Manchester City 3 Sunderland 1

League Cup Final
Sunday 2 March 2014, 14.00 KO

City: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Zabaleta, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri, Silva (Garcia 77), Aguero (Navas 58), Dzeko (Negredo 88)
Unused: Hart, Clichy, Lescott, Milner
Goals: Toure (55), Nasri (56), Navas (90)
Booked: Negredo

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri

Toure scores a stunning equaliser.

Toure scores a stunning equaliser.

Manuel Pellegrini has won his first piece of silverware at Manchester City – at the first time of asking. The Chilean’s side came from behind to lift the League Cup, in a game of contrasting performances from the first and second half.

The Blues had the better of the opening chances, but couldn’t find the early breakthrough: Kompany’s header was deflected behind and, from the resulting corner, Aguero’s shot was blocked before it reached the goalkeeper. Mannone was called into action after eight minutes to push a low drive from the Argentine away – City appeared to have settled the better.

But it was the Black Cats who opened the scoring. A ball over the top found Borini after he had slipped away from Demichelis. Kompany came across to cover, but could only clip the ball into the Sunderland man’s chest to set him clean through on goal. His outside-of-the-right-foot shot bent around Pantilimon and neatly into the bottom corner. City were behind at Wembley again – but, this time, had 80 minutes to undo the damage.

The goal seemed to damage City’s confidence and it was Sunderland who looked more likely to add the next successful strike of the game. Borini volleyed from the edge of the box, but it was deflected over by Dzeko, before Brown’s header from a corner was wide when he should have done better.

Former City winger Johnson then wriggled inside Kolarov and drilled a ball across the face of goal. Kompany did well to clear without putting it through his own goal. A poor call from the linesman then forced the skipper into drastic action as he stopped Borini from adding his second of the game. The striker was one-on-one with Pantilimon – when he should have been flagged well offside – and the skipper slid it to get the ball behind.

Just before half time, the Blues could have been level through Nasri. He broke away from his covering defender and dropped into space, where he was found by Aguero following some neat interplay down the right flank, but the Frenchman’s effort was a comfortable take for Mannone – who’d had a quieter half than he might have expected.

It was a different City side that came out after the break. Zabaleta chipped a cross into the middle that nearly dipped in at the back post, before Silva forced Mannone into a comfortable save with a drive from the edge of the box. A free kick routine was then wasted, as a poor pass to Toure meant he couldn’t get a shot away. It was better from the Blues, but they were still trailing.

However, in the space of two second half minutes, the Blues went from being behind to having the lead. First, Toure chipped the goalkeeper with a beautiful curling effort from outside the box, leaving Mannone flapping at thin air. The Ivorian looked up and stroked it into the top corner to pull City level.

A minute later, a decisive breakaway added their second. Pantilimon took control of the ball in his box and immediately looked long for Aguero, peeling out to the left. He got it under control and laid it off to Kolarov, whose low cross towards Dzeko was deflected to the edge of the box. Arriving late was Nasri, and his outside of the foot volley left Mannone standing, as it brushed the inside of the post on its way in.

Sunderland, though, tried to respond: Pantilimon was forced to punch the ball over his own crossbar as it came into the box, before Demichelis’s clearance landed straight to Ki – but the Argentine defender made up for the error by nodding the incoming cross to safety.

The Black Cats continued to press, but couldn’t find a way through to Pantilimon’s goal. In the end, City had chances to kill the game – Kompany touched a corner just wide, before Zabaleta smashed a shot over from the edge of the box, following a strong run from the right-back position.

The Blues celebrate a League Cup win.

The Blues celebrate a League Cup win.

With a minute to play, City were let off the hook. Fletcher – in acres of space at the back post – arrived late to latch on to Ki’s knockdown, but with the chance to get a shot away with time and space, he miscontrolled and prodded the ball behind for a goal kick.

It proved costly for Sunderland, as, a minute later, Navas sealed the game. Fernandinho won the ball back for the Blues on the edge of their own box and Toure began one of his trademark runs through the middle. He slipped it right to Navas, whose placed effort beat Mannone at his near post.

The Pellegrini era begins with a victory in the League Cup and the Chilean will be hoping that’s the first of many trophies in the cabinet under his management of the club.

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.

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.

Manchester City 6 Tottenham Hotspur 0

FA Premier League
Sunday 24 November 2013, 13.30 KO

City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Nastasic (Lescott 45), Clichy, Navas, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (c), Nasri (Milner 77), Negredo, Aguero (Garcia 69)
Unused: Hart, Richards, Dzeko, Guidetti
Goals: Navas (1, 90+2), Sandro (og 34), Aguero (41, 50), Negredo (55)
Booked: Toure

Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Fernandinho

Navas chips Lloris in the opening seconds.

Navas chips Lloris in the opening seconds.

With a tricky fixture following the disappointing result on Wearside, City were looking for a quick start to ease the worries. That’s exactly what they got: Just 14 seconds in, Lloris spooned a clearance straight to Aguero. The Argentine shot and the keeper parried, but it dropped to Navas – he expertly lobbed it over the stranded goalie and in off the post.

Five minutes after dropping behind, the visitors almost responded. Lennon got in behind Clichy and drilled a low ball through the box. Pantilimon could only flick it towards the back post. It fell kindly to Lamela, who played it past the stranded goalkeeper, but couldn’t beat Demichelis on the line.

It was nearly two for City after seven minutes, as Aguero and Negredo combined on the edge of the box. The Spaniard’s flick sent the Argentine through on goal, but his attempted dink over Lloris was brilliantly saved at the last second. The move was like a hot knife through butter.

The City fans wanted a penalty for a sliding challenge by Sandro on Nasri shortly after, but the referee ruled the Brazilian had claimed the ball with the Frenchman through on goal. He had to get the tackle right and he just did. It was from behind, though, so perhaps the visitors were lucky.

The away side were growing into the game, however. Vertonghen hit a free kick straight at Pantilimon and the keeper swallowed it up, before Soldado’s shot bobbled wide when he really should have hit the target. It summed up Tottenham’s game: Plenty of possession, but little end product.

And they were punished for it. Fernandinho nodded another poor clearance from Lloris down to Nasri on the left flank. He found Aguero and the Argentine drew the goalkeeper, before squaring for Negredo. His shot took and double deflection and dropped into the net, going down as an own goal for Sandro.

Five minutes from half time, the Blues added their third. The hosts had raised their game following a series of challenges that went unpunished when the Blues thought there should have been free kicks, and the response was to bury another chance. Zabaleta delivered a perfect cross from the right for Aguero to sweep into the bottom corner.

Aguero tries a dink over Lloris.

Aguero tries a dink over Lloris.

The first action of the second half saw Aguero double his tally. Toure burst free from the Tottenham defence and, despite being pushed and pulled all over the place, he managed to stay on his feet to deliver a ball across for Aguero to smash past Lloris. The game was as good as over, with 40 minutes still to play.

It was getting embarrassing for the visitors, who were almost a fifth down three minutes later. Nasri broke free on the right and, with Negredo and Zabaleta in the box, chose to chip Lloris. His effort had the keeper flapping and he got nowhere near it, but must have been relieved when it bounced clear off the underside of the crossbar.

A brilliant turn on the edge of the area from Negredo was rewarded by another goal. Dawson couldn’t get near to the Spaniard as he worked the ball onto his left foot to set himself up to bend it around Lloris. With just 55 minutes played, City had scored five and Tottenham were like rabbits in the headlights.

Chances began to flow for the hosts, who were looking like they could add as many as they wanted. Zabaleta had a shot blocked over, while a low cross from Navas was almost squeezed in by Nasri. Negredo also nodded over from six yards with a free header, while Toure sidefooted over from the edge of the box.

Fernandinho should have scored his first City goal with ten minutes to play, as Navas drilled the ball into the box and found the Brazilian with time and space. However, the midfielder got his feet tangled up and it bounced behind via both of his shins.

With the game trundling towards full time, the fans had one more goal to send them on their way. Milner produced a brilliant ball over the top for Navas to chase with Dawson. The Spaniard out-paced his marked and raced through for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Lloris didn’t stand a chance, and the man who opened the scoring rounded it off.

City have now scored more goals at home this season than any team in the Premier League has scored in total.

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.

Manchester City 2 Hull City 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 31 August 2013, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure (c), Silva (Nasri 66), Aguero (Milner 75), Dzeko (Negredo 45), Navas
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Garcia, Jovetic
Goals: Negredo (65), Toure (90)
Booked: Fernandinho, Nastasic

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Jesus Navas

Hull1

Silva is strong against Huddlestone.

Just what the doctor ordered a week after losing unexpectedly to a newly promoted team: Another newly promoted team, but one who built their previous season’s success on steady 1-0 wins. A mean defence and a squad happy to press the ball. The perfect remedy for a City side a bit shaken for confidence. Your sarcasm detector might have broken already…

After a disappointing weekend, the Blues needed a quick start and to be out of the blocks with some early pressure – maybe even an early goal. But it was the visitors who were preying on the hosts’ vulnerability: Graham nearly latched on to a ball over the top, but Aluko missed the golden chance – a one-on-one with Hart, after a mix-up between Nastasic and Lescott.

The linesman’s flag was what saved City from falling behind next. A ball across the back four was missed by everybody but Graham, who slid it into the net past the despairing Hart dive. But it was offside. Just.

Tentatively, the home side responded with some chances of their own. Dzeko met a Navas corner to force McGregor to parry wide and had Lescott’s header been either side of the goalkeeper, it would likely have been the opening goal. As it was, he was able to tip it over the bar.

But after the Tigers had ridden the City reply, the game settled into a gritty pattern. The home side had a lot of the ball, but struggled to use it, while the visitors were wasteful with their passing on the break. On the stroke of half time, Yaya Toure missed a free header from inside the box – and the home side should have gone in a goal up.

Substitute Negredo got his angles all wrong when he was gifted a free header in the opening stages of the second half – a delivery from the right was met by the Spaniard, but he headed well wide.

But any fans hoping that would swing the tie City’s way would have been disappointed. Zabaleta’s miscued header fell to Graham, but his effort was well over the bar. Hart showed neat footwork to evade Aluko, as the Hull man chased him down.

Hull2

Navas tries a spectacular volley.

As the hour mark approached, the home side were improving and getting closer. Navas had a volley wide, while a well-rehearsed free kick found Lescott free at the back-post, but his header across goal was deflected behind. And, as Nasri’s introduction seemed imminent, the hosts took the lead.

A breakaway, led by Navas and Aguero found Zabaleta on the right flank. He got the ball across from deep and early, allowing Negredo to leap higher than any of the visiting defence. He met it and nodded past the star jump of McGregor, straight into the net.

Navas found Nastasic from a free kick, but the Serbian could only find the gloves of McGregor, as the home side looked to put the game to bed. And it was getting nervy – as Kolarov was the wrong side of Boyd, but it took a great challenge for the left-back to recover inside his own box. Two great punches from Hart also cleared the box, as the keeper relieved some of the pressure.

The ultimate relief, though, came from the captain. Nasri was felled on the edge of the box as the game headed for stoppage time. With Toure and Kolarov over it, it was the Ivorian who curled the ball into the top corner – in off the underside of the bar, as the defender on the line could do nothing.

It was far from a classic City performance, but a win’s a win after all.