Blues rampant against hapless visitors
FA Premier League
Saturday 2 November 2013, 15.00 KO
City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Nastasic, Clichy, Nasri (Milner 71), Fernandinho, Toure (c), Silva (Navas 73), Aguero, Negredo (Dzeko 45)
Unused: Hart, Lescott, Richards, Kolarov
Goals: Johnson (og 16), Silva (20), Nastasic (25), Negredo (36), Toure (60), Aguero (71), Dzeko (86)
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero
With all the talk pre-match about Pellegrini’s decision to leave Hart out of the starting line-up, the number of touches his goalkeeper took must have struggled to reach double figures – as City’s attacking options stole the show. Norwich, it has to be said, were awful; though City were relentless in their offence and took complete advantage.
The opening goal could have come after just 50 seconds, as Zabaleta crossed towards the near post and Bassong stepped in ahead of his goalkeeper to deflect the ball behind. Nasri went close on the quarter-hour mark as he struck the post after dancing through the Norwich box.
It was a stroke of good fortune that saw the ball cross the line for the first time, though: Silva’s original shot was blocked and it bounced to Aguero, who prodded it towards goal. It ricocheted back away from danger before striking Johnson and looping over Ruddy and into the net.
There was no doubt over the second goal four minutes later – a decisive breakaway by Aguero saw him keep possession inside the Norwich box and wait for support to arrive. It did in the form of Silva, who received the layoff and powered it into the net. It went through Ruddy’s dive, who would have been disappointed.
If Ruddy was to be disappointed with the second goal, he would have felt worse about the third: A corner from the right wing was curled onto the head of Nastasic. He nodded towards goal – via a flick off Martin – and it dropped into the bottom corner at the goalkeeper’s near post. He got two hands on it, but couldn’t keep it out.
The game was over a mere ten minutes later. Aguero – who was offside, it has to be said – latched onto a through pass from Toure to smash a low cross towards Negredo in the centre. The defender slid in to try and prevent the goal, but the Spanish forward powered it into the net.
On the stroke of half time, the clean sheet was preserved by a good save from Pantilimon, low and to his right. It opened up nicely for Pilkington through the middle and his shot from the edge of the box needed touching around the post.
It was nearly five before the break, following a mazy run from Aguero and a turn and shot from Toure. This time, however, Ruddy got two hands to the ball and held it. It was looking very worrying for the visitors.
The second half – perhaps understandably – got off to something of a slow start. City were content to keep the ball and try to work an opening, while the visitors still appeared shellshocked from the first 45 minutes. They should have scored when Demichelis gave away possession cheaply, but Elmander missed the target.
On the hour mark, though, Toure stepped up with another special as he netted from another free kick. Just to the left of the box, he curled it over the wall and straight past the dive of Ruddy to make the home side’s total for the day hit five.
With just under 20 minutes to play, the Blues added a sixth goal and finally it was Aguero’s name on the scoresheet. His performance had deserved one, rather than a list of assists, and he latched on to a loose ball inside the box to volley straight past Ruddy.
Navas came close on 80 minutes, as he forced a good save from the Norwich goalkeeper as he raced clear from everybody to half-volley a bouncing through ball. It was touched around the post by the goalkeeper, who must have been wondering where his defence were.
Ruddy denied more embarrassment for the visitors as he reacted quickly when Demichelis tried to scoop a deflected Toure free kick towards the goal. It spun free into the box and the centre-back turned to prod it towards the line, but the keeper pounced to keep it out at the second attempt.
Finally, City did break their Premier League record goalscoring tally just four minutes from time. A low ball into the box found Dzeko with his back to goal and his neat turn and shot found the bottom corner, past Ruddy’s despairing dive.
With all the headlines before the game about the goalkeeping situation at City, the biggest story of the day was how embarrassing the scoreline could have been for the visitors. City scored seven for the second time ever at the Etihad.