|Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe|
Back to the future for mission not so impossible!
By David Walker
Manchester City went into re-wind mode to go fast forward and put their Premier League title challenge back on track, with a rampant second half display against West Bromwich Albion.
Roberto Mancini’s marauders turned back the clock to their all-conquering form of the first five months of the season and annihilated a painfully negative Albion at the Etihad Stadium.
With the Blues’ title hopes seemingly in tatters after the disappointments of Stoke, Sunderland and Arsenal, it was a resurgent City who stayed patient, before running riot with a 4-0 score line that served to flatter the bashed up Baggies.
An all Argentinean strike force of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez started the match, with the suspended Super/Mad (you decide) Mario Balotelli absent and Edin Dzeko on the bench.
Missing the power and physical presence of the injured Yaya Toure, the City midfield welcomed back David ‘Merlin’ Silva as they set about dismantling the packed defensive ranks of Roy Hodgson’s men.
A man-of-the-match performance from Aguero was typified by a stunning long range strike, putting City one up within seven minutes of the start.
Aguero dropped deep, took a direct route from the halfway line and unleashed an unstoppable low drive low past Albion keeper Ben Foster into the bottom left hand corner of the net.
The goal acted as a release valve, sweeping away the tension and misfiring efforts of recent weeks. It was as if City had nothing to lose, having seemingly given up their pursuit of Premier League supremacy, with the abysmal showing at Arsenal 72 hours beforehand.
With Silva and the indefatigable Samir Nasri pinging passes around and Tevez working feverishly in an unaccustomed deeper lying role, the men from the Black Country were pinned into their own half.
|Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe|
Micah Richards and Gael Clichy were providing width – so blatantly missing in recent weeks - with penetrative runs down the flanks, while Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong ensured plenty of City possession in the middle of the park.
The air of resignation - apparent in the 46,000-strong home support prior to kick off - was gradually lifting amid a sense that this was a City team back with a purpose and self belief.
Albion were there for the taking and, if nothing else, it presented City with the chance to make hay with the goal difference, if not the points tally, of their table-topping neighbours.
But for all of their domination City failed to build on the early lead and went into half time with a slender advantage.
The second half began in similar fashion with City, ever industrious, but still failing to apply the killer touch. It was left to Wigan’s Shaun Maloney to galvanise the Etihad faithful with news that the Latics had edged ahead of the hated Manchester United at the DW Stadium.
The buzz of excitement heightened the mood and within minutes Aguero had clinically dispatched his 26th goal of the season and given City a 2-0 lead. A Tevez pass rebounded out to Nasri on the edge of Albion’s 18 yard box. The Frenchman stroked a slide rule pass to Aguero who curled his side foot shot around Foster with clinical precision.
A wave of optimism coursed around the ground. Then came the moment few of us had thought possible after last September – Tevez slammed in his first goal of the campaign after a neat pass from Nasri following Aguero’s pull back on the byline.
Forgiven by many, forgotten by none, Tevez deserved the acclaim when substituted after 72 minutes of all-out effort. Clearly not 100% match fit he had, nonetheless, injected a tenacity and energy - a Tevez trademark - into City’s play.
The swarming City attacks, fuelled by the introduction of Adam Johnson and Edin Dzeko soon produced the fourth and sweetest goal of proceedings. Aguero latched onto a heavy touch from Albion centre back Jonas Olsson just inside the opposition half and floated a beautiful 20 yard pass to Silva who was breaking down the left.
|Silva completes the rout with an exquisite finish|
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe
The Spanish magician threw off the shackles of injury and fatigue which had blighted his recent performances, to dink an exquisite finish over Foster into the gaping goal for 4-0…with United still trailing at the DW Stadium.
At the end of the 90 minutes there was a cautious sense of optimism that City could yet pull off what had been unthinkable at the start of the evening…a Premier League title win.
Captain Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott had been imperious throughout and will need to be again with Norwich offering a much sterner test come the weekend.
If City’s ‘Paxo Men’ can stuff the Canaries on Saturday lunchtime they’ll be just two points adrift of United and bringing their simmering PL challenge nicely up to boiling point.
You can also follow David on Twitter: @djwskyblu
(c) The Sky Blue View 2012
(c) The Sky Blue View 2012