Every game until mathematical impossibility was a must win and tonight`s was no different. After the debacle of Sunday where there were clear issues both on and off the pitch, tonight gave Mancini`s charges the chance to show they had not lost their touch. City needed United to slip up at least twice and then beat them at home in possibly the most anticipated Derby in Premier League history.
Mancini made no fewer than four changes to the side that fought a rear-guard action at The Emirates as he sought to get back to winning ways. There were two tactical changes as Milner and Zabaleta were replaced and two enforced changes in Yaya (thigh) and Balotelli (suspension). The team sheet read as follows: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, De Jong, Barry, Nasri, Silva, Tevez and Aguero. The subs bench consisted of: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Milner, Pizarro, Johnson and Dzeko.
The first half was pretty much one way traffic as the City front four combined wonderfully, showing movement, passing and vision that had been missing in the last six or seven games. Tevez`s introduction seemed to spur on his team mates and it was his movement that seemed to create space for those around him, especially Aguero.
It was Aguero who opened City`s account with a well struck shot from the edge of West Brom box after being allowed to run with the ball. Foster was unsighted by his defender and he could do little but watch as the ball nestled into his side netting.
West Brom did on one or two occasions break on City but having left only Long up front as their sole outlet, they were consistently rebuffed by the Blue defensive players. As the half wore on, West Brom played deeper and deeper until they had nine players camped out on the edge of their own penalty area.
Richards was unlucky not to score in the 31st minute when he barged past Shorey on one of his over lapping runs. His shot was well struck, but Albion were lucky as it hit a defender stood on the line and deflected out for a corner.
The opening 45 had been typified by passing and movement of the highest order and if a fault could be aimed at City it was that they were on occasion attempting to walk the ball into the net as they had made at least five or six goal scoring chances and only capitalised on one.
The second half began as the first half had finished with West Brom defending too deep and City with Tevez creating space for his team mates, finding the through balls that in recent games had gone astray.
The second goal when it came was simplicity itself. Only seconds before Foster was picking the ball out of his net, a ripple went around the stadium as news filtered through that United were losing to lowly Wigan. As the ball ran loose on the edge of the Albion box, Nasri was first to it and played a through ball between centre half and full back for Aguero to calmly slot past the stranded Baggies keeper. Two nil and City now had a better goal difference than United.
Seconds later and it was Tevez laying off the ball to Nasri whose shot went wide, but it looked only a matter of time before another goal went in and so it was. Albion were now playing with their backs to the wall as they made tackle after tackle in the box. But suddenly it was Aguero dispossessing his marker and making it to the byline. His cut back cross was met by Tevez who scored City`s third in his first start since September.
Aguero nearly scored again after a he met a wicked left wing cross from substitute Adam Johnson. His looping header had Foster beaten hands down but it also beat the crossbar and landed on the roof of the net.
The final goal of the match, City`s forth came in the 64th minute after Aguero dispossessed Olssen in midfield. He raced forward and slipped Silva in with a wonderful through ball. The Spanish wizard took one touch and beat Foster with a sublime chip which had to be goal of the game.
City went promptly substituted Aguero and played out the game with aplomb. After the final whistle a huge cheer went up as news filtered through that the mighty United had been beaten by Wigan. A great game by City?.great result elsewhere and game on for the title.
Joe Hart – 7
Didn’t have a thing to do in the 90 minutes and wasn’t forced into one save.
Micah Richards – 8.5
Looked like an outstanding winger tonight, linking up with Tevez, Nasri and Silva. Could have had a goal and showed what a great player he is.
Vincent Kompany – 7
Wasn’t threatened at all and defended well.
Joleon Lescott – 7
Wasn’t threatened at all and defended well.
Gael Clichy – 7
Didn’t get forward as Richards did but stuck to his task.
Nigel De Jong – 7
Didn’t have much to do. Collected the ball and passed it to a City player.
Gareth Barry – 8
Looked excellent today. His range of passing is fantastic and he is a key player for City.
Samir Nasri – 8.5
One of his best games in a City shirt. His passing and movement were excellent.
David Silva – 8
Looked much better having been rested for Sunday’s match. Scored a peach of a goal and had a hand in almost everything good tonight.
Carlos Tevez – 8
Ran his heart out and gave the attack an added dimension with his movement and one touch passing. Scored a goal and speeded up the attack.
Sergio Aguero – 8.5
Scored two goals and was a thorn in the West Brom defence until his substitution. His movement tonight was excellent.
Johnson – 6.5
Played on the left and actually put in some wicked crosses….surprising that considering he is a left footed left winger.
Edin Dzeko – 6
His first touch seemed non existent and he struggled to impose himself on the game.
Too late to mark.
Roberto Mancini – 8
He got the tactics right tonight and overtook United on goal difference. There is still a glimmer of hope.