Manchester City survived being down to 10 men for almost the entire encounter to beat Hull City 2-0 at the KC Stadium and keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table.
Having being knocked out of the Champions League in midweek, their Premier League hopes looked poised to suffer a major blow when captain Vincent Kompany was shown a red card for hauling back Nikica Jelavic with only 10 minutes gone. But just four minutes later Silva curled a wonderful effort into the corner of the net to put the 10 men in front. City continued to look the most dangerous team for the remainder of the first half, before Hull began to apply serious pressure after the interval.
City’s defense prevented any clear chances. The most dangerous moment coming when George Boyd went down under challenge from Joe Hart, but referee Lee Mason, seemingly correctly, waved away the appeal. Then as Hull poured forward Dzeko finished coolly in injury time to end the home side’s hopes.
The victory takes City to within six points of Chelsea and still with two games on hand of the leaders. Crucially, their fate remains in their own hands. While this was once more far from the free-flowing Manchester City of the first half of the season, although Silva again encouragingly looked back to his very best. And Manuel Pellegrini will be delighted to have emerged with a win and a clean sheet in the trying circumstances.
Following their travails in the Camp Nou less than 72 hours earlier, there were signs of some early listlessness in the City ranks. Jelavic had come close on more than one occasion to exposing that lethargy when getting in behind the City defense on more than one occasion in the opening minutes.
And it was the energy of the January arrival from Everton that helped garner his side a numerical advantage. Kompany dallied on the ball as it was played back to him just inside his own half, allowing Jelavic to close him down and knick the ball past him. In his desperation to recover, the big Belgian defender unsubtly dragged back his opponent. While Jelavic had made the most of it in throwing himself to ground, the decision to produce red was hard to argue, despite Kompany’s frustration being all-too evident.
Pellegrini responded to the dismissal by dropping Javi Garcia into the center of defense. But that was the only evidence of a change in City’s approach. Despite being a man down, the visitors continued to look to play with positivity. And less than four minutes after losing their captain, City were a goal to the good.
Silva has really returned to form in recent weeks and he was superb once more on Saturday. The Spaniard’s graceful touch and movement had already been in display in the buildup to the opening goal, before he received Yaya Toure’s pass, took the ball inside a Hull defender and curled an unstoppable shot into the top far corner of the net.
Even when a goal up, City continued to push men forward. Pablo Zabaleta was spending plenty of time in the opposition half and he came agonizingly close to putting his side two goals to the good. A well-struck volley by the right-back from the edge of the box cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and came back right on the goalline.
Hull were extremely fortunate not to level up the two sides when Ahmed Elmohamady went in with his studs on the shin of Silva. A yellow card was produced, but the dangerous challenge was clearly deserving of more. It was a piece of fortune on which Steve Bruce’s side failed to capitalize.
City’s ambition meant that there were certainly opportunities there for Hull to exploit. However, the side who started the day five points clear of the drop zone lacked a player capable of finding the space that was often present in behind City’s central midfield, while their team as a whole was devoid of the pace and ingenuity to exploit their numerical advantage. To their credit, City’s much-criticized defense performed well and time and again judged their line perfectly to catch Hull offside.
Hull’s best spell of pressure came early in the second half and particularly from a succession of set pieces. The best of their chances fell to Jelavic, but, on the turn from a low in-swinging free-kick, he failed to make clean contact. More controversy arrived in the contest when Boyd went through on goal and Hart came out to meet him, but the Hull substitute appeared more concerned with winning a penalty than taking the ball round the City keeper.
And, while Pellegrini looked to baton down the hatches late on, City still had the quality to proper as Hull pushed for an equalizer. More fine work from Silva should have brought a goal from Fernandinho, but the Brazilian fired wide. But in the 90th minute, Silva’s piercing through ball found Dzeko, who had already missed an earlier chance, and the Bosnian slid the ball past Allan McGregor.