Stoke City 1 #Manchester City 4 (Half-time 1-1)
Reigning title holders Manchester City had to withstand an early barrage at the Britannia Stadium, before eventually settling into their stride to post an impressive second-half display and sweep the hosts away 4-1. It had all seemed so different in the first twenty minutes, as Stoke looked like scoring at any second, but Manuel Pellegrini's men showed their resilience to weather the storm and ended up worthy winners on the night.
As a measure of the size of the challenge facing them at Stoke yesterday, Man City had not beaten the Midlands' club away from home since 1999. That worrying statistic looked likely to continue early on, as Mark Hughes' men laid siege on Joe Hart's goal for the first quarter of the game. It was the away side who took the lead though, against the run of play, when Sergio Aguero fired clinically into the corner of the net on 33 minutes.
Stoke gathered themselves again and deservedly drew level five minutes later, when Peter Crouch stooped to score yet another #Premier League headed goal, meeting an inviting cross from Marko Arnautovic with a precision finish. It was the big man's 45th headed goal in the Premier League.
The visitors thought that they had regained the lead before the break as Aguero looked to have headed in, only for the officials to rule it out. Replays backed up their 'eagle-eyed' decision, as the Argentinian had handled for the final contact, although it didn't seem that he needed to as the ball looked already goal bound. He was yellow-carded for his troubles, as his own 'hand of God' (maybe learning from his former father-in-law) this time did not bear dividends.
The two sides resumed hostilities after the interval all-square, with Man City really needing to up their tempo, if they wanted to keep on the coat tails of league leaders Chelsea. They seemed to get the message as they made light of the lack of Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony (still away with their Ivory Coast team mates) in the second period, with Samir Nasri having a far greater influence on the game.
After Aguero seemed to be unfortunate to not gain a penalty decision shortly after the break, the ever-reliable James Milner headed in a delightful Nasri cross ten minutes into the half, to put his side back ahead at 2-1. Fifteen minutes later the away side did indeed get a penalty, as David Silva's determined burst into the box was halted by Geoff Cameron. Aguero prodded home the spot-kick to put the game beyond Stoke at 3-1. After a lean spell for the usually prolific Aguero (he hadn't scored since December), the visitors' fans will have been relieved to see him back among the goal scorers. Even allowing for the 'drought', he has now scored 21 goals in all competitions this season, in yet another rewarding season.
By now, the home side looked to have run out of steam after all that early effort, with Nasri running through the defence seemingly at will to drive home a fourth for Pellegrini's men. A rampant away side almost made it five late on, when Edin Dzeko missed another good opportunity. It mattered not, as a 4-1 success was far better than had seemed possible after forty-five minutes play.
The victory keeps last year's champions still just about in touch with Chelsea at the top, but with games running out quickly, they are really looking for Jose Mourinho's Blue army to slip up it seems, if they are to be in with a chance of closing the seven point gap. #Football