Manchester City 4 West Brom 0: Mancini's men refuse to give up ghost on title bid
20:37 GMT, 11 April 2012
21:08 GMT, 11 April 2012
Just when we thought it was all over, somebody decided to turn back time. Just when they appeared to have thrown away the Barclays Premier League, Manchester City woke up and remembered they are a pretty decent side.
It may still be too late, of course. City's great foes from Old Trafford remain favourites to win this championship. But after the horrors of Stoke, Sunderland and Arsenal, Roberto Mancini's team reverted to type and brushed West Bromwich aside without breaking sweat.
As City ambled to victory, there was even a goal for Carlos Tevez to mark his first start since September. That came on the hour after Sergio Aguero – a rather more reliable South American striker – had scored in either half to put them two goals up.
Power Sergio: Manchester City striker Aguero (left) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the game
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Hart 6; Richards 7, Kompany 6, Lescott 6, Clichy 6; Nasri 7, De Jong 6, Barry 6, Silva 7 (Zabaleta 81min); Tevez 6 (Johnson, 63, 6), Aguero 8 (Dzeko 74, 6).
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Milner, Pizarro.
Scorers: Aguero 6, 54, Tevez 61, Silva 64.
WEST BROMWICH (4-5-1): Foster 6; Jones 5, Dawson 6, Olsson 6, Shorey 5; Cox 5, Andrews 5, Mulumbu 5 (Fortune 68, 6), Scharner 6, Dorrans 5 (Tchoyi 78); Long 6.
Subs not used: Daniels, McAuley, Odemwingie, Hurst, Roofe.
Man of the match: Sergio Aguero.
Referee: Kevin Friend 7.
West Brom were quite wretched but credit City for taking advantage. They showed no mercy, David Silva scoring the fourth with 25 minutes to go.
With Mario Balotelli suspended after his afternoon of madness at the Emirates, it was clear that Mancini would have to change things up front. Tevez's contribution since returning from his self-imposed exile had been restricted to cameos from the bench. Here, at last, was his first real chance to show City what they have been missing.
City, perhaps feeling less pressure after United had opened what seemed like a title-winning lead, played much better football during the first half-hour. West Bromwich have been no mugs this season but couldn't get near the ball for much of the first half.
Aguero, who didn't look himself after
returning from injury on Sunday, seemed to find the rhythm of this game
much more quickly and worried the West Brom defence with a direct run
in the second minute.
No stopping that: Aguero (left) blasts home his first goal after just six minutes at the Etihad Stadium
Cool finish: Aguero tucks in the second goal shortly into the second half
On that occasion his shot was blocked but within four more minutes he had scored the game's first goal and the 25th of his debut City season.
Once again Aguero drove from deep but this time he advanced from a more central position. Sensing that West Brom had backed off a little, he let fly with a low right-foot shot that zipped across goalkeeper Ben Foster and into his right-hand corner.
Made in Argentina: Carlos Tevez puts City out of sight with the third goal on the night
All is forgiven: Former outcast Tevez (left) salutes the crowd after grabbing another goal in City colours
Almost immediately, it was possible to sense the tension lift a little at the Etihad. City began to play some enterprising football and the only surprise was that it didn't immediately yield more goals.
Tevez shot wildly over from 18 yards in the 12th minute when a little more composure was required before Silva – back after a one-game rest – drilled a shot into Foster's midriff from an angle, with the former England goalkeeper doing well to hang on.
West Bromwich were not a threat in the first half at all. One low cross from the right fizzed across the front of Joe Hart's goal but that was about it. At the other end, Roy Hodgson's team had captain Jonas Olsson to thank for being only one goal down at the break.
We have lift off: David Silva lifts a delightful finish over Ben Foster's head for City's fourth goal
Wing wizard: Spain midfielder Silva celebrates his superb goal against West Brom
Tevez produced the pass of the night in the 30th minute to play full-back Micah Richards clear on goal. The 23-year-old managed to take the ball past Foster but his goalbound shot was cleared from the line by Olsson with the help of his chest.
With United drawing at Wigan at half-time, City began the second period sensing they may be about to see a chink of light in the title race. Within a couple of minutes they came close to adding a second goal as Silva crossed from the right and Samir Nasri, who had been quiet until then, volleyed into the side netting from an angle.
Over the top: Micah Richards (top) challenges West Bromwich's Nicky Shorey in the air
Crowded out: Argentina striker Tevez runs at the beleaguered West Brom defence
Silva then played a ball through the middle towards the breaking Gareth Barry only for it to ricochet up and strike West Brom's Billy Jones. The City fans appealed for a penalty but referee Kevin Friend was unmoved.
Then news of a goal for Wigan filtered through and that was soon followed by City's second of the night. Once again Aguero was the scorer, moving on to a pass from Nasri to score across Foster with his right instep.
Job well done: City manager Roberto Mancini (right) shakes hands with Tevez
As the Poznan goal celebration briefly returned to the Etihad – the supporters here haven't done it for a while – City moved through the gears, Nasri breaking down the left to shoot across goal and inches wide.
By now West Brom had fallen apart and Aguero set up Tevez to shoot into the top left-hand corner for the third before releasing Silva, who darted down the left and chipped Foster sublimely to add the fourth goal.