Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0
By David Mooney, Thu 22 December 2011 11:32
English Premier League
Wednesday 21 December 2011, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Richards (Savic 59), Lescott, Kompany (c), Clichy, Y Toure, Barry (Milner 84), Nasri, Silva (Balotelli 69), A Johnson, Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, K Toure, Zabaleta, de Jong
Goals: Aguero (30, 54), A Johnson (36)
Booked: Richards, A Johnson
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero
City started their final home match of 2011 in full control of the ball, knocking it around neatly as the visitors looked to contain the hosts. And it seemed like patience would be a virtue for the home fans from the off, with City seeing a lot of possession, but unable to create a clear cut chance – in fact, it took a great tackle from Kompany to deny the visitors a quick breakaway in the opening stages.
With the quarter of the hour mark approaching, a moment of inspiration almost gave City the lead. Adam Johnson received the ball on the right flank and cut inside on the edge of the box to unleash a shot. It deflected off the defender as he was closed down and it left Sorensen stranded, but he watched with relief as the ball bounced back off the crossbar.
Nasri smashed a half-volley wide of the far post, as City continued to look for the breakthrough, before the goal finally came through this season’s leading scorer. Yaya Toure pulled the ball across the face of the goal and Kompany touched it towards the back post in an attempt to slot it home. It wasn’t going in, but it didn’t matter, as Aguero re-adjusted to get the final touch over the line, with the visitors appealing for offside. Fortunately for the City fans, though, he was dead level.
And, soon after, City doubled their lead. Silva wanted a penalty for a foul by Whitehead in the area, as the Stoke defender put a lot of pressure on the Spaniard to win the ball. The referee waved away the appeals, but Johnson picked up the clearance, knocked it out of his feet and smashed the ball past Sorensen from well outside the box.
The first action of the second half saw City add their third goal to their evening’s tally. Nasri received the ball in the area and got his head up to smash a low cross towards Aguero and, with his name already on the scoresheet, he made no mistake in slotting the ball into the back of the net. City were cruising and there was still over half an hour to play.
The Argentine should have secured his hat-trick almost immediately after, as he timed his run to perfection to go one-on-one with Sorensen. As the big goalkeeper narrowed the angle, Aguero was caught in two minds of whether to shoot or look for a team-mate square and, in the end, he did neither, with the ball trickling well wide of the far post.
It didn’t matter, though, because City’s three goal cushion meant the remainder of the game was like a training session. The home side took all three points, meaning that only Fulham and Napoli avoided defeat at Eastlands in the whole of the calendar year and that City will sit on top of the Premier League on Christmas Day.