Manchester City vs Swansea match report: Yaya Toure gives champions something to shout about as City sink Swans

Manchester City 2 Swansea 1 match report: Toure responded to Manuel Pellegrini's rallying call as he struck the winner following efforts from Wilfried Bony and Stevan Jovetic

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The Independent Football

Their European ambitions may lie in familiar ruins, the future of their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, is open to serious question, but Manchester City remain the only credible alternative to Chelsea as Premier League champions.

The mood at the final whistle was one of crushing relief. Had Bafetimbi Gomis kept his nerve in front of goal in the closing moments or Jonjo Shelvey’s horribly deflected free-kick gone the other side of Joe Hart’s post, the sense of deflation would have been acute. “It was a really big win,” said the City captain, Vincent Kompany. “We have had two weeks to clear our heads. I thought the performance was good other than in the first 20 minutes. It should have been more comfortable, but we will take that after the last month or so. We have given ourselves a challenge, but football is made of challenges.”

Nine minutes into this match the challenge looked very daunting. Swansea had just beaten Arsenal and drawn at Everton, and now they were a goal up at Manchester City. Then the news trickled through from Stamford Bridge that Jose Mourinho’s side were enjoying another very straightforward afternoon. It was not even December, and if this state of affairs continued the points gap would be in double figures.

That it is not was because Manchester City still possess big players, and this time they came to the rescue of a side who are still nominally champions of England. They were, it has to be said, players who were brought to Eastlands under the rule of Roberto Mancini – Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and, above all, Yaya Touré. The men who came in the summer, Fernando and the £32 million defensive misfit Eliaquim Mangala, began on the bench.

In the summer, it seemed Touré would be nowhere near Manchester when City began their defence of their title. The death of his brother, the surreal argument as to whether he should have been given a birthday cake by the club and the possibility of one last, lucrative transfer all suggested he was finished here.

Wilfried Bony coolly tucks home the opener for Swansea

There have been some games in which he has looked a shadow of the man who helped drive City to two League titles. Since he had just returned from international duty with Ivory Coast, Touré would have had an excuse for another lacklustre performance.

However, in the second half he was once more the man who patrolled the Etihad’s pitch as if it were an extension of his own back garden. After falling behind to Wilfried Bony’s opener City had rallied and recovered, with Stevan Jovetic pouncing between the two Swansea centre-halves to put away a stunning low cross from Jesus Navas.

Sergio Aguero seemed the most likely to put the champions back in front, but City’s second almost came via a thunderous 30-yard shot from Gaël Clichy that flew from the tips of Lukasz Fabianski’s gloves on to the post. It would have been only Clichy’s second goal in 11 years of playing Premier League football, which since he has turned out for Arsenal and Manchester City, two of the freest-scoring teams in the English game, is an oddity.

Bony celebrates scoring for Swansea as Joe Hart looks on in despair

Then a ball from Nasri, whose game appears to have benefited from his decision to exile himself from the French national side, back-heeled on by Fernandinho, found Touré charging through, all muscle, speed and desire. Moments before, Kyle Bartley had cleared a shot from him that had been half-saved by Fabianski. The defender had no chance this time.

Touré had two more chances to make the game safe but, once behind, Swansea seemed to recover the self-belief with which they had begun the afternoon. Perhaps when Garry Monk’s managerial work is done, they will have the confidence not to protect their lead once ahead.

They had gone ahead spectacularly when Bony anticipated Nathan Dyer’s gorgeous flick and shot past Hart. After going 2-1 down, they suddenly looked dangerous once more.

Stevan Jovetic taps home from close-range to equalise for City

While Bayern Munich, who fly to Manchester tomorrow aiming to put City’s Champions League campaign out of its misery, were strolling to a 4-0 win over Hoffenheim, City were being physically drained, although the Swansea left-back, Neil Taylor, carried the deepest scars after Kompany’s boot struck his face.

He ended up with a closed eye and bandaged head, and his manager joked that “the scars will do him good”. Whether the same can be said of the scars City carry into their Champions League decider against Bayern is another question.

Manchester City: (4-4-2) Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Navas, Fernandinho (Fernando, 88), Touré, Nasri (Milner, 79); Jovetic (Lampard, 70), Aguero.

Swansea City: (4-4-1-1) Fabianski; Rangel, Bartley, Williams, Taylor; Ki, Carroll (Shelvey, 67), Dyer (Barrow, 77), Sigurdsson (Gomis, 79); Montero; Bony.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick.

Man of the match: Touré (Man City)

Match rating: 7/10