A Manchester City First XI stacked full of international imports finally – finally – began to ‘export’ Etihad Stadium style football to other regions of England.
The only slight drawback was that there was not an Englishman in sight as City racked up a three goal advantage inside 75 minutes, before inflicting a thoroughly deserved 3-2 defeat on West Bromwich Albion.
James Milner and Jack Rodwell did appear as substitutes as the previously travel-sick sky blues took the battle to their Black Country hosts and blew them away.
This was what City fans – especially those who journey to away games – had been waiting all season to see, as City’s fluent flowing football simply washed West Brom resistance aside.
The narrow score line actually flatters the Baggies and will also serve as a warning to Premier League novice Manuel Pellegrini, that matches in the English top flight are not won with 15 minutes, plus added extras, to play.
A fluke own goal off Costel Pantilimon and a well executed finish by Victor Anichebe in the final five minutes, may give the impression Albion could have edged a point – but that would be wrong.
There was no boing boing to these Baggies, City’s meticulous and highly skilled approach had neutered any hint of bounce or spring. 3-0 could easily have been 6-0 but for some near misses and undue profligacy in front of Boas Myhill’s goal.
Even surgical Sergio Aguero missed a couple of chances. Of considerably more importance was his 17th goal of the campaign to set City on their winning ways.
A five-man passing movement involving Yaya Toure, Navas, Dzeko, Zabaleta and Aguero, saw the prolific striker crash home the opener in the 9th minute.
Edin Dzeko’s deft pass into the powerful overlapping run of Pablo Zabaleta meant Zaba could pull the ball back for Sergio to strike from 10 yards out.
Quarter-of-an-hour later, and a move of even greater elegance, saw Yaya steering the ball past Myhill following approach play by Aguero and Navas, before Kolarov fired a precision cross along the turf for Yaya to double City’s advantage.
Surely this couldn’t be happening. This was the team whose ‘disastrous’ record away from the Etihad would surely cost them dear – after all Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson had said it, Martin Tyler had said it, Sky Sports News keep on saying it – City are rubbish and can’t win away from home!
What a cacophony of cretins!
Albion pressed and tried to take the initiative but City’s defence had a different look to it, one that suggested it would not be easily breached – cue Vincent Kompany back to his best tough tackling commanding self, instilling confidence via his leadership.
Yaya secured what had looked like a handsome goal advantage caressing win, with a 74th minute penalty. The Ivorian dispatched his kick with great aplomb because Aguero had been withdrawn and replaced with the combative Milner, five minutes earlier.
Nasri and Yaya were likewise ‘preserved’ to ensure their fitness against the Saints at St Mary’s in three day’s time, but Garcia and Rodwell were not adequate replacements.
Had West Brom had another five minutes to play with they could have secured a totally undeserved draw, such was the enormity of Pellegrini’s naivety or stupidity.
I am a big supporter of City’s new manager but he would do well to win the match being played rather than move too swiftly to winning a match still to be played, and consequently drawing or losing a match seemingly won.
His non-selection of Negredo, whilst being respected was equally perplexing, if The Beast was fit and raring to go. It genuinely pains me to say Dzeko – ‘woe is me ‘Dzeko – is becoming an easy target for the average slightly agitated City fan.
Despite Pellegrini’s words of encouragement for the big Bosnian, Dzeko plays with all the conviction of a shrivelled Satsuma. His get up and go has long since got up and gone. It’s a real puzzler but his link play is poor, his general touch poorer still and his ball retention negligible.
As things stand, Dzeko is more a liability than an asset.
The polar opposite is true of the unsung water carrier of the team. Fernandinho quietly goes about his business of tackling, winning possession and setting up opportunities for those around him.
He is now adjusting to the English game and he seems to improve with every passing week. The Brazilian will surely break into his country’s World Cup squad if he maintains and improves his performance levels, especially if City begin stockpiling silverware in 2014.
Once again City dominated possession but, unlike failed sorties earlier in the season, they backed it up with a goal winning advantage.
With 40 goals now scored in 14 games, City’s attack is by far the most potent in the league. The defence – that much maligned defence – was, just a few weeks ago 12th best – or worst – in the division.
What may now surprise, not quite delight, is that the often re-arranged back four, plus a change of goalkeeper, is now the 3rd best backline in the PL.
If Pellegrini wants his best right foot-left foot centre back combination he knows he must wait for the return of Matija Nastasic. That said, Martin Demichelis and his right foot, put in a more than adequate shift, apart from losing Anichebe when Albion came close at the conclusion.
It’s now imperative that City go to the Saints and exorcise the demons of that horror-fest of last February, when they slumped, inexplicably, to a shock 3-1 defeat in what was undeniably the worst showing of the season.
Manure’s defeat to Everton made a nightmare journey to Albion that little bit sweeter, but it’s beginning to look as if City’s main rivals reside in London – both North and West – and a considerable distance from Trafford Borough
By David Walker