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
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
arts + entsBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
people
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
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

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices