Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 0

FA Premier League
Wednesday 7 May 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Garcia, Toure, Milner (Jovetic 60), Silva (Fernandinho 76), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo 86)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Dzeko (64, 72), Jovetic (89), Toure (90+3)
Booked: Jovetic

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: Stevan Jovetic

Dzeko celebrates the opening goal.

Dzeko celebrates the opening goal.

Manchester City are a point away from their second Premier League title, following a comprehensive win over Aston Villa at a very rainy Etihad. It was a nervy atmosphere until Dzeko opened the scoring in the second half, when it seemed to lift a weight from the fans’ shoulders – and, to round of a good evening, Toure bagged the Blues’ century of league goals too.

The rain pounded down onto the pitch and it added an extra layer of drama and tension to proceedings – which could have been calmed inside five minutes, as Kolarov tested Guzan at his near post. The goalkeeper parried it away and began a frantic five minutes for his side that saw Kompany head just over the bar and Guzan block with his left foot to deny Toure.

Silva came close to stealing in ahead of the Villa goalkeeper, when Guzan let a Kolarov cross slip from his grasp. The American goalkeeper, however, managed to dive on the loose ball before the Spaniard could prod it into the goal. Nasri wasn’t too far away from opening the scoring, too, as he exchanged a one-two with Silva on the corner of the box, but his effort didn’t bend enough and sailed wide.

It could have been even less comfortable for the home fans mid-way through the first half. First, a cross from the left found Bowery unmarked in the box and he couldn’t connect well enough to trouble Hart – scuffing his half-volley into the side netting. Then, a City corner broke down and left Zabaleta one-on-one with Weimann. The Argentine slowed the forward down and forced him to shoot wide when he should have tested the goalkeeper.

City, however, should have gone in at half time in the lead. Zabaleta could have had a shot on goal, but instead chose to square for Silva – the Spaniard’s effort was blocked after his first touch got away from him a little. And then Nasri somehow prodded wide from a Milner cross into the box, after Guzan had come and been found wanting.

Nasri comes under pressure.

Nasri comes under pressure.

Early in the second half, the breakthrough almost came in spectacular style from the captain. A ball into the box was cleared, but Silva returned it quickly with a header and the Villa defence hadn’t pushed out far enough. Kompany tried a bicycle kick to turn the ball towards goal, but he couldn’t direct it away from Guzan, who was able to hold at the second attempt.

Ten minutes into the half, Kolarov had a free kick pushed away from goal, as he curled it towards the top corner from 30 yards. It had clearly been frustrating for the players, too – as there were long discussions between the left back and Toure over who would get to have the strike at goal.

Pellegrini introduced Jovetic to try and add a new dimension to the game and, just four minutes after the Montenegrin was introduced, the Blues took the lead. It had been coming – a cute ball through to Zabaleta on the right allowed him to drive a low cross into the box, where Dzeko was arrived to nutmeg Guzan. The Etihad erupted.

A few minutes later, the same combination created another City goal. Zabaleta was played in by Silva and the defender drove the ball into the box once more. This time it was for Nasri, whose shot was well saved by Guzan, but the goalkeeper was helpless as Dzeko touched the rebound into the empty net.

The visitors came inches away from pulling a goal back with eight minutes to play, as a free kick from the right caused City all kinds of problems. A ball to the back post saw Hart go wandering to try and collect, but it was nodded back across and – with the goalkeeper out of position – it looked like a simple task for Weimann to head home. He hit the bar, with the ball bouncing down onto the line and out – and the Goal Decision System said it wasn’t in.

The game was sealed with two minutes to play. Toure looked like he’d spent too much time inside the Villa box with the ball and hadn’t found room for the shot, as he jinked inside and outside the tight defence, but the Ivorian found Jovetic arriving late from the left. The Montenegrin hit it first time straight into the bottom corner.

However, in stoppage time, Toure rounded off the win with City’s 100th league goal of the season. It was a typical Toure move, as the midfielder picked up the ball midway inside his own half and – as the furthest home player forward – drove towards goal. He couldn’t be stopped by any of the four Villa defenders trying to keep pace with him and, one-on-one with Guzan, he blasted it into the net.

The win put City back on top of the table and a point against West Ham on Sunday will be enough to clinch the title. It’s City’s to lose.

Manchester City 4 Southampton 1

FA Premier League
Saturday 5 April 2014, 12.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho (Garcia 45), Toure, Nasri, Silva (Jovetic 77), Navas, Dzeko (Negredo 65)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Milner
Goals: Toure (pen 3), Nasri (45+1), Dzeko (45+4), Jovetic (81)
Booked: Fernandinho, Garcia, Toure

Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the Match: David Silva

Dzeko competes with Lallana for possession.

Dzeko competes with Lallana for possession.

City had to ride their luck at times against a good Southampton side, but the home team did enough to emerge victors ahead of a tough fixture with Liverpool in the title run-in. The Saints will rue the first half stoppage time, where most of the damage was done, when they had a firm grip on the match before it.

It started well for City – who were gifted the chance to open the scoring from the spot. Dzeko went down very easily under the challenge of Fonte. The forward jinked past the defender, whose trailing leg brushed against the Bosnian’s stomach and, when the striker hit the deck, the referee pointed to the spot. Toure did the rest, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

From there, though, City just did not impose themselves on the match. Nasri had an effort from the edge of the box that dropped just wide, but it was the visitors who had the better of the ball – even though they failed to work Hart. Lambert couldn’t connect to a corner when he rose highest in the box, before the England hopeful curled a free kick wide of Hart’s post.

Rodriguez will fear for his England place following an incident mid-way through the first half, too. The striker tried to bring the ball down just inside the City half and, under no pressure, went down holding his knee – leaving the action early, on a stretcher, to a standing ovation.

Dzeko came close to doubling City’s lead with a free header at the back post, but he nodded Nasri’s free kick onto the bar and over. It could have been a costly miss – as Zabaleta brought down Cork inside the home side’s box moments later and Lamber scored the resulting penalty. Hart guessed correctly, but there was too much power on the spot kick and it hit the back of the net.

As the board went up for stoppage time, though, a below-par City put themselves into an almost unassailable position. First, a stroke of good luck: Silva was clearly offside from Dzeko’s flick, but the linesman didn’t raise his flag. The Spaniard weaved his way through and squared for Nasri to slot into the net.

Dzeko adds City's third goal.

Dzeko adds City’s third goal.

Then, as the fans were readying themselves for a 2-1 lead going into the second half, Dzeko added the Blues’ third. A good spell of possession ended with Kolarov picking up the ball on the left and firing in a good cross for the Bosnian. Gazzaninga came for it, but missed, and Dzeko redirected it over the line, via the back post.

The second half, though, was a completely different story. The introduction of Garcia allowed City to see more possession and they began to look good for their lead – Silva was frustrated the referee didn’t play advantage when he pulled back with one man between him and the goal, before Kolarov had a shot deflected behind for a corner.

On the hour mark, Dzeko should have netted his second. He was played through by Silva and was one-on-one with the goalkeeper. From a tight angle, he forced Gazzaniga into a good save and, despite being on his stronger foot, he couldn’t volley the rebound in – it actually went out for a throw-in.

Quite how Negredo didn’t score is a question City fans will be asking too – first, he was played through by Navas, but chose to check back inside his defender instead of taking on the shot and lost possession, before second, he hit the goalkeeper on a one-on-one on his left foot.

However, the missed chances didn’t matter as, with just under ten minutes to play, the Blues added their fourth: A low cross from the right flank was inches away from Negredo, but the Spaniard couldn’t touch it towards goal. Gazzaniga came, but missed it, and Jovetic was arriving in time to touch it into the goal at the back post.

It was a confident second half from City, though the scoreline was very harsh on the Saints. City in a good vein of form ahead of that huge game at Anfield up next.

Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0

FA Cup Fifth Round
Saturday 15 February 2014, 17.15 KO

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

Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Javi Garcia

Jovetic opens the scoring.

Jovetic opens the scoring.

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

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

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

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

Zabaleta tackles Eto'o.

Zabaleta tackles Eto’o.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norwich City 0 Manchester City 0

FA Premier League
Saturday 8 February 2014, 15.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Navas, Milner, Toure, Silva, Jovetic (Dzeko 61), Negredo (Kolarov)
Unused: Pantilimon, Richards, Lescott, Rodwell, Lopes
Goals:
Booked: Milner

Referee: Jon Moss
Man of the Match: Stevan Jovetic

Norwich1

Jovetic chases down the ball.

Despite bossing the early possession, City were finding Norwich difficult to break through. A mistake by Yobo was nearly punished by Silva, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet, before Redmond broke clear of the visiting defence on the hosts’ right. His shot, though, was high and wide of Hart’s near post.

An offside flag saved the Blues from early embarrassment, too – a corner was nodded towards goal and it took a great save from Hart to keep it out. He could do nothing about Hooper’s follow-up, but the Norwich man was offside from the initial effort.

Jovetic pulled off a delightful chipped finish from a Negredo lay-off, but it was never going to count as the linesman’s flag had gone up against the Spaniard from Kompany’s ball forward. It was a bad call, with the striker onside, and the finish from the Montenegrin was sublime – not that it matered.

Milner and Jovetic did well to keep possession in tight areas on the edge of the Norwich area, but Navas’s low cross could only force a corner. From that flag-kick, Demichelis flicked the ball into the middle where Negredo was waiting and his header crashed back off the crossbar.

With three minutes of the half to play, Jovetic came close to opening the scoring, but for a good save from Ruddy. Silva got in behind the Norwich defence to cross for the Montengrin on the edge of the area, but the striker’s volleyed effort was straight at the goalkeeper, who was able to gather at the second attempt.

Ten minutes into the second half, City should have been in front. A quick break by Negredo picked out Jovetic on the edge of the box and the Montenegrin chipped for Zabaleta in the middle. It was just behind the full-back, who was able to flick the cross to Navas behind him, but the Spaniard’s shot was blocked by a great last-ditch challenge.

Hooper and Martin linked up on the edge of the City box to work space for the shot, with the former holding off Demichelis to return the ball to the latter. Hooper unleashed a volley towards goal from the corner of the area, but he got too much underneath it and fired well over the bar.

Norwich2

Negredo skips around Olsson.

City were piling on the pressure with 20 minutes to play, but just couldn’t seem to find a way through the Norwich defence. Demichelis missed a free header inside the area, before Negredo and Dzeko got in each other’s way inside the six-yard box. Milner’s long-range effort was blocked to Toure, while his strike was deflected behind for a corner.

The visitors’ chances of going back to the top of the league following Arsenal’s defeat earlier in the day were slipping – a free-kick routine failed to produce a shot, while Dzeko should have done better as Milner picked him out at the back post. The Bosnian, though, bounced his header over. Navas tried an effort across goal, but nobody gambled at the back post to dive in to the cross.

Norwich suddenly came to live with two minutes remaining and could have stolen the points: Twice low balls into the box caused the visitors problems, with the first missed by everybody and the second blocked by Hart – who needed Demichelis to complete the clearance.

Two blanks in a row for City, heading into a crucial run of games.

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 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.