Match report: Stoke City well beaten by Edin Dzeko inspired Manchester City

Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0

Etihad Stadium

In the words of the T-shirt that Edin Dzeko displayed to the crowd, it was a happy new year at Eastlands. There was a brass band playing on the concourse. Timothy Dalton – who rather unfairly is lumped in with George Lazenby as the James Bond nobody can quite remember – and David Hasselhoff were holding court in the directors’ box and Stoke were the visitors.

Tony Pulis’s side are renowned for a masculine, muscular approach to the game but, whenever they come to Manchester, they become a blonde in a B-movie.

Since winning promotion in 2008, Stoke have never managed a point at either Old Trafford or Eastlands and they have yet to score a single league goal at Manchester City. Here, their first attempt came from a free-kick in the 59th minute and by then the champions were two up and the game was dead.

Hasselhoff and Dalton are not the first film stars to come to Eastlands but they were given less of a show than Tom Cruise, who witnessed the jaw-dropping spectacle of last month’s Manchester derby. “Great game”, tweeted Hasselhoff, which shows The Hoff’s standards are not especially high. It was ridiculously one-sided.

Nevertheless, a day after Roberto Mancini had demanded that with the Touré brothers bound for the African Cup of Nations, the club could not afford to lose anyone else, he had to endure the sight of Sergio Aguero walking off with a hamstring injury.

“Great to end and begin the year with a win,” Aguero tweeted. “Too bad about the crick. Will have to rest for 48 hours and then have some studies done.”

With his quick feet and quicker brain, the Argentine had been the man of this particular match. David Platt, the club’s assistant manager, predicted the forward would definitely miss the FA Cup tie with Watford and probably the encounter at Arsenal that follows. “Whether Yaya [Touré] disappears or not, the challenge is to keep winning football matches and we expect whichever 11 we put on the pitch to take the points,” Platt said.   

From the moment Pablo Zabaleta opened the scoring, the points were not up for negotiation. Pulis attempted to explain the listlessness of Stoke’s performance by pointing to the gulf in finances – “You give me £220m and I’ll come back here next year and see what happens,” Pulis said.

Here, Stoke appeared to be on a damage-limitation exercise from the opening moments that saw Asmir Begovic save with his feet from Aguero. The time-wasting began before 30 minutes were showing on the Etihad’s electronic scoreboard. 

Aguero’s skill was irresistible and it seemed odd that his only reward should be from a penalty, awarded for a foul by Steven N’Zonzi on David Silva. On Saturday, the South African had been unfortunate to have been sent off in the 3-3 draw with Southampton that showed the kind of fighting spirit Stoke display everywhere bar Manchester. Here, the challenge was outside the area.

Begovic got a glove to the penalty, which was just about the least skilful piece of play Aguero had been involved in. The best came when he took a long ball from Gareth Barry on his chest, turned and shot wide before sinking to his knees. Then, he struck the post and ran his hands through his hair.

It was an Argentine who made the breakthrough, though not Diego Maradona’s son-in-law, but Zabaleta, a man with a low profile and a high work-rate. He was on the point of receiving a return pass from Silva, changed his mind and left if for James Milner, whose shot was blocked by Begovic’s overworked legs. Zabaleta was perfectly placed to tuck away the rebound.

The relief was everywhere. Wigan’s record against Manchester United is almost as feeble as Stoke’s once they venture up the M6. An away win at the DW Stadium might have put United nine points clear if City could not break through what hitherto had been the division’s tightest defence.

Pulis summed up what followed: “Manchester City were better than us and sometimes you have to open your eyes and let reality hit you straight in the face.” The blows kept coming after the interval and, although Glenn Whelan struck the post by way of retaliation, it came at a time when the match was hopelessly lost.

Dzeko had given Stoke fair warning when he ran on to a chip from Yaya Touré and met it with a shot on the run that looked for a single, dramatic moment that it would dip beneath Begovic’s bar.

Then, Aguero lost his marker again, saw his shot parried by the keeper and knocked home by Dzeko, who revealed his new year message. For this display of humour he was given a yellow card, the same punishment as Robert Huth received for a crude challenge.

Football is a sport increasingly devoid of humour. Had Len Shackleton, a man who gloried in the title of “the clown prince of soccer” when he was in his pomp at Sunderland, attempted to sit on the ball now he would be booked. The blank page of his autobiography entitled “What the average director knows about football” would trigger a disrepute charge.

News
Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
i100
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Rock to play DC character in superhero film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Sport
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
tv
News
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor