Monday, 26 March 2012

City vs Stoke: Match Report

Crouch's stunning volley puts a dent in City's title race

By Aaron Leggott

Manchester City regained their place at the top of the Premier League after salvaging a point at the Britannia Stadium.

After a very poor first half, it took an absolute stunning effort from Peter Crouch to wake up the visitors, who replied with an unforgettable strike of their own as Yaya Toure's 35 yard effort found the net with 15 minutes remaining.

Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
It is a big two points dropped for the Blues, whose impressive comeback in midweek was not to be repeated, giving Manchester United a big impetus to create a lead at the top of the table when they play Fulham tomorrow night.

It is our away form which is becoming increasingly worrying, with last night's draw against the Potters being our fourth successive draw in the past four away games, and it seems that it is taking the opposing side to score for City to wake up and start playing football.

City, who knew they were to play without the presence of both Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott, were handed a further blow before the match as it was announced that Sergio Aguero was to miss out due to a foot injury he sustained.

Edin Dzeko replaced the Argentine, and he arguably had the best chance for City in a mediocre first half, as the in form Samir Nasri found Gael Clichy on the left wing, whose cross was perfect for the Bosnian. Unmarked, he should have put the visitors ahead, but instead his header was wayward, like the frontman's recent form for City.

The first half flew by, and chances were indeed very limited. Stoke nearly carved the City defence open five minutes before the interval, as their first corner of the game went over Joe Hart's head before being cleared off the line by Pablo Zabaleta.

If anything, the first half of this edgy match created tension, rather than a football match. Both sides were on the end of controversial challenges, as Gareth Barry seemed to catch Glenn Whealan with a crunching challenge, that could have easily been a penalty, whilst Dean Whitehead appeared to elbow David Silva in the jaw before the Spaniard went tumbling to the ground.

Fortunately for the paying spectators, both sides seemed to up their tempo in the second half, and City came out with more purpose, needing a win to keep the pressure on their rivals. Arguably, the Blues started off in better fashion, and caused Asmir Begovic a headache within the opening couple of minutes as he was forced into parrying away a Dzeko shot before a neat drive by Nasri was held by the Bosnian keeper.

Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
With City looking the most likely to break the deadlock, up stepped Crouch, who once again seemed intent on disrupting the party for Manchester City. Up to his strike, it was a goal that typified Stoke, with the ball not even touching the ground.

A loft upfield by Begovic was knocked down by Crouch to Jermaine Pennant, whose header was controlled by the colossal striker before he lofted the ball over Joe Hart into the top corner. In defence of Hart, it was a shot which was unstoppable, and it would take some effort to have even got close to preventing a goal.

Mancini brought out the big guns, and on came Carlos Tevez for Barry with City in need of a goal. Adam Johnson also made a brief cameo appearance, but it was Yaya Toure who struck the Blues level with his tremendous strike from distance, which took a deflection off Ryan Shawcross' head.

He had a chance to grab all three points towards the end with another speculative effort, but the ball flew over the goal into the Manchester City fans, who were in loud voice for the whole day.

A disappointing result which has given United the edge in the title race. However, nothing has changed since Saturday afternoon, and we still need to win every game to stand any chance of winning our first ever Premier League title.

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