Manchester City 1 Stoke City 0 match report: Yaya Touré pounces late to keep City in title hunt

Ivorian midfielder keeps City hot on the tail of leaders Chelsea thanks to late winner

Etihad Stadium

It was not pretty, but it did not matter. For Manchester City this was all about keeping in touch with Chelsea and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.

For 70 minutes it was doubtful whether they would manage to do that. There was no sign of the fluid footballing machine that had been flattening visitors to the Etihad throughout the autumn. There was no spark, little fluency and a growing sense of frustration.

But then up stepped Yaya Touré. It was Touré who scored City’s FA Cup final winner against Stoke in 2011 to end his team’s long trophy drought, and his intervention here was decisive.

Manuel Pellegrini, the home manager, had just sent on Javi Garcia and allowed Touré licence to roam forward, and the big man did just that. David Silva played in Aleksandr Kolarov on the left, and when he crossed low to the six-yard box Touré was there to turn the ball past Asmir Begovic, the Stoke goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball but failing to stop its course.

Against Barcelona on Tuesday there had been little sign of the Ivorian’s attacking threat as he stuck to Pellegrini’s pragmatic gameplan. Thankfully for third-placed City, though, yesterday he was in the right place to get his 13th League goal this season and move his team back within three points of the leaders, Chelsea, winners themselves earlier in the day, with a game in hand.

According to Pellegrini, the satisfaction of winning ugly was “the same” as winning lovely. He said: “We have three points more and we are absolutely sure the second round [of the season] is not the same as the first – teams come here to defend. It is difficult to score, so we cannot pretend that we will win by three or four goals every match.

“It is important to know how to win in both ways – scoring goals, and if you cannot score goals then with a clean sheet and the patience to score at least one.”

Pellegrini’s tirade against the Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson after the Champions’ League loss to Barcelona suggested the pressure was beginning to tell on him, and on the field City are clearly not at their best either. Although Pellegrini reverted to a 4-4-2 formation after his unsuccessful tinkering in midweek, partnering Alvaro Negredo with Edin Dzeko, yesterday’s display merely underlined how much they are missing Sergio Aguero.

In his absence, City had not scored in the home defeat by Chelsea and the draw at Norwich, and his return to full training on Tuesday will provide a timely boost ahead of next Sunday’s Capital One Cup final against Sunderland. “We will see during the week if he is ready,” said Pellegrini.

As for his Stoke counterpart, Mark Hughes, it was a frustrating outcome on his return to the club where he had an 18-month spell as manager in 2008-09. He felt his team switched off for Touré’s goal, undermining what had earlier been a solid defensive display.

“In the first half we were organised and resolute, kept a very good side at arm’s length and had a goal threat ourselves,” he said.

Although Fernandinho stung Begovic’s fingertips with an early drive, City’s approach play was laboured and Stoke – a team with the division’s joint-worst away record – looked comfortable. They might have got a goal when Marko Arnautovic laid the ball back to Charlie Adam, who let fly from the corner of the penalty box with a shot that Joe Hart turned behind at full stretch.

As half-time approached City showed a marginal improvement, with Touré and Dzeko both flashing shots wide, and on the restart, Dzeko went close again.

It was not Dzeko’s day, though, a point underlined later in the game when Jesus Navas’s cross took out Begovic but, with the goal gaping, Dzeko got the ball caught between his feet.

“Every player can have a bad day,” said Pellegrini. It was a bad day too for Stevan Jovetic, who lasted just 13 minutes as a replacement for Negredo before succumbing to a hamstring problem.

There had been groans all around when Begovic spilled a fierce shot by Jovetic – making his final contribution – and not a single blue shirt followed up to take advantage. It was that kind of afternoon until Touré brought some belated cheer.

Line-ups:

Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Nasri, Fernandinho, (Navas, 63), Touré, Silva; Dzeko, Negredo (Jovetic, 56; Garcia, 69).

Stoke City (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Whelan (Etherington, 82), Adam; Odemwingie, Walters (Ireland, 78), Arnautovic (Palacios, 69); Crouch.

Referee: Chris Foy.

Man of the match: Touré (Manchester City)

Match rating: 6/10

News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'