In a momentous week for Manchester City Football Club it was time for a resilient performance at the Stadium of Light from the Blues.
In what commentators would euphemistically call a ‘hard fought’ encounter City once again faced weak refereeing which saw Jermaine Defoe remain on the pitch for two challenges with his arm, the second of which should certainly have generated a red card from the referee, Stuart Attwell. Indeed he pretty much kept his cards in his pocket until the dying embers of the game when, bowing to the baying from the home crowd, he opted to issue the players in blue a series of yellow cards to try and pacify them.
City held out thought to keep up the pressure on the leaders Leicester who despatched the People’s Champions and maintained their three point lead. Pep Guardiola take note – you underestimate teams in the Premier League at your peril.
Taking three points away from home on a windy night in February when the opposition are trying to kick the **** out of you – those are the games that deliver titles in this league. In the past and even this season, City’s brittle defence might have crumbled in the face of a spirited display by this relegation threatened former bogey team. Our charming and professional manager has won many plaudits this week and all season for the dignified way in which he has conducted himself in the face of the speculation regarding the ‘elephant in the room’ that was Pep Guardiola.
Pellegrini once again showed that he too has learnt his lesson and sent his team out to take the game to their opponents and in selecting Iheanacho to partner Aguero he got his just rewards when in the sixteenth minute the space that this tactic created was exploited to the full by Sergio. For once the ball ran kindly for City when a Navas cross took a slight deflection and found the deadliest striker in the league – he stepped away from his marker and clipped the ball past Manone with the outside of his right boot. Class act. The crass and cheap raking of Aguero’s calf by O’Shea as he disguised his desperate fall is nothing less than we have come to expect from the defenders in this league who figure that if they can’t live with Aguero then they might as well try and disfigure him.
Joe Hart did his part with some superb saves and the rest of the team showed the sort of resilience and character that had been lacking in some of the earlier defeats this season to get the team over the line. The only fly in the ointment was the sight of Navas leaving the scene having suffered a hamstring injury. This is a blow for sure so soon after the loss of De Bruyne especially as Navas was showing his best form for some time. This may not have been the emphatic result and performance that would get people purring with delight but it delivered the outcome to match the statement made by the board earlier in the week.
Since the takeover in 2008 the club and its supporters have had to put up with the same old tired cliches as the rest of the footballing world hoped that the whole thing was just a fad. A passing phase, a rich man’s plaything….it won’t last they all said. Well, the players followed up that statement of intent with one of their own tonight and they showed that they respect their current manager and the sort of character that ought to impress the incoming coach, a person renowned for his appreciation of honest hard working players. The owners have a plan. The pieces of that plan have been being put into place over the past eight years and that have this week secured the services of the world renowned coach they have courted since 2012. The journey is not over and the club continues to grow and thrive in a myriad of different ways. It is a joy to behold.
Next up……the league leaders and current media darlings, the side that can do no wrong, Leicester City.
Match Stats can be found here.
Skoorb on the Spot