded at goal, but Begovic got down superbly to block and hold it.

Dzeko almost won it for City as he was played through over the top – he lobbed it over the onrushing Begovic and it looked destined for the net, but Shawcross didn’t give it up and he toe-poked if off the line with just 30 seconds left to play. City had themselves a point and, overall, probably just shaded it, but it’s not to be sniffed at, given the blues’ recent record at the Britannia Stadium.