Manchester City 3 West Brom 1 match report: Injury to David Silva adds woe and worry to as City retain Premier League title hopes
City are running out of big players as they are running out of time
The Etihad Stadium
Tuesday 22 April 2014
No team that has won a championship with the last kick of a season will ever give up a pursuit and yet the most poignant sight of this match was not the scoreboard recording a comfortable victory but that of David Silva being carried off on a stretcher.
The potentially fatal 3-2 defeat at Liverpool had cost Manchester City the powerful presence of Yaya Touré but there has been nothing that has propelled their title challenge more than Silva’s lightning feet.
The boy from the Canary Islands had been nursing his ankle when it appeared to be clipped by Morgan Amalfitano and he was taken off after 69 minutes with chants of his name surging around the stadium. Sergio Aguero had already been withdrawn and it seems that City are running out of big players as they are running out of time.
Their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, is still in that curious situation of being reliant on Jose Mourinho, a man he despises, conjuring up a victory at Anfield to keep his own ambitions alive. Somehow, it appears unlikely.
The crowd that had cheered Silva off was fraught and nervous towards the end last night as a West Bromwich Albion side that has consistently played better than its Premier League position drove forward. The moments before kick-off when they had sung songs about David Moyes and held banners pleading for him to stay seemed quite distant.
The last time it was revealed Manchester United had decided to change manager, City were involved in a night match at home against West Bromwich Albion. They were playing for nothing: the title had been lost and there was just the FA Cup final left to salvage the season. When Roberto Mancini lost it to Wigan Athletic, the men from Abu Dhabi decided to make some managerial changes of their own.
Pellegrini will probably not lose his job should City fail for a second successive time to win the silverware their money demands – although these days who can tell? Like Chelsea, it is likely City will not be able to see the name Sunderland without wincing.
Yet the late error from the Sunderland keeper, Vito Mannone, in their 2-2 draw last Wednesday had given City something to cling to and now they went for an early knockout, two up after 10 minutes, 3-1 up by the interval.
Despite their position teetering on the edge of the relegation zone, West Bromwich have a good record against the leading clubs. They had won spectacularly at Old Trafford on their last visit to Manchester – although that seemed a better result then than it does now – and, bar City, had taken points off every club above United.
From early on, it appeared clear West Bromwich would not be adding City to that collection. Had Aguero remained fully fit for the second half of the season Pellegrini’s side might have maintained the astonishing momentum that had brought up 100 goals by 18 January. Now, when it was almost too late, he intervened decisively.
The Etihad had not properly settled down when the first arrived. A cross from Samir Nasri was cleared by Liam Ridgewell, Aguero’s shot was brilliantly parried one-handed by Ben Foster and Pablo Zabaleta headed goalwards. Craig Dawson made a balletic attempt to clear it but ended up in the goal with the ball.
Then came a display of marksmanship from Aguero that belied suggestions that he, like many of Pellegrini’s men, was weighed down by tiredness.
After a one-two with Nasri had broken down on the edge of the area, he looked up, like a hunter spotting a deer in a thicket, and shot, curling the ball past Edin Dzeko as he did so. Foster must have seen the ball very late and within a heartbeat it was past him.
Two Argentines had already found the net and in the 36th minute it was time for Martin Demichelis to add his name to the boys from Buenos Aires and Quilmes. That it was a simple goal could be gauged from the reactions of Foster and Jonas Olsson, who was supposed to be marking the scorer. After Nasri’s corner, headed on by Javi Garcia, had fallen at Demichelis’s feet, both defender and goalkeeper punched the air with anger and frustration.
Yet if this suggests that West Bromwich were sacrificial Easter lambs skipping into a Mancunian abattoir, they were not. It says everything about Pepe Mel’s team that they had scored six times in their previous two matches and picked up a bare couple of points.
They may have kept one clean sheet in 15 attempts but they can attack and Stéphane Sessègnon, a player whose confidence with a ball belies his shyness off the field, probed the many cracks in Pellegrini’s back four.
To all reasonable logic, City should have had the game won after 10 minutes but then the looseness that had cost them against Sunderland reappeared.
A free-kick routine between David Silva and Fernandinho was farcically screwed up and then Zabaleta lost possession to Ridgewell to begin a wonderful, flowing counter-attack that finished with Graham Dorrans taking the ball sublimely past Gaël Clichy and clipping it beyond Joe Hart. The contest was not over but any City supporter who had been in these seats on the afternoon they won the Premier League would know it is sometimes the final kick that counts.
Manchester City: Hart, Aguero, Dzeko, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Garcia, Nasri, Silva, Kompany, Clichy
WBA: Foster, Ridgewell Olsson Dawson, Brunt, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Amalfitano, Jones, Sessegnon, Vydra
Subs: Man City Jovetic (Agüero, 64), Milner (Silva, 70), Kolarov (Dzeko, 89).
West Brom Anichebe (Vydra, 60), Berahino (Sessègnon, 76), Morrison (Mulumbu, 84).
Goals. Manchester City: Zabaleta 3, Aguero 10, Demichelis 36
West Bromwich Albion: Dorrans 16
Booked: Man City Demichelis
West Brom Dawson
Man of the match Nasri
Match rating 7/10
Possession: Man City 69% West Brom 31%.
Atts on target: Man City 6 West Brom 3.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire)
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