Everton 2 Manchester City 3

FA Premier League
Saturday 3 May 2014, 17.30 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Milner, Garcia, Toure (Kolarov 66), Nasri (Silva 74), Dzeko Aguero (Fernandinho 28)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Negredo, Jovetic
Goals: Aguero (22), Dzeko (43, 48)
Booked: Garcia, Demichelis, Dzeko

Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the Match: Joe Hart

Zabaleta under a challenge from Naismith.

Zabaleta under a challenge from Naismith.

The game had quite a muted start, with both teams just testing the water and seeing what was what. The visitors had the better of the early chances, but Garcia’s header from a corner was straight at the goalkeeper, before Zabaleta skied an effort from just inside the box, following a very cute ball from Aguero.

But Everton’s first effort of the match found the net. It was a superb effort on ten minutes from Barkley from 20 yards out, as he curled it over and around Hart and into the top corner. The City goalkeeper didn’t stand a chance and the visitors had it all to do.

Five minutes later, Toure should probably have equalised. Some neat build-up between Clichy and Nasri found the Ivorian inside the left corner of the box. Holding off Osman, Toure worked it towards the centre of the goal and blasted for the top corner – Howard was beaten, but it flashed over the bar.

The home side wanted a penalty for a Kompany tackle on Barkley, but the referee ruled the Belgian had won the ball and from that the visitors broke. The ball fell kindly for Garcia who slid it through to Toure in the middle. There, the Ivorian played it through for Aguero in space on the right and his effort beat Howard at the near post for the equaliser. It was joy short-lived, though, as Aguero injured himself in scoring.

It looked like the game was going to trundle to half time as City looked well below par, but the Blues somehow got themselves in front. Dzeko took too many touches when played through and his low cross was blocked by Howard. Milner picked up the rebound and produced a lovely turn to get a cross in, where Dzeko’s header found the bottom corner.

Demichelis battles with Lukaku in the air.

Demichelis battles with Lukaku in the air.

In the opening minute of the second half, Hart pulled out a brilliant save to keep the visitors in front. Barkley broke with the ball past Garcia – who couldn’t stop him on a yellow card – and played in Naismith, who went through on a one-on-one. Hart was out quickly and tipped the placed effort around the post.

Immediately, though, City went on to boost their advantage. Nasri did brilliantly to keep possession on the right and cut inside. The Frenchman drilled a ball across the face of goal and Dzeko stabbed it into the roof of the net. The home players appealed for offside, but he was level and the goal stood.

There was a response from Everton: City sat on their laurels and allowed the hosts to control possession. Happy to allow the hosts more of the ball, on 64 minutes they were punished. A ball in from the left from Baines was well met by Lukaku and his header hit the inside of the post and hit the back of the net. City wanted offside, but the linesman kept his flag down.

With 20 minutes to play, City had a golden chance to add to their lead again. A cute ball inside by Milner allowed Zabaleta to run clean through on goal, but his left footed drive was blocked by Howard. The rebound, picked up by Kolarov, was curled over the bar.

Ten minutes later, there was a truly bizarre passage of play. Dzeko, clearly needing medical attention, wasn’t allowed it by the referee and was instead booked for timewasting for not getting up from the ground. The referee remained steadfast and wouldn’t allow the physio on and Dzeko wasn’t moving. Eventually, he allowed the striker to get treatment and showed him the yellow card.

City were under immense pressure – Deulofeu wriggled through most of the City defence after Demichelis blocked Barkley’s cross to the edge of the box. He got through to a one-on-one with Hart, who pulled off another good save to get the ball behind.

Despite the late pressure and six (becoming seven through timewasting) added minutes, City held on to the rare win at Goodison Park and went back to the top of the table.

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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.

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 5

FA Premier League
Wednesday 29 January 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Toure (Nastasic 64), Fernandinho, Navas, Silva (Kolarov 80), Aguero (Jovetic 45), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Rodwell, Negredo
Goals: Aguero (15), Toure (pen 51), Dzeko (54), Jovetic (78), Kompany (89)
Booked: Toure, Demichelis, Aguero, Zabaleta

Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: David Silva

Aguero hits the post.

Aguero hits the post.

City were out of the traps quickly, taking the game to their opponents. Just five minutes had been played when the Blues fashioned the first good chance to open the scoring, but Aguero’s shot bounced off the post and out to safety, as he fired across Lloris. Dzeko blazed over after a neat one-two with Aguero, as he shot from the corner of the box.

But with 15 minutes on the clock, the visitors opened the scoring. Aguero has been in terrific goalscoring form this season and there was no change at the Lane. Silva slipped a brilliant through-ball for the Argentine, who beat the offside trap to place it past Lloris.

It took a brilliant save from the Tottenham goalkeeper to keep the score at 1-0. Clichy crossed for Aguero to head and it looked like his effort was destined for the net, but Lloris clawed it out before it crossed the line. The Argentine quickly had another header cleared off the line, before his volley from the rebound was a foot over the bar. City could have had a penalty for a handball by Dawson, too.

Tottenham thought they had equalised with ten minutes of the half to play, but the offside flag was up against Adebayor in the build up. A free kick was crossed into the middle where the Togolese striker jumped to head it, but missed – leaving the centre-back to nod home. He was onside, but his striker was interfering with play in front of him.

On the stroke of half time, the Blues lost Aguero to another injury. The striker pulled up holding his hamstring and his game was over. Demichelis was booked for a seemingly fair challenge on Adebayor, before the centre-back headed harmlessly over at the near post.

Toure battles for possession.

Toure battles for possession.

Early in the second half, the visitors imposed themselves further on the game. Toure had the chance to add the Blues’ second of the night from the penalty spot when Rose was adjudged to have brought down Dzeko. It looked a harsh decision as the full back looked to have timed his tackle well to win the ball, but the linesman waved his flag and Rose was dismissed. Toure sent Lloris the wrong way.

Three minutes later, City added their third. Silva picked up the ball inside the box from a great pull-back by Zabaleta, and, after carrying it across the face of goal, his shot hit the post and bounced out. The deflected rebound fell to Dzeko, who knocked it past Lloris.

Just before the hour mark, the ten men pulled a goal back. A corner was badly defended by the Blues, as Zabaleta missed the ball completely and it fell kindly for Capoue on the edge of the six-yard box. He was never going to miss, blasting his shot past the stranded Hart.

Dzeko could have had two goals in the space of three minutes as two glorious chances to add City’s fourth were spurned by the Bosnian. First, Clichy picked him out with a great cross from deep and the striker’s first touch was perfect for him to hit, but his effort was well wide. Second, Zabaleta picked out the forward after a fine passing move, but Dzeko got his finish all wrong, chipping it wide weakly.

With just over ten minutes to play, the fourth goal came and it was an opening Premier League goal for Jovetic. Silva slid the ball to the Montenegrin on the left flank, where he cut inside and tried to bend a shot around Lloris. It took a nick on the way through, but it didn’t help the home side and it found the bottom corner.

In the closing stages, it was almost five for the Blues, as a brilliant ball slipped Navas in on the right. His low cross was just behind Jovetic and he couldn’t wrap his foot around it to shoot, but it fell to Kolarov. The Serbian belted it, but Lloris was able to block it behind.

Though, in the final minute, the captain added another. A corner fell nicely to Dzeko, who was able to tee himself up to volley at goal. It was blocked ahead of Lloris and fell kindly for Kompany, who was faced with an open goal. He simply stabbed it over the line, despite Lloris’s best efforts to recover.

With Arsenal dropping points the night before, City go to the top of the league.

Manchester City 4 Watford 2

FA Cup Fourth Round
Saturday 25 January 2014, 15.00 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (Zabaleta 45), Demichelis, Lescott, Kolarov, Rodwell (Kompany 45), Toure (c), Lopes (Jovetic 57), Navas, Aguero, Dzeko
Unused: Hart, Nastasic, Clichy, Fernandinho
Goals: Aguero (59, 79, 90+3), Kolarov (86)
Booked: Dzeko

Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero

Anya challenges Pantilimon for a through ball.

Anya challenges Pantilimon for a through ball.

Manchester City survived a huge scare against Watford to keep their FA Cup hopes alive for this season. It was a game of two performances from the Blues, who were outplayed during the first 45 minutes, but dominant in the second.

It was the visitors who were asking all the early questions: Forestieri was felled by Toure on the edge of the box, but the resulting free kick was belted into Pantilimon’s man wall, before the Hornets should have had a penalty. A misunderstanding between the goalkeeper and Demichelis left Anya to get to the ball first, before he was clattered by Pantilimon, but the referee and his assistant were unmoved.

On 20 minutes, the inevitable happened and Watford opened the scoring. Forestieri made a great run in behind Demichelis and his pace took him away from the attention of the City defence. One-on-one with Pantilimon, he showed no nerves to place it into the bottom corner. It had been coming.

Worse for the Blues was that, a mere eight minutes later, the visitors had doubled their lead: It was an almost identical move on the opposite side after Toure and Rodwell had given the ball away in the middle. Deeney raced onto a through ball and tucked it past Pantilimon, leaving the hosts two goals down and in serious trouble of departing the competition with egg on their face.

Pellegrini played his hand at half time, bringing on Kompany and Zabaleta and changing the shape, pushing Toure further forward and Demichelis into midfield. The result was a completely different performance from the Blues, who were suddenly dominant. Kompany’s flicked header was just wide, Dzeko passed a shot into the hands of the goalkeeper, and Jovetic couldn’t get enough on a Kolarov cross.

The signs were there for the improvement and, just before the hour mark, the recovery was on. Kolarov fired a low cross into the box and Dzeko touched it towards goal. The goalkeeper, who blocked the effort, closed him down quickly but the rebound fell to Aguero. The Argentine was never going to miss the open goal.

Kompany almost unlocked the hard-working Watford defence, but he elected to square for Dzeko instead of taking on the left-footed shot. The Bosnian couldn’t sort his feet out and could only send a weak effort straight into the hands of the goalkeeper. He then tried to combine with Jovetic, but his return pass of a one-two on the edge of the area was just too heavy.

With just over ten minutes to play, the Blues pulled level. Dzeko knocked the ball through for Aguero to carry into the box and, after cutting back onto his left side, he curled a neat effort around the goalkeeper and into the top corner. It dragged the hosts kicking and screaming back into the game and they had 11 minutes to avoid a replay.

Football proved how cruel a game it can be with just four minutes left to play. With the Hornets close to securing a replay, an error from Bond effectively cost them the game. The goalkeeper had put in a strong performance, but a lapse in concentration meant that a speculative Kolarov effort from range slipped through his hands and straight through him, into the net.

In the first of four added minutes, Aguero added his third – for a perfect hat-trick. Navas did brilliantly to keep the ball alive on the right flank before digging out a cross to the back post, where the Argentine was waiting. He got up to head past Bond from a tight angle, to secure City’s place in Round Five.

West Ham United 0 Manchester City 3 (agg 0-9)

League Cup Semi Final Second Leg
Tuesday 21 January 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Pantilimon, Clichy, Nastasic, Lescott (c), Boyata, Fernandinho, Garcia (Rodwell 63), Lopes, Navas (Kolarov 79), Negredo, Aguero (Jovetic 65)
Unused: Hart, Demichelis, Zabaleta, Dzeko
Goals: Negredo (3, 59), Aguero (24)
Booked: Aguero, Clichy

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: Marcos Lopes

Lopes jinks past Taylor.

Lopes jinks past Taylor.

With the tie already won from the first leg, West Ham seemed dead on the feet even from kick off. It took the visitors less than three minutes to extend their lead from the previous game – Lopes found space on the left flank and crossed to the middle, where the marking was non-existent. Negredo met it unchallenged in the six-yard box and found the net.

The Hammers responded by putting the ball in City’s net through Nolan latching on to a Diame cross, but the linesman’s flag put an early end to any celebrations from the home fans. Nolan had been a yard offside when the cross was put in.

Carroll connected to a header inside the box as Lescott wasn’t aware the forward was there, after Diame fired over from a Carroll flick on. At the other end, Aguero forced Jaaskelainen into a good save, pushing the Argentine’s effort from the edge of the box around the post.

The visitors added their second of the night – and eighth of the tie – just before the 25 minute mark. A mazy run from Lopes opened up the West Ham defence and the ball fell kindly for Aguero after the Portuguese winger tried to slide the striker through. Jaaskelainen committed himself and Aguero dinked it over the goalkeeper and into the net.

Early in the second half, a great tackle from Lescott denied Morisson inside the box, with the former United man looking for a penalty – though the referee waved away the claims. Pantilimon stood big to deny Cole, before a challenge on Nolan by Nastasic could have also been a penalty, but once more the referee turned down the appeals.

On the hour mark – despite West Ham’s spell of pressure – the visitors went on to score their third. Negredo picked up the ball on the edge of the box and simply bullied his way through the home side’s defence. Three players tried to stop him, but he bulldozed his way through, before flicking the ball over Jaaskelainen.

Lopes came close to scoring – completely by accident, it must be said – as his left-footed cross dropped onto Jaaskelainen’s crossbar, before both Negredo and Rodwell couldn’t find room for a shot as they wriggled inside the West Ham box – both won corners.

With 15 minutes to place, West Ham twice came close to a consolation: First Rodwell got up ahead of Diame to head the ball behind and, from the resulting corner, the Hammers’ midfielder headed wide from inside the six-yard box. Navas responded with a blast over the bar, from a cute lay-off by Jovetic.

In the end, the game meandered to a close, with City coasting to victory. It was nine on aggregate in total, but could have been so much more – City strolled to Wembley.

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.

Manchester City 5 Blackburn Rovers 0

FA Cup Third Round (Replay)
Wednesday 15 January 2014, 20.10 KO

City: Pantilimon, Richards (Huws 77), Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy, Navas, Garcia, Milner (c), Fernandinho (Kolarov 45), Dzeko, Negredo (Aguero 72)
Unused: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Lopes
Goals: Negredo (45, 47), Dzeko (67, 79), Aguero (73)
Booked: Milner, Kolarov

Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the Match: James Milner

Pantilimon clears under pressure.

Pantilimon clears under pressure.

City will play Watford in the next round of the FA Cup following their replay win over Blackburn. In truth, the away side never really looked like upsetting the apple cart, but they did make life difficult for the hosts. Dzeko struggled to find the target – first, with a header inside the area, second, he skied a blast from a touch down by Fernandinho on the edge of the box, and third, he blasted a long, long, long range effort over.

In between his chances, Marshall curled a free kick straight into Pantilimon’s arms after Cairney was felled by Nastasic on the edge of the box. Garcia blasted a shot from range that looked to be curling into the bottom corner, until Robinson beat it away low to his left.

Ten minutes before half time, City got even closer. Navas beat Marshall on the right flank and fired in a low, driven cross through the six-yard box. First Negredo, then Fernandinho threw themselves at it, but they were both inches away from touching it into the net.

As it looked like the hosts were going to be frustrated at the break, the Blues found the breakthrough: Fernandinho’s cross was missed by Dzeko, but behind him was his strike partner in Negredo – the Spaniard met it and nodded it into the corner of Robinson’s net, with virtually the last touch of the half.

And, the same man scored with virtually his first touch of the second half. Kolarov picked up the ball on the left flank and crossed from deep towards the run of Negredo. The covering defender couldn’t intercept and the striker dinked it over the top of the substitute goalkeeper Eastwood.

Blackburn responded with some good chances. King found space in between Lescott and Nastasic to flick a header towards the top corner, but he got too much on it and headed over. A few moments later, the same man escaped the attention of Nastasic to go one-on-one with Pantilimon, but the Romanian keeper stood up well to make the save.

With just over 20 minutes to play, though, the hosts effectively ended the game. Navas raced through on the right to a Milner pass and, after wriggling his way to the by-line, he played it in low for Dzeko at the front post. The Bosnian’s effort towards the top of the net was too powerful for Eastwood.

Blackburn were deflated and, when Pellegrini introduced Aguero into the action, the Chilean was rewarded as the Argentine scored with his second touch. Dzeko received the ball inside the box on the left and he squared for his strike partner. Aguero took a touch to control and spin, then his second – a low shot – beat both covering defenders and the goalkeeper.

Goal number 99 for the season came with ten minutes to play. In a move not too dissimilar to create the third, the Blues added their fifth of the evening with the same combination – Navas to Dzeko. The Bosnian got across his man to touch the Spaniard’s cross around the corner and into the net at the near post.