Man City clear first of final three hurdles to Premier League title
LIVERPOOL // Manuel Pellegrini warned Manchester City the race to the Premier League title is not finished yet – with just a week of the season left – after they moved to the summit following victory over Everton on Saturday.
A thrilling match finished 3-2 in City’s favour, taking them ahead of Liverpool on goal difference with their rivals taking on Crystal Palace in London on Sunday.
Third-placed Chelsea, two points behind, play Norwich City today and will also have the chance to move ahead.
Both teams will have played a game more than City but Pellegrini told Sky Sports: “The worst thing we must do is think that today we finished the Premier League.
“We have to play teams [Aston Villa and West Ham] who are not fighting for anything, they can play without pressure. We must try to win our last two games at home, then we will see what happens.”
Sergio Aguero’s goal and two from Edin Dzeko settled the game at Goodison, with Everton having opened the scoring through Ross Barkley and later pulling one back through Romelu Lukaku.
Pellegrini said: “We won and at this moment the most important thing is to win. Today the pressure was maybe too high to play our best football.
“We played well until 3-2, maybe at that moment the team was a bit nervous. We started one goal down and we played good football to recover from that goal. We managed the game, we scored three and had chances.”
Everton, despite many fans claiming they would be happy to lose to help stop their near-neighbours’ title bid, needed a win themselves to stay in the hunt for the Champions League but defeat handed fourth spot to Arsenal 24 hours before they play.
Any questions about Everton’s players appetite for the win, which would open the door for Liverpool, was answered brilliantly in the 11th minute.
Barkley showed just why England coach Roy Hodgson should take him to Brazil with a strike that would have graced any World Cup.
Leighton Baines and Steven Naismith combined down the left to tee up the 20 year old who hit a sublime first-time shot from 25 yards, which flew past goalkeeper Joe Hart and into the top corner.
Then came one of those moments when fate seems to play a significant part.
All the intimations from Aguero were that he could not continue with an apparent groin problem, but while City were readying his replacement Yaya Toure slid through an inviting pass and the Argentine’s predatory instincts took over as he skipped past Antolin Alcaraz to beat Tim Howard at his near post.
The outcome of hasty discussions on the touchline was to leave Aguero on but he lasted just five minutes before being replaced by Fernandinho, which in fact improved City in a way as it pushed Toure further forward but gave Pellegrini’s side greater dominance in midfield.
Everton switched from their experimental 3-4-2-1 formation to 4-1-4-1 to try to combat the loss of control, but whether the changes affected the defence or not Dzeko’s free header for City’s second came far too easily for the Bosnian.
Barkley remained Everton’s one driving force and a powerful run from halfway just after the break set up Naismith one-on-one with Hart only for the goalkeeper to tip his shot around the post.
It was a pivotal moment as City went straight down the other end and Fernandinho picked out Samir Nasri who crossed for Dzeko to sidefoot home.
Lukaku, Everton’s key centre-forward, seemed so out of sorts he offered almost no threat to City’s defence only to come alive in the last 30 minutes when he popped up in the 65th minute to head home a Baines cross to make it 3-2.
Roberto Martinez threw on forward Gerard Deulofeu as they went for the victory that would keep alive their Champions League hopes.
Deulofeu’s late weaving run and shot was deflected into the side-netting, and with that chance went their faint hopes of securing a top-four finish, while City’s hopes of regaining the title they won in 2012 remain very much alive.
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Published: May 4, 2014 04:00 AM