City one step away from Premier Leage title after Aston Villa rout
Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 0
Manchester City Dzeko 64’, 72’, Jovetic 89’, Toure 90’+3
Man of the match Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)
MANCHESTER // One point. That is all Manchester City need. They are so near, so tantalisingly close to a second title in three years after Edin Dzeko broke the Aston Villa resistance. They went on to score four and now City are centurions and league leaders.
This craziest, most compelling of title races teaches them that nothing is certain yet. So, too, does their history. City snatched victory from the jaws of defeat two years ago. They know, too, that they are equally capable of doing the opposite.
But City have been afforded an opportunity by Liverpool’s stumbles. It is one they are intent on grasping. Confronted with a rearguard action, they kept playing with pace and purpose.
They kept probing and, eventually, they got their reward courtesy of the artistry of David Silva, the energy of Pablo Zabaleta and the predatory instinct of Dzeko.
So often a source of frustration at the Etihad Stadium, the Bosnian has mixed embarrassing misses with vital goals in his City career. Now he is delivering when it matters most. After Saturday’s brace at Everton came another invaluable double.
The opener prompted the City crowd to breath a collective sigh of relief. Ciaran Clark and Ron Vlaar had been defiance personified and incessant pressure had brought comparatively few chances.
Then Silva, with that elegant, enviable ease of his, split the Aston Villa defence with a pass to find the overlapping Zabaleta. The Argentine reacted calmly to deliver a low centre that Dzeko converted.
There were distinct similarities when he scored a second. Once again, Zabaleta surged forward and crossed. He found Samir Nasri and, when Brad Guzan parried the Frenchman’s shot, Dzeko converted the rebound. With Sergio Aguero, the hero of City’s title triumph absent injured and with the out-of-form Alvaro Negredo confined to the bench, Dzeko has been crucial.
Yet many of the pivotal players performed. Yaya Toure provided precision in his long-range passing and power in his running. Silva lent the style. The incision came from the attacking full-backs, Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov, who found room outside Villa’s narrow back four.
Zabaleta created the first chance, cutting the ball back from the byline to find Yaya Toure. The Ivorian dug out a shot that drew a fine save from Guzan, extending his left boot to deflect it wide.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, James Milner, who had supplied a steady stream of crosses, whipped another in invitingly. Silva and Samir Nasri arrived at the same moment, the Frenchman connecting with a volley. To widespread surprise, he saw the ball fly just wide.
Meanwhile Vincent Kompany went for the spectacular, with an overhead kick as with each minute Villa resisted, the initially raucous home support showed signs of nerves. They know this is not a club to do things the easy way: “typical City”, “Cityitis” – all the old phrases came to mind.
Then they were banished by Dzeko. After his second, there was an alarm when Andreas Weimann hit the bar with a header he thought had crossed the line.
But while Liverpool lost a three-goal lead at Crystal Palace on Monday, City extended their advantage. They were given a margin for error when their rivals slipped up, but they did not err.
Substitute Stevan Jovetic added a third to garnish the goal difference before Toure powered forward to add a fourth. It was City’s 100th league goal of the season, making them just the second team to reach that landmark in 50 years.
So, on the night their last title-winning manager, Roberto Mancini, won the Turkish Cup with Galatasaray, City closed in on some silverware of their own. They are almost there. Almost.
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Published: May 8, 2014 04:00 AM