Manchester City always manage to do things in their own inimitable style, and so it was as Manuel The Magnificent’s marauders smashed the modern day scoring record for the fastest 100 goals.
City raced to their century landmark in just 34 outings this season – shaving a whole eight matches off the previous quickest route to the net-busting total in the Premier League era.
Some City fans, well versed over the years in the art of ‘black’ self deprecating humour, had a sneaky bet on it being an entirely inglorious own goal. It so nearly was, before Cardiff keeper David Marshall pushed a ricochet off his defender, Ben Turner, onto his post.
But did City do it in style? Well, sort of, Edin Dzeko’s 14th minute strike, or rather scuff, certainly had a contemporary all mod-cons and gadgets feel to it!
It took the new goal line technology to confirm the Bosnian’s mis-hit shot had crossed the Cardiff line, and the Sky Blues could shake off any ‘nervous nineties’ anxiety.
The replays showed the ball was a yard over Marshall’s line so it should never have been in doubt, but with Premier League novice referee, Neil Swarbrick in charge, it was just as well we had the widget.
Swarbrick – it’s maybe closer to the truth if you change a consonant in his surname – waved away a stonewall penalty after Dzeko was felled by a desperate lunge by McNaughton in the opening 60 seconds.
It was therefore justice of a kind that Dzeko, the third string in City’s orchestral striking ensemble of impresario Aguero and virtuoso Negredo, should bring up the ton.
David Silva earned the assist – despite an unintentional and clearly accidental handball – as he weaved through Cardiff’s defence, before pulling the ball back from the by-line to the waiting Dzeko.
So, with potentially up to another 30 fixtures still to play this season (if City reach three cup finals and not factoring in any replays) , 16 of which are in the Premier League, City could break other records.
Having scored 63 in 22 matches, they need another 41 to beat Chelsea’s record of 103 set in 2009/10. That’s an average of 2.5 goals per game and, on the face of it eminently achievable.
With the landmark reached and City being somewhat profligate with their chances – Negredo in particular shooting wide with his usually lethal left foot – it was the visitors who notched the next goal.
Totally against the run of play, the livewire Craig Noone beat Martin Demichelis with alarming ease, before wrong-footing Vincent Kompany and slashing a low shot past a defenceless Joe Hart.
That wasn’t scripted. It did however serve as an example of how Demichelis is prone to diving in with ill-timed tackles, going to ground too easily and exposing City’s central defence.
The Argentine veteran is obviously in favour with Pellegrini having played for him at two previous clubs. He often shows a good understanding of the game, but even at his peak he was never the fastest. His penchant of attempting to tackle, rather than holding his ground in key situations, is a worry.
With the transfer window open for another 13 days City could find themselves vulnerable if injuries or suspensions hit Kompany.
Unless they act to bring in a top quality centre back for a final push for trophies, be it in the singular or plural, the likes of Lescott, Demichelis, a below par Nastasic or God forbid, a makeshift Garcia, simply WILL NOT see City over the line against top quality opposition.
With the attacking triumvirate of Sergio, Alvaro and Edin having already demonstrated that they can carry the loss of a key man for a sustained period, Pellegrini’s focus must be on the backline.
His attacking philosophy is to be applauded. It’s an approach embraced by the City fans, so with Cardiff level there was a calm serenity that it was only a matter of time before City re-took the lead.
And so it was just three minutes later. Man-of the-match Yaya played an exquisite 35-yard probing pass with the outside of his right foot into Edin Dzeko’s path.
Surrounded by defenders, the 16-goal striker squared a shot-cum-pass to Jesus Navas who side-footed home from close range.
City should have had a bigger advantage at the break, but credit to Cardiff for not attempting to park large passenger carrying vehicles in front of goal posts. They came to play and, for long periods made this a more enthralling contest than many had thought possible.
Noone in particular impressed with his speed and fearless approach down Cardiff’s right flank. His talent and youthful exuberance was tempered by his propensity to go down quicker than Manchester United’s share price upon any physical contact.
He could be a future England star if he learns how to ‘man up’.
With 100 being very much the number of the day, Joe Hart produced two excellent saves from Mutch and the England embryo, Noone, on his way to becoming the first Manchester City player to savour 100 PL victories.
On the hour mark, David Silva nearly boosted his goal tally to five when he started a one touch period of passing play with Negredo, Kolarov and Dzeko, before pushing the ball a fraction wide of Marshall’s far post.
It was sublime approach play well deserving of a goal.
When City did score their third it was still a thing of beauty, delivered by an Ivorian colossus who powered 70 yards upfield, laid the ball off to Aguero, before burying the return pass into the net from 18 yards.
Ex-City midfielder Didi Hamann, the sauerkraut munching Scouse-German ‘expert’ TV pundit labelled Yaya a ‘liability’ a few matches ago. What a scheisskopf!
It was City’s Toure de Force’s 14th goal of the season – 11 coming in the PL – making him the second highest scorer behind Sergio.
As if that was not enough, he then bagged his second assist of the day sending a sumptuous 40 yard pass through to substitute Aguero, who duly dispatched his 14th PL goal in 16 appearances this season.
Looking as smooth as his tres chic haircut, the Argentine pocket rocket gave Steven Caulker an ‘out of body’ experience, turning him inside out before smashing the ball past Marshall.
Goal 103 and counting.
Cardiff grabbed a late consolation which momentarily reignited the nightmare of last August’s 3-2 defeat in South Wales. Fraizer Campbell waltzed in unmarked behind Demichelis to score from a corner.
Pellegrini the perfectionist, whilst happy with his team’s seventh consecutive PL win, was unhappy to concede in such slipshod fashion. Equally, he reflected that City had 7 or 8 easy scoring opportunities that were squandered.
Now that’s the type of guy you want managing your football team!
A quick mention in dispatches for Javi Garcia – massively maligned by many – myself included, who had a solid game while Fernandinho was afforded a well deserved breather.
The Spanish midfielder who has suffered from being played out of position at centre back, but nonetheless underwhelmed in his preferred defensive midfield position, is improving. He could be vital as City fight for silverware on four fronts.
Finally, Craig Bellamy was given a generous ovation as he warmed up on the touchline as a Cardiff sub, and an even bigger reception when he entered the fray.
The Etihad fans never forget a player who gave their all for ‘the shirt’ out on the field of play. It’s another of those ‘Typical City’ foibles.
By David Walker
Don’t forget you still have more than 24 hours to try and win a pair of Warrior Superheat boots worth £130.00. Simply tell us which City player wears Warrior boots? Reply directly to READ BUT NEVER RED or tweet your answer to @djwskyblu and @Warrior_FTBL on the same tweet giving us the name and #Superheat http://www.warriorfootball.com/boot/superheat