Manchester City got their Premier League title challenge back on track with a 3-1 victory over West Brom, but the win was marred by a serious-looking injury to David Silva.
The return of Silva, after he missed out on last week’s draw with Sunderland with an ankle injury, together with a fitter Sergio Aguero, proved key to a win that means City close the gap on leaders Liverpool to six points, while having a game in hand. Aguero’s saved shot allowed Pablo Zabaleta to head in before the City striker made it 2-0 with just 10 minutes played. While Graham Dorrans quickly pulled one back for the struggling visitors with a superb strike, Martin Demichelis’s half-volleyed finish from a corner before the interval ensured a comfortable second-half for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
But, having already seen Aguero withdrawn as a precaution, there was then genuine concern when Silva appeared to fall awkwardly on his already compromised ankle and had to be carried off on a stretcher wearing a protective guard. The loss for any great length of time of the midfielder, such a majestic, creative influence, would be a massive loss for City’s hopes of overturning Liverpool’s lead in the title race, as well as for Spain at the World Cup.
Hopes of the title remain alive, despite the loss to Liverpool and further dropped points against Sunderland. Chelsea’s loss on Saturday means that if Jose Mourinho’s side beat Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday then City, who hold a better goal difference, could well become champions if they win their four remaining matches.
As against Sunderland last week, City went in front inside the first five minutes at the Etihad. This time less than three minutes were on the clock when Aguero’s shot from a Jesus Navas cross was repelled well by Ben Foster in the West Brom goal but Pablo Zabaleta showed the instincts and reactions of a striker to head the rebound into the net for his first goal of the season.
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Unlike against Sunderland, this time City built on their early advantage. They were somewhat fortunate perhaps to do so with Matej Vydra putting Billy Jones’ cross into the net but seeing the offside flag raised against Jones for the most marginal of decisions. Minutes later City extended their lead. Aguero got fortunate when his attempted through ball came straight back to him off of Morgan Amalfitano, but there was nothing unintended about what the forward did from there. Aguero’s low 25 yard shot had both the power and movement to leave Foster with no chance as it arrowed into the corner of the net.
City did still have a brief lapse, however. An innovative free-kick routine embarrassingly broke down and when Zabaleta subsequently lost the ball, City were left exposed as West Brom surged forward on the break. At its culmination, Dorrans was fortunate that his first touch took Vydra’s pass into his stride on the edge of the box, but he then showed tremendous skill to take it past Gael Clichy before finishing with a difficult half-volley.
The goal caused some nervousness in the City team, with Joe Hart getting away with spilling a Chris Brunt free-kick straight into the danger zone. The restoration of City’s two-goal margin then was all important. Nasri’s corner got the slightest of flick-ons by Vincent Kompany and Liam Ridgewell was caught ball-watching to allow Demichelis free to assuredly finish on the half-volley from six yards out and become the third of City’s Argentine contingents to get on the scoresheet.
That proved to be the end of the match as a contest. Despite bringing on Vincent Anichebe for Vydra on the hour mark, West Brom posed no threat to Manchester City’s progress toward the three points in the second half. Substitutes Stevan Jovetic and James Milner both went close to adding to City’s lead, but it was Silva’s injury that thoughts turned to at the final whistle.