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.

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Barcelona 2 Manchester City 1 (4-1 agg)

UEFA Champions League, Round of 16
Wednesday 12 March 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Milner, Silva (Negredo 72), Nasri (Navas 75), Aguero (Dzeko 45)
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Boyata, Garcia
Goals: Kompany (89)
Booked: Fernandinho, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Kompany
Sent Off: Zabaleta

Referee: Stephane Lannoy
Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany

Kolarov and Lescott deny Neymar.

Kolarov and Lescott deny Neymar.

City have been knocked out of the Champions League following defeat to Barcelona. The Blues felt aggrieved by refereeing decisions on the night, but ultimately the damage had been done in the first leg.

Lescott was lucky to avoid a yellow card for a pull-back on Messi, before he was lucky not to concede a penalty for a foul on the same man. Hart was off his line quickly to deny Messi, who almost did brilliantly – having kept the ball in – but Kompany recovered to clear.

With 16 minutes gone, City wasted their first good chance. Kolarov played a powerful, low ball into the middle where Milner was unmarked, but the midfielder wasn’t expecting the cross to land at his feet and he shanked his effort wide of the post.

A moment later, though, the visitors should have been behind: The offside flag went up against Alba when he was actually onside – Neymar slotted his square ball in, but it didn’t count. City were riding their luck.

With ten minutes of the half to play, Silva should have done better with time and space on the corner of the box. A great break from Toure played Milner in down the left and he pulled it back across for the Ivorian. He slipped in Silva on the right and, cutting inside, the Spaniard shot for the top corner – but skied the effort.

The home side almost took advantage of a slip from Kolarov. The full back lost his footing when one-on-one with Neymar and the Brazilian shot for Hart’s near post, but the goalkeeper pushed it behind. A clever corner almost caught City out – but Hart again stood up well to block and Lescott and Toure completed the clearance.

Toure competes with Pique.

Toure competes with Pique.

Excellent play from the visitors almost opened the scoring again – Toure chipped a neat ball in to Silva with Zabaleta making a decoy run on the right. The Spaniard flicked it back to Nasri, who volleyed at goal, but it was straight at Valdes. Either side and he’d have scored. The Frenchman was unlucky. At the other end, Fernandinho was required to head off the line, after Neymar rounded Hart.

City began the second half as they did the first – but this time with more impetus. A cheeky run inside from Milner opened up space and Kolarov found the midfielder, who turned to shoot. It was blocked to Silva, who picked out Dzeko and the Bosnian’s effort – low and hard – forced Valdes into a comfortable stop to his left.

Five minutes into the half, Lescott was lucky again facing off against Messi. The defender gave the ball away and chased back, where he did his best to slow the Argentine down. Messi, though, wriggled free and shot low to Hart’s right – who threw himself at it, but couldn’t reach. It bounced back into play from the post.

Immediately, City went down the other end on the attack. Kolarov found space to cross from a Silva pass and he picked out Dzeko at the back post. The Bosnian did all he could to direct it back across goal and it was dropping into the top corner until a brilliant save from Valdes pushed it behind. Zabeleta was then on the end of a deflected cross, but he couldn’t turn it in on his left foot.

With 66 minutes played, though, City were ruing their missed chances. A through-ball deflected off Lescott and straight into the path of Messi, one-on-one with Hart. The goalkeeper did his best to cover the goal, but he could do nothing about the Argentine’s deft chip into the far corner of the net.

It went from bad to worse for City with just over ten minutes to play. Dzeko was denied a clear penalty when he was chopped down by Pique when he was about to pull the trigger and, for his protests, Zabaleta was shown a second yellow card. It was an awful decision, compounded by a red card for the full back.

With a minute of the game left, the visitors equalised. A corner was played into the middle by Navas, where Dzeko headed at goal. Kompany, just onside in the six-yard box, turned it into the net.

However, with seconds of the game remaining, Iniesta got his head up after rounding Hart when played through and found Alves. The defender smashed the ball past Milner on the line and the result was confirmed.

Manchester City 1 Stoke City 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 22 February 2014, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho (Navas 63), Toure, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko, Negredo (Jovetic 56 (Garcia 69))
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Clichy, Milner
Goals: Toure (70)
Booked: Kompany, Fernandinho, Dzeko

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Nasri is fouled.

Nasri is fouled.

A second-half strike was enough for City to scrape their way to a vital three points on a day when their title rivals all won. The pressure was on the Blues to begin with, following Chelsea’s last-gasp winner at Stamford Bridge, and it looked like it was showing in the early stages. Stoke had a game plan to defend and it was paying off.

The early chances fell mainly to the home side, but Dzeko headed well over from a corner and Fernandinho drove an effort straight at Begovic from the edge of the box. Negredo slipped Zabaleta in on the right, but the full-back’s shot ricocheted off the goalkeeper and behind; the Blues were struggling to create clear-cut opportunities and Stoke packed the box.

The visitors could have opened the scoring on 20 minutes as the ball broke kindly for Adam on the left corner of the area. The Stoke man hit it towards the far side of the goal, and it looked like it was creeping in until Hart’s fingertips intervened and pushed it around the post.

Begovic collected efforts from Kolarov, Toure and Fernandinho, as City tried their luck from range – but their luck was pretty similar each time, as the shots bobbled through for the goalkeeper to hand on to comfortably. It then fell to Negredo and Nasri to hit from the edge of the area, but both of their shots were over the bar, as City struggled for an opening.

Dzeko was inches away from opening the scoring just before half time as he picked up the ball on the edge of the box and carried it across the 18-yard line. He put his foot through it and curled it towards the bottom corner – and Begovic was worried – but it dropped inches wide of the post.

There was some improvement from the hosts after the break, but it was still an arduous process for them to create chances. Dzeko scooped over from a Silva pull-back, before Toure hit a free kick into the Stoke man-wall.

When it looked like the goal might not come, an injury to substitute Jovetic forced the manager’s hand: He moved Toure forward and, as the Ivorian gambled into the box, he connected to a Kolarov cross and forced it past Begovic. The goalkeeper got a hand on the effort, but the ball trickled over the line.

The goal didn’t open the game up as many thought it might: Dzeko (somehow) missed an open goal from less than a yard out, as his shot ricocheted off his right foot and onto his left before falling clear of the six-yard box. Garcia hit a belter from the edge of the area, before Ireland had the opportunity to stun the fans at his old stomping ground, but his volley was well wide.

It was by no means a classic – but it was a vital three points for City.

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.

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 0 Wigan Athletic 1

FA Cup Final
Saturday 11 May 2013, 17.15 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Y Toure, Barry (Dzeko 90), Silva, Nasri (Milner 55), Tevez (Rodwell 69), Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Lescott, Garcia
Goals:
Booked: Zabaleta, Nastasic, Barry
Sent Off: Zabaleta

Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez

Wigan1City walked out at Wembley for the fifth time under Roberto Mancini for their second FA Cup final in three seasons, but it was the underdogs in Wigan who got off to the better start. An early free kick for City was hit into the wall by Tevez and the rebound effort at goal by Toure was comfortably pushed away by Joel. But that was as good as it got for the blues in the opening stages.

Aguero lost possession mid-way in the Wigan half and it gave them the chance to break: McManaman turned Clichy on City’s left and found Kone on the opposite flank. He held it up and returned it to the midfielder, who had ghosted past Nastasic into a pocket of space in the box, but his shot curled wide of the post. Joe Hart was left rooted to the spot.

It was soon all Wigan pressure: Maloney volleyed a cross from the edge of the box right at Nastasic and the fans at the other end of the ground appealed for handball, though it would have been a very harsh penalty, having rolled off the defender’s knee first. It was the same player again who, having cut in from the left, took on a shot towards Hart’s bottom left corner, but it was just wide.

Mid-way through the half, City created their best chance of the game. Nasri cut inside from the left flank and slipped a ball in behind the full-back for Silva to chase. He centred it, looking for anybody arriving in the middle, and it fell nicely for Tevez. He tried to place the ball back across the goalkeeper, but Joel managed to get his toe to the ball while diving the other way, and divert it over the bar.

Wigan responded. Following a Toure blocked shot, the underdogs broke away. Kone managed to slip the ball through for McManaman to chase and he left Nastasic and Kompany for dead, to race through on Hart. The speed of the break took him wide, but Hart committed himself and the midfielder was able to take it around him. Zabaleta recovered to slow him down and allow Hart time to get back into position, but another McManaman turn left the goalkeeper stranded. When the midfielder shot, though, Zabaleta was in the right place to block. It was a let off.

The City fans would have been expecting a completely different City to emerge from the tunnel at half time. To an extent that was true, as they started the half on the front foot, but they were still very much below par. Tevez’s low cross to the near post was met on the slide by Aguero, but Boyce got the last touch to knock it behind for a corner. A Silva cross then led to a Wigan breakaway, that Zabaleta stopped cynically and he saw yellow.

But soon, Wigan were putting the blues under pressure again. It remained goalless thanks to a brilliant challenge from Kompany, coming across from the right side of the box to slide to block from McManaman, after he had stepped around Clichy and Silva. A free kick from the right wing was then crossed towards the back-post by Maloney and, with Hart standing and watching, it dropped onto the top of the bar and away.

A loose ball from Barry was then more costly than simply allowing Wigan a chance to break. Trying to find Kompany, his ball was cut out and McManaman was through on goal. Kompany and Nastasic couldn’t get back to cover and Zabaleta was forced to commit himself to the challenge. He missed the ball and took all of the man, resulting in his second yellow card.

As the board went up for stoppage time, Clichy inadvertently knocked the ball behind for a corner following a challenge with McManaman. From that kick, Watson was left totally unmarked on the corner of the six-yard box and he connected to nod it straight past Joe Hart. With only two minutes of the game to play, it was enough to win the game for Wigan.

In truth, City never turned up and Wigan fully deserved to lift the cup.

Everton 2 Manchester City 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 16 March 2013, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta (c), K Toure (Sinclair 83), Nastasic, Milner (Clichy 83), Garcia, Barry (Nasri 70), Kolarov, Silva, Tevez, Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Razak, Lescott, Lopes
Goals:
Booked: Kolarov, Dzeko, Silva

Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Everton1It was a lively start to the game, with both sides seemingly more interested in getting stuck in than shots on goal. Fellaini saw yellow for a late challenge on Milner, before Gibson hit the wall from a free kick, after Kolo Toure had fouled Anichebe. Hart was out quickly to punch a Baines cross, following a half-cleared corner. Everton had the ball in the net following a City clearance, but the flag was up for offside.

With 20 minutes played, it had been all the home side, but they had been unable to find the breakthrough. They had tried several crosses, most of which met the head of Kolo Toure, and City were holding out – just about. City’s first real bout of pressure allowed Silva to whip a free kick into the box, but neither Dzeko nor Milner could get a touch and Mucha could collect it.

A minute later and City had suddenly come to life: Tevez had an effort from the edge of the box and Mucha was able to hold it. Kolarov then found Dzeko in the box and his turn and shot was well blocked by the goalkeeper, before the Bosnian tried a curler from the left corner of the area. He couldn’t get enough bend on the ball, though, and it dropped nicely for Mucha to collect.

Despite the growing City pressure, it was the home side who took the lead. After a spell of Everton possession, Osman hit the ball from range and sliced through it, bending it away from Hart and into the top corner. The visitors were behind at Goodison once again.

After the goal, City virtually collapsed: Fellaini could have had a penalty when Nastasic blocked him off, before Anichebe turned and shot from the corner of the six-yard box, but skied his effort. Tevez tried another effort from 25 yards towards the back post, but it was just wide of the post. Dzeko couldn’t then flick a header towards the goal, as Kolarov’s cross was just too high for him.

City started the second half brighter: Kolarov volleyed high as it bounced to him from a cross from the right, before Milner nodded down for Garcia to shoot, but he couldn’t connect to the ball. Barry flicked a corner towards the back post and Nastasic was inches away from getting the vital touch, but he missed the ball too, and it bounced behind for a goal kick.

With 30 minutes to play, City were thrown a lifeline. Pienaar dived in on Garcia and raked his studs down the Spaniard’s shin. Having already been booked, he was always going to be shown a red card and the visitors had to face ten men.

Six minutes later, the visitors should have been level. Dzeko brilliantly played Tevez into the box and the Argentine’s effort was pushed out to Milner by Mucha. The midfielder hit it first time towards the goal, but the keeper was up quickly to make himself big and block behind for a corner. It really should have been the equaliser.

With just over ten minutes to play, it was Zabaleta who was denied by Mucha, again storming off his line to make himself big. Dzeko nodded the ball back across goal and found Silva in the box, who tried to work the opening to shoot. On his right foot, he decided to play Zabaleta in, who took a touch to blast, but the keeper pounced on his control. Coleman then put in a brilliant header to deny Tevez a free header at the back post.

With five minutes to play, Tevez smashed a shot from range and it was blocked by the arm of Fellaini inside the box. The referee, though, bottled the decision and gave it as a free kick outside the area. It couldn’t have been more blatant inside the box: The free kick hit the wall. It should have been a penalty.

With stoppage time over, Everton broke away with a two-on-one with Fellaini and Jelavic. The Belgian squared for the striker and his shot deflected off Clichy and over Hart into the top corner. City were toothless and got exactly what they deserved: Nothing.