West Brom vs Manchester City match report: Superb City prove good enough once again as David Silva shines in striker absence

West Brom 1 Manchester City 3: Despite not having a striker in the starting line-up, goals from Fernando, Toure and Silva kept City hot on the tail of Chelsea

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The Independent Online

Two games, six goals. Manchester City may not be playing without a striker through choice but the enforced experiment is going rather well.

However, given the quality of their approach play, had a centre-forward appeared in Manuel Pellegrini’s Christmas stocking this could have been an embarrassing afternoon for their hosts.

Instead the lack of a goal poacher, combined with the effects of a snowstorm, meant City had to settle for matching Chelsea’s two-goal win at Stamford Bridge earlier in the day.

In the absence of a fit striker James Milner again led the line, but Pellegrini could have asked his assistant Brian Kidd to come out of retirement and City would still have been comfortable winners. The willing Milner’s limitations didn’t matter as Albion were bewitched and bewildered by the movement and magic of the players around him. David Silva, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas were as uncatchable as the snowflakes which descended on England’s highest football ground as winter began to bite in the Midlands.

It took City less than a dozen minutes to take an unbreakable grip on the match with Fernando and, from the spot, Yaya Touré. Having effectively ensured Pellegrini’s men would extend their winning run to nine matches, matching a club record that has stood for more than a century, it was then just about the goal difference – which, as in 2011, could be crucial come May.

Silva did add a third before the break but then the conditions came to Albion’s rescue. The snow began to lay, hampering City’s passing game. Pellegrini, with tomorrow’s match against Burnley in mind, then withdrew Silva, Touré and Nasri. Then Joe Hart, hitherto immaculate, mis-judged a corner allowing £9m Brown Ideye to finally, and fortuitously, break his duck.

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Yaya Toure celebrates with Fernando after the latter puts City ahead

“I am very pleased to score three goals again without a striker,” said Pellegrini. “That is not easy but James creates space and the midfielders are arriving well [in the box].” Of Silva, outstanding in the hole, he added: “Playing this way David is very comfortable and very dangerous as he finishes with a lot of skill.”

Three years ago City, with Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli in harness, supported by Nasri and Silva, plus Edin Dzeko off the bench, came to the Hawthorns on Boxing Day and were held to a goalless draw. Albion, having been drilled for two hours on Christmas Eve by then-manager Roy Hodgson, not only protected Foster so well he did not make a serious save, they nearly won having hit the post late on.

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Joleon Lescott brings down David Silva to give away a first-half penalty

This was an altogether more harrowing experience for Foster who was at fault for the critical opening goal. It came, as elite team’s goals often do, from a corner City were defending. Hart gathered and launched a counter-attack through Navas which ended in a City corner. That was worked to Navas whose deflected cross was spilled by Foster. Quickest to react was Fernando, whose overhead kick was his first City goal.

Next Joleon Lescott, seeking to recover a failed interception, tripped Silva in the box. Lescott argued, with some justification, that he got a toe to the ball first. Mark Clattenburg did not and Touré tucked away the spot-kick. “I couldn’t believe at the time a penalty was given and I’ve looked at it again and he does get the ball,” said Alan Irvine, adding: “It is disappointing.”

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Yaya Toure converts a first-half penalty to double City's lead

Albion had some joy targeting the inside-right channel all game and Saido Berahino shot just past the far post as they sought a foothold, but 10 minutes before the break Silva shut the door on them. Fernando snaffled midfield possession and drove forward before releasing Navas whose cut back was steered inside the far post by the Canary Islander.

At half-time Irvine was reduced to seeking consolations. “To be three down with goals from our own mistakes was tough,” he said. “I challenged them not to crumble. Full marks to them, they showed courage to take the ball; mental strength.”

The other sop was a goal, at last, for Ideye, not that he knew much about it. With City in second gear an Albion corner skidded off Hart’s fists, on to Bacary Sagna’s shoulder, and rebounded off Ideye’s back.

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David Silva shone in the snow at the Hawthorns

With four points from 24, and a notoriously trigger-happy chairman in Jeremy Peace, Irvine needs a result at Stoke tomorrow. “The chairman will make a decision. I can’t control it. All I can do is work as hard as I do and try and get the right kind of performances and right kind of results. I’m not ducking my responsibilty but I can’t do anything about individual errors.”

West Brom (4-2-3-1): Foster, Wisdom, Lescott, McAuley, Pocognoli (Gamboa, 67), Mulumbu, Gardner (Brunt, 67), Morrison, Varela (Ideye, 67), Sessegnon, Berahino.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart, Sagna, Demichelis, Mangala, Clichy, Fernando, Toure (Fernandinho 69), Navas, Silva (Kolarov, 63), Nasri (Lampard, 76), Milner.

Booked:

Manchester City: Fernando.

Man of the match Silva.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

Attendance 26,040.

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