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 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 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.

Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2

UEFA Champions League, Round of 16
Tuesday 18 February 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Navas (Nasri 57), Toure, Fernandinho, Kolarov (Lescott 57), Silva, Negredo (Dzeko 74)
Unused: Pantilimon, Richards, Garcia, Jovetic
Goals:
Booked: Negredo, Kolarov
Sent Off: Demichelis

Referee: Jonas Eriksson
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Demichelis brings down Messi for a penalty.

Demichelis brings down Messi for a penalty.

City’s Champions League hopes are dangling by a thread – as two away goals for Barcelona look to be enough for the Catalan giants to make it safely into the quarter finals.

The away side were impressive throughout but found City’s back-line difficult to break down, with Hart rarely troubled in the first period. The City keeper was needed to punch clear a corner from Xavi, before that same man tried a speculative effort from range that Hart got over well to palm away.

Despite enjoying very little possession, the Blues actually carved out the better first half chances. Negredo, played through by Silva, tried to flick the ball over the on-rushing Valdes, but the effort didn’t make the goal and Kolarov couldn’t arrive in time to finish.

The Spaniard should have done better when Navas picked him out from the right flank, but under pressure from Pique, he could only flick his header wide. The game settled back into pattern: Barcelona possession, City stoic and disciplined at the back. Kolarov though was lucky not to be shown red for a two-footed lunge.

The same couldn’t be said for Demchelis early in the second half. City’s discipline broke and Messi was clean through on Hart. The Argentine defender dived in on his compatriot, but missed the ball and brought him down in the box. Red card and penalty – no arguments – and Messi got up to score.

Negredo tried to dink the ball past Valdes.

Negredo tried to dink the ball past Valdes.

An already difficult job became almost impossible, as the visitors exploited gaps and dominated possession more so than before. Still, though, City wouldn’t lie down: Nasri had a shot blocked en route to Valdes following a cute back-heel from Negredo.

Xavi headed well over Hart’s bar, before Alves should have doubled the visitors’ advantage. A series of one-touch passes put the right back in and he drilled a shot inches wide of the goalkeeper’s far post.

City were giving it a real go with ten minutes to play. Toure picked out Zabaleta on the right and he volleyed inside for Silva. The Spaniard brought it down on his chest and turned to smash at the far corner, but Valdes was down well to block. Dzeko almost nicked in between the two centre backs, but again the goalkeeper blocked – it wouldn’t have counted though, as the referee spotted a foul.

A 0-1 defeat would have been a tough enough task going to the Nou Camp, but, in stoppage time, Barcelona added a second to virtually end the tie. Another one-touch move sent Alves in on Hart’s goal – and this time he drilled it under the keeper and into the net.

Only a miracle now will see City remain in the Champions League this season.

Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1

FA Premier League
Monday 3 February 2014, 20.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Kolarov, Navas, Demichelis, Toure, Silva, Dzeko, Negredo (Jovetic 57)
Unused: Pantilimon, Boyata, Clichy, Milner, Rodwell, Lopes
Goals:
Booked: Demichelis, Kolarov, Nastasic

Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: Martin Demichelis

Negredo tries to force a mistake.

Negredo tries to force a mistake.

City lost their first home match of the season and ended their brief stay on top spot in the process. In truth, the Blues got exactly what they deserved from the game, with too many of the team failing to show up and rise to the occasion.

The hosts actually started the brighter, with some early pressure on the Chelsea goal. Negredo had the chance to shoot, but his strike cleared Cech’s crossbar.

It soon swung in the visitors’ favour, as Kompany and Nastasic got in each other’s way as the Belgian was chasing back towards his own goal – he just got it behind for a corner.

City saw a lot of the ball but were able to do little with it. Toure couldn’t connect to a Kolarov volley through the box, while Silva scuffed wide from six yards.

A four-on-one breakaway saw Nastasic outnumbered, but the young Serbian held up play to force the attack wide. Hart was off his line sharply to deny Ramires, and Willian’s improvised overhead kick was well over.

Just after the half hour, Chelsea’s pressure paid off. A ball into the box was half cleared by the hosts, as Kompany got down well to make a block. Toure didn’t get out to close Ivanovic down quickly enough for the rebound and the full back’s strike came through a crowded box and beat Hart into the bottom corner.

City were lacklustre going into the break, as Chelsea pressed high and the Blues gave possession away cheaply, culminating in Eto’o smashing a shot into the bar. And those hoping for a change in performance after half time would have been sorely disappointed, as the hosts continued to struggle.

Matic came close to doubling the away side’s lead from long range, as his strike beat Hart but crashed into the post. Toure’s scuffed effort at the other end bobbled wide, as the best the Blues could offer.

With 20 minutes to play, City’s goal was leading a charmed life. This time Cahill won a cross to head towards the corner, but, with Hart beaten, the England defender saw his effort bounce off the post and away.

Silva had left his shooting boots at home, as he scuffed an effort wide from eight yards, after he curled a free kick towards the top corner – but it was touched over by Cech. Dzeko was similarly suffering, skewing a shot through the area.

Chelsea settled for their single goal lead – and City did little to change it, with Jovetic’s shot in stoppage time the best they could muster. Cech made a meal of it, pushing it over for a corner, but it was straight at him.

Too many didn’t play well enough for the home side to win, and Chelsea were deserved winners.