In time-honoured Manchester fashion, the skies wept for Neil Young, the late, greatly underrated Manchester City forward who died last week. Another deluge, in the form of a 13-minute hat-trick by Carlos Tevez on his 27th birthday, deepened West Bromwich's relegation worries and dragged City back into the title race the Argentinian had claimed they were no longer in.
Tevez's gloomy rationale was that one point from games with Aston Villa and Birmingham had left Roberto Mancini's side too far off the pace. Albion were rather more accommodating. In a boost to morale before next Saturday's derby at Old Trafford, Tevez converted two first-half penalties either side of a superbly worked goal as City comfortably maintained their record of never having lost in the 25 games in which their captain has scored.
Deputising for Mancini, who had a sore throat, David Platt said the only disappointment was that City did not add to their haul after half-time. "But the clean sheet is a bonus," he said. "Next week is a very difficultgame, especially with 80 per cent of our players disappearing to play in internationals. But Robbie [Mancini]believes he can win every match."
The City manager has yet to lose to an Italian counterpart in five games in England. Roberto Di Matteo, who styles himself head coach at Albion, magnanimously commended City's "movement" but was frustrated that the penalties had stemmed from mistakes rather than incisive play by the home side.
City had marked the 66-year-old Young's passing with an honour guard of former players, including Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee from the 1967-68 championship-winning side in which he was top scorer. Mancini joined thousands of fans in sporting a scarf in red and black, the colours Joe Mercer's team wore when Young's goal won the FA Cup in 1969.
Young came from south Manchester. This match, however, belonged to a South American. Tevez hinted at what was to come as early as the fourth minute when he stretched to meet a cross by Aleksandar Kolarov and sent the ball against the near post. Kolarov, "promoted" from full-back to midfield for the first time, unleashed one swerving, long-range drive which left the crossbar quivering even after Boaz Myhill had laid fingertips on the ball.
Almost inevitably, the Serb and the Argentinian were the principal figures when City went ahead. Steven Reid, a midfielder playing at right-back, got himself into a bad position and was adjudged to have brought down Kolarov. Tevez, having missed his previous two spot-kicks, placed the ball to Myhill's left as the goalkeeper plunged to the right.
The decision compounded Albion's sense of grievance over penalties. Already this year they have been refused one, for a challenge by Gary Neville, that would serve as a dictionary definition for "stonewall", and it happened again last week when a stray Wigan hand cleared the ball.
Five minutes later, City needed no assistance from the referee, Martin Atkinson. An intricate one-two with David Silva saw Tevez race on to an exquisitely angled pass, skip over Jonas Olsson's attempted tackle and spear his second goal into the far corner of Myhill's net. It seemed harsh on Albion, who had tested Joe Hart with a shot by Chris Brunt and an Olsson header before City scored, and there was worse to come.
A Kolarov cross was headed out by Nicky Shorey. As the ball bounced, Jerome Thomas stuck out an arm to control it. Myhill was closer as Tevez drove the penalty kick high to his right, but not close enough to prevent his goal tally for the season reaching 20. Albion kept going forward, but the scoreline remained a fitting tribute to Young's memory.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Tevez