FA Premier League
Wednesday 7 May 2014, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Garcia, Toure, Milner (Jovetic 60), Silva (Fernandinho 76), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo 86)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Clichy
Goals: Dzeko (64, 72), Jovetic (89), Toure (90+3)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the Match: Stevan Jovetic
Manchester City are a point away from their second Premier League title, following a comprehensive win over Aston Villa at a very rainy Etihad. It was a nervy atmosphere until Dzeko opened the scoring in the second half, when it seemed to lift a weight from the fans’ shoulders – and, to round of a good evening, Toure bagged the Blues’ century of league goals too.
The rain pounded down onto the pitch and it added an extra layer of drama and tension to proceedings – which could have been calmed inside five minutes, as Kolarov tested Guzan at his near post. The goalkeeper parried it away and began a frantic five minutes for his side that saw Kompany head just over the bar and Guzan block with his left foot to deny Toure.
Silva came close to stealing in ahead of the Villa goalkeeper, when Guzan let a Kolarov cross slip from his grasp. The American goalkeeper, however, managed to dive on the loose ball before the Spaniard could prod it into the goal. Nasri wasn’t too far away from opening the scoring, too, as he exchanged a one-two with Silva on the corner of the box, but his effort didn’t bend enough and sailed wide.
It could have been even less comfortable for the home fans mid-way through the first half. First, a cross from the left found Bowery unmarked in the box and he couldn’t connect well enough to trouble Hart – scuffing his half-volley into the side netting. Then, a City corner broke down and left Zabaleta one-on-one with Weimann. The Argentine slowed the forward down and forced him to shoot wide when he should have tested the goalkeeper.
City, however, should have gone in at half time in the lead. Zabaleta could have had a shot on goal, but instead chose to square for Silva – the Spaniard’s effort was blocked after his first touch got away from him a little. And then Nasri somehow prodded wide from a Milner cross into the box, after Guzan had come and been found wanting.
Early in the second half, the breakthrough almost came in spectacular style from the captain. A ball into the box was cleared, but Silva returned it quickly with a header and the Villa defence hadn’t pushed out far enough. Kompany tried a bicycle kick to turn the ball towards goal, but he couldn’t direct it away from Guzan, who was able to hold at the second attempt.
Ten minutes into the half, Kolarov had a free kick pushed away from goal, as he curled it towards the top corner from 30 yards. It had clearly been frustrating for the players, too – as there were long discussions between the left back and Toure over who would get to have the strike at goal.
Pellegrini introduced Jovetic to try and add a new dimension to the game and, just four minutes after the Montenegrin was introduced, the Blues took the lead. It had been coming – a cute ball through to Zabaleta on the right allowed him to drive a low cross into the box, where Dzeko was arrived to nutmeg Guzan. The Etihad erupted.
A few minutes later, the same combination created another City goal. Zabaleta was played in by Silva and the defender drove the ball into the box once more. This time it was for Nasri, whose shot was well saved by Guzan, but the goalkeeper was helpless as Dzeko touched the rebound into the empty net.
The visitors came inches away from pulling a goal back with eight minutes to play, as a free kick from the right caused City all kinds of problems. A ball to the back post saw Hart go wandering to try and collect, but it was nodded back across and – with the goalkeeper out of position – it looked like a simple task for Weimann to head home. He hit the bar, with the ball bouncing down onto the line and out – and the Goal Decision System said it wasn’t in.
The game was sealed with two minutes to play. Toure looked like he’d spent too much time inside the Villa box with the ball and hadn’t found room for the shot, as he jinked inside and outside the tight defence, but the Ivorian found Jovetic arriving late from the left. The Montenegrin hit it first time straight into the bottom corner.
However, in stoppage time, Toure rounded off the win with City’s 100th league goal of the season. It was a typical Toure move, as the midfielder picked up the ball midway inside his own half and – as the furthest home player forward – drove towards goal. He couldn’t be stopped by any of the four Villa defenders trying to keep pace with him and, one-on-one with Guzan, he blasted it into the net.
The win put City back on top of the table and a point against West Ham on Sunday will be enough to clinch the title. It’s City’s to lose.