Blues fortunate to earn a point at The Britannia Stadium
FA Premier League
Saturday 31 August 2013, 12.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Garcia, Nastasic, Kolarov, Milner, Rodwell, Toure (c), Nasri (Navas 73), Negredo, Jovetic (Aguero 63)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Boyata, Fernandinho, Dzeko
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: Joe Hart
Having not performed brilliantly in their previous two games, City would have been looking for a quick start to the match. The visitors had all of the early possession, but the best chance of the opening stages went to the home side: As Walters had a glorious opportunity to head home from an Adam cross, but he nodded it wide.
A familiar pattern was beginning to emerge. City were controlling the ball for large spells, but unable to find a way through a packed Stoke defence – and it was almost to the visitors’ disadvantage on the half hour, as a lucky break sent Nzonzi clean through. He checked back, though, and allowed Garcia to get back to block from Adam.
If there were any criticisms lingering around Joe Hart, the England keeper wasn’t letting them cloud his judgement. Nasri was dispossessed on the edge of the City box with no cover behind him and, with Jones on a one-on-one, the keeper blocked well to keep the scores level.
At the end of the half, the best City had to show for their efforts was a Kolarov free kick, which, despite a big dive from Begovic, was never in danger of finding the top corner, being over the bar. The Blues were level. Just.
There was no change at the start of the second half: Stoke were inches away from taking the lead as a low ball across the box missed everybody, with Walters sliding in to try and get the vital touch. He couldn’t and the visitors were off the hook. A volley flashing over the bar from Jovetic was all the Blues could muster in response.
As the game wore on, the chances stacked up and they were all for the home side. Adam put a great ball into the box for Jones, who peeled back from Nastasic, but his header flashed over the crossbar. A couple of minutes later, Etherington was almost through on goal and about to pull the trigger, until a cracking tackle from Zabaleta nicked the ball away.
With Stoke pressing City’s goal for the breakthrough, it almost came via the feet of their own defender in Nastasic. He slid in to try and clear the ball, but almost diverted it into his own net. However a fantastic save from Hart kept the scores level.
As the game moved into stoppage time, though, the visitors came into life. Suddenly, it was City who were pressing for the winner, as Yaya Toure blitzed through but was unable to find a blue shirt, before Negrado missed his volley from a deep corner.
City had got away with a poor performance, earning a point.