West Brom 2 Manchester City 3 match report: Yaya Toure makes it one-way traffic as City secure rare victory on the road
City had struggled away from the Etihad Stadium this season
No woe on the road this time. Just. Manchester City, the team who cannot miss at home, looked to have acquired the same clinical reflex at The Hawthorns but were bedevilled at the end to give those with title aspirations hope.
On a night when statements of sorts were made at Anfield, the Emirates and Old Trafford, City went about their business with a ruthless efficiency. Any less than three goals constitutes disappointment in this phase of plunder. But from nowhere West Brom fashioned a comeback late in the game, with two goals in the dying minutes that scarred what should have been a routine night for the visitors. The first saw the ball ricochet in off Costel Pantilimon, and in the game’s final attack deep in added time, Anichebe blasted West Brom far closer to a draw than had ever looked likely.
City arrived at The Hawthorns boasting a record that would have them placed 15th in a table based only on results away from home. Just one win in six and four defeats is not the stuff of championship contenders but that did not stop Jose Mourinho volunteering City as the side he fears most in this turbulent Premier League season.
You only had to wait eight minutes to see why. After an opening period of gentle probing during which West Brom retreated deeper and deeper, City ripped through the home defence with the first change of gear. Edin Dzeko, in for Alvaro Negredo, picked the run of Pablo Zabaleta, who stroked the ball into the path of Sergio Aguero. Without checking his stride Aguero blazed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
Forward momentum has not been City’s issue. Silly goals on the road have been their undoing. The restoration of Vincent Kompany in the centre of defence was theoretically an augmentation of the back line, though typically of this weird start to the campaign, his last outing in the West Midlands at Aston Villa was one of those matches City lost while dominating.
The error at Villa Park was to settle into a passive mode assuming a second goal would follow as a matter of course. Over-confidence, perhaps. Here there was greater urgency, a sharper sense of purpose. Save for a speculative effort from Saido Berahino, given a start in place of Stéphane Sessègnon, West Brom spent the opening 25 minutes in their own half.
The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes to accommodate fans stuck on the M6. Sheer weight of traffic led to City’s second, side-footed home by Yaya Touré in the 25th minute. Carved open down the left, West Brom gave too much space to Aleksandar Kolarov, who drilled a left-foot cross into the path of Touré, in whom City have a unique player. The big-boned artisan is transformed by a football kit into a superhero of power and touch capable of almost any intervention imaginable. Ably supported in midfield by Samir Nasri, a French innovator of some stature himself, and the jet-heeled Jesus Navas, City swaggered across the Hawthorns pitch.
At least the second goal snapped West Brom out of their reverence. Morgan Amalfitano took it to Kolarov down the West Brom right but his crosses were too speculative in nature to threaten Pantilimon in the City goal.
Chris Brunt was next up, attempting to profit from the more direct route, letting go from 30 yards. It amounted to guerrilla-like agitation, which is devilishly hard to sustain against a superior force.
City’s defence, marshalled expertly by Martin Demichelis and Kompany, ultimately had the answer.
West Brom roused themselves at the start of the second half with a period of sustained pressure that led to a penalty appeal by Shane Long that was turned down. Boaz Myhill took the ball off Dzeko’s head after a rapid break by Aguero. The match suddenly had some cut and thrust.
Curiously City seemed content to allow West Brom more of the ball. A goal was the requirement but in truth, for all their endeavour, Steve Clarke’s side lacked the precision tools around the box.
Sensing the change in tempo Manuel Pellegrini took the sensible action of removing Aguero for James Milner after West Brom had introduced Anichebe for Long and Zoltan Gera for James Morrison. Call it intuition. Within minutes the game was out of reach after Touré slotted home from the spot.
Man of the match Touré.
Match rating 8/10.
Referee C Foy (Liverpool).
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