Manchester City 3
Aston Villa 2 Villa
frighten the blues
Saturday 25th April 2015 : Dave
Moore for GYKO at the Etihad
David Cameron, if you are still a
Villain, that is, after your frankly ludicrous dalliance
with the Irons, your boys took a hell of a beating.
Actually they didn’t. That was just a topical reference.
Aston Villa were quite good for much of this game and a
little unlucky not to take something from it, though, in
common with the Prime Minister, they suffered a
brainfade that people are going to be tittering about
for years. Villa might be going to Wembley, but fans
singing that happy tune had the smiles wiped off their
faces when Sergio Agüero stepped up to put City in front
with virtually his first touch of the ball.
Tim Sherwood’s side are not yet in the sort of league
position to give away comedy goals less than three
minutes in, yet that is exactly what happened here.
Agüero will probably never score an easier goal, or a
more unexpected one, after being handed the opportunity
on a plate by a miskick by Brad Guzan. The Villa
goalkeeper fielded a back pass from Ron Vlaar on one
side of his area and was attempting to feed it out to
Jores Okore on the other, already a risky strategy as he
had no real need to be playing a ball across the face of
goal. His miskick simply invited Agüero to find an empty
net from near the penalty spot, which he duly did as the
Villa defenders involved stared at each other
“Brad will get over it, but it’s hard enough coming here
without offering gimmes,” Sherwood said. “It was a poor
start, but we performed well afterwards; if we play like
that in our remaining games we’ll be OK. We were a bit
unlucky right at the end when Christian Benteke was
wrongly flagged for offside – that should have been a
penalty and a sending off – but wherever we play, we go
into games expecting to win now.”
A bad start could easily have got worse for the visitors
had Jesús Navas been able to demonstrate speed of
thought as well as foot when he was played in behind the
Villa cover minutes later. The Spaniard was bearing down
on goal before Villa were fully awake to the danger, but
as happens quite often he was unable to be decisive
about whether to pass or shoot, and Kieran Richardson
came back to block him while he was still making up his
Guzan, jeered every time he had to deal with the ball on
the floor, was also showing signs of nervousness in his
decision-making, coming out to claim an Aleksandar
Kolarov free-kick and missing it by a mile to let
Fernando get in a header.
Villa somehow managed to reach the interval without
further mishap, even creating a couple of chances of
their own around the half-hour mark.
Joe Hart saved with his legs when Benteke shot from what
looked like an offside position, and when Richardson
sent over a cross from the left, Tom Cleverley reached
it first, but could not keep his attempt low enough.
Jack Grealish showed up well as Villa came back into the
game, at one point putting in a change of direction so
swift that it left Martin Demichelis on his backside,
but mostly demanding the ball in the centre of the pitch
then transferring it neatly and efficiently to players
in space on the flanks.
By the time the break arrived, Villa had recovered from
their inauspicious opening to the extent of looking the
side most likely to score next. They were not exactly
peppering Hart’s goal, but they were doing more than the
home side, who were inviting the sort of ennui with
which the Etihad has become familiar this season by
stroking the ball around midfield without any urgency or
threat of penetration. It was dull, unimaginative stuff,
and Sherwood probably spent the interval telling his
players that City were there for the taking.
That impression would have been reinforced when Yaya
Touré failed to come out for the second half, though, in
truth, his contribution before a hamstring injury had
been minimal. With the game in the balance, Fabian Delph
stroked a volley narrowly wide at one end, while Leandro
Bacuna got away with tugging over Agüero in the penalty
area at the other. Frank Lampard made way for James
Milner after an hour, just in time for him to play a
part in City’s second goal. Presented with a free-kick
when Carlos Sanchez fouled Fernandinho, 20 yards out,
Milner dummied to shoot to one side of the goal then
left Kolarov to find the other with a left-foot shot
around the edge of the wall. Whether Guzan was fooled by
the routine is debatable, but he left fractionally too
much space to his right and was late to get down to a
low and accurate short.
Tottenham deny Southampton win over Pochettino after
Nacer Chadli pounces
That ought to have made the game safe, but the contest
was thrown wide open again two minutes later, when
Cleverley beat Hart with a thumping drive from the edge
of the area as City scrambled to clear a free-kick.
Hart had come out to claim the ball and was left in
no-man’s land when Fernandinho headed it out instead,
straight to Cleverley, who returned it emphatically.
City withdrew Agüero for Wilfried Bony and promptly saw
Villa draw level. An mix-up at a corner, five minutes
from the end, resulted in Hart colliding with several of
his own defenders as he attempted to punch clear,
succeeding only in finding Carlos Sanchez, who came up
with a volley right on target.
A draw would have been fair after what had become an
enjoyable and evenly contested game, but after Benteke
was, possibly wrongly, pulled up for offside before Hart
brought him down, City were stirred sufficiently to go
upfield and claim a late winner. Villa left Fernandinho
unmarked at a corner, and though his first touch was
inconclusive, the substitute turned his second into an
acrobatic shot that left Guzan with no chance.
“We didn’t play well, but we showed our spirit,” Manuel
Pellegrini said. “It is not easy to hit back when you
only have a couple of minutes after an equaliser, but we
Manchester City:Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala,
Kolarov, Fernando, Lampard (Milner 57), Navas, Yaya
Toure (Fernandinho 46), Silva, Aguero (Bony 83)
Unused subs:Caballero, Sagna, Boyata, Dzeko
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna (Lowton 87), Richardson,
Vlaar, Okore, Cleverley, Delph, Grealish, Westwood (N'Zogbia
68), Sanchez, Benteke
Unused subs:Given, Weimann, Cole, Senderos,
Referee: Mike Dean
Manchester City 2
West Ham United 0 City do just
Sunday 26th April 2015 : Dylan
Hough for GYKO at the Etihad
This was the easy and controlled
performance that has been missing in action recently for
Manchester City. True, West Ham United were the perfect
patsies due to a quality deficit but, notwithstanding,
the champions ended the game having convinced in all
Eliaquim Mangala’s commanding display allowed his
season-long struggles to be forgotten. Yaya Touré ran
the show from midfield and was pivotal in City’s second
goal. And the under-pressure Manuel Pellegrini could
enjoy an afternoon when calm was restored and the awful
run of six defeats from the last eight outings was
arrested. Even when the Hammers rallied towards the
close this merely allowed Joe Hart to illustrate again
how he has raised his game as the goalkeeper repelled
“It was important to win because we came here from two
defeats,” Pellegrini said. “We must continue working
together and it is very important to finish as near to
the top of the table as possible.”
City’s opener featured the sort of luck any team
suffering a harrowing slump will gratefully embrace.
Jesús Navas took possession near halfway and raced
forward along the right. When he glanced up Sergio
Agüero had peeled into space in the far corner of West
Ham’s area. Navas pinged over a cross towards the
striker but the winger’s radar was awry. The ball was at
a height where James Collins felt he had to put a boot
through it but in doing so the central defender could
only lob Adrián and see the ball ricochet in off the
It was fortuitous but deserved on the balance of play.
West Ham were offering only rare moments of menace in an
error-strewn display that showed why they arrived here
having won only once in the last 11 matches. “You can’t
make the mistakes we made and expect to get anything out
of the game,” said Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager.
The Collins own-goal came in the 18th minute. By the
36th Agüero had City’s second and his 20th in the league
this season. The maligned (in some quarters) Touré was
crucial. Without the Ivorian sticking out a leg to make
a sliding interception inside his half, West Ham would
have kept possession. Instead Agüero was able to race
forward and swap passes with Navas before he pulled the
trigger to beat Adrián and ensure the score line
reflected how City had coasted through the opening half.
Pellegrini had a point beforehand when he suggested City
played well in the opening minutes of last Sunday’s 4-2
derby defeat at Manchester United before the team tailed
off. The manager was also honest enough to state: “We’ve
been doing some things badly.” The chief fault might be
a lack of sharpness, a vital edge missing from City’s
in-game imagination and execution.
The opposite was the case on Sunday. When Fernando,
playing alongside Touré in central midfield, raced back
to catch Cheikhou Kouyaté and snap cleanly into a tackle
that killed the threat, he showed what is needed.
City should have gone further ahead in the second half.
Aleksandar Kolarov had a fierce shot blocked by Carl
Jenkinson and the latter did the same when Agüero bore
down on Adrián at close range after 49 minutes. There
was also a long range shot from David Silva that flew
over the bar, and a chance for Agüero from a Navas
delivery that came to nothing, the Argentinian allowing
the ball to slip under his boot.
As the hour passed and City continued to stroll in the
Manchester sun, the sense that they were toying with
Allardyce’s men continued. Silva saw a shot cannon off
the West Ham defence and a few moments later, when
Jenkinson found himself in City’s half, it felt like a
After 66 minutes Allardyce had seen enough. Yet to
replace Carlton Cole, the lone striker, with Kevin Nolan
hardly seemed the answer to West Ham’s ills. The manager
also brought on Matt Jarvis for Alex Song, though as the
latter had been among Hammer’s better players this may
have been injury driven.
A minute or so later and there was no doubt Silva was in
discomfort after Kouyaté’s flailing arm downed the
playmaker, who required several minutes of treatment.
The replays suggested it was unfortunate and innocuous,
though Silva was taken off on a stretcher and replaced
by Samir Nasri.
It was the only sour note of a match that by its finish
had brought some desperately needed succour to City and
their manager before Saturday’s visit of Aston Villa.
Barclays Premier League
Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Kolarov, Fernando,
Navas, Yaya Toure, Lampard Fernandinho 88), Silva (Nasri
75), Aguero (Dzeko 90+1)
Caballero, Sagna, Boyata, Pozo
West Ham United:
Adrian, Reid, Collins, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Song
(Jarvis 66), Downing, Noble, Kouyate, Cole (Nolan 66) ,
Jääskeläinen, O'Brien, Burke, Amalfitano, Nene
Man Utd 4 Manchester
City 2 Disaster at OT
Sunday 15th April 2015 : Colin
Crabtree for GYKO at OT
These are the moments when it seems
as if English football is getting the old Manchester
United back. They have taken their time and there are
still imperfections but finally they are operating with
the dynamism, the exhilaration and sense of adventure
that is supposed to be mandatory for any set of players
who pull on their colours.
They played in a way that had Louis van Gaal announcing
it was time for supporters to “go on the streets and
hold their heads up” and they won with so much to spare
it was difficult not to think Manuel Pellegrini’s
position at Manchester City might have strayed
dangerously close to irretrievable. This was City’s
sixth defeat in eight matches and their manager
increasingly sounds lost about what has gone wrong.
Nobody said it would be easy getting to the top of a
sport and staying there but it is coming up for seven
years since the money started pouring in from Abu Dhabi
and City’s owners are entitled to expect better than
four wins in 15 games.
The potential ramifications for Pellegrini are obvious
but the real story here was of the re-emergence of one
of the great forces. United were ruthless once they had
shaken off the jolt of Sergio Agüero’s early goal. The
plodding football we saw earlier in the season has been
replaced by the old, thrilling excitement and the volume
was turned high. Old Trafford, for the first time in a
long time, seemed like a contented place.
Ángel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, the two players who
were supposed to spearhead Van Gaal’s first season in
charge, did not even set foot on the pitch until it was
4-1. Yet Van Gaal always did say the team’s structure
was more important to him than selecting players based
purely on their reputations and, slowly but surely, the
evidence is being seen.
Who could have thought, for example, that one of the
forgotten men, Ashley Young, would hold this kind of
influence when the superstars started arriving? Or that
the coach who once led a brilliant, slick Ajax side to
the European Cup would ever laud Marouane Fellaini’s
ability to “play the ball to the same colour [shirt]
every time”? Young and Fellaini have taken turns as the
two players United’s crowd disliked the most. Yet
Fellaini is now being acclaimed in a way that was once
implausible while Young is playing with enough
distinction that the watching England manager, Roy
Hodgson, must be considering a recall.
Young started United’s recovery with their equaliser and
his confidence could be measured in the moment when he
subjected Pablo Zabaleta to a back-heeled nutmeg,
shortly before setting up Fellaini to score the second.
Elsewhere Juan Mata was wonderful again, particularly
when it came to those triangular passing moves with
Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia. All of these players
have suffered at times during some of the more difficult
periods at Old Trafford, post-Ferguson. All have been
coaxed out of it.
More than that, this victory was also a demonstration of
competitive courage bearing in mind the way the game
started. City set off like a team in a hurry and Jesús
Navas really ought to have scored even before James
Milner and David Silva took advantage of slack marking
to set up Agüero for the opening goal.
The problem for City was that the final whistle was
still 82 minutes away. Zabaleta was at fault for
United’s first two goals. Later it was Martín
Demichelis’s turn when Mata made it 3-1 and Chris
Smalling headed in the fourth. Silva was a frequent
menace and at least Agüero is scoring again, adding a
second late on for his first goals since 24 February.
Yet City have inexplicably dropped away from that point
on New Year’s Day when they were joint-top with Chelsea.
Vincent Kompany did not last beyond half-time because of
recurring injury problems and it was another occasion
when it seemed as though Yaya Touré’s heart was not in
The game started turning away from City after 14 minutes
when David de Gea aimed a long clearance to the left,
where Fellaini and Herrera had doubled up on Zabaleta.
City were vulnerable as soon as Zabaleta lost his
balance and, though Gaël Clichy was first to Herrera’s
cross, the ball spun off his body and fell for Young to
hook an improvised shot into the exposed net.
City, and Silva in particular, continued to move the
ball at a speed that troubled their opponents but they
had a raw edge. After 27 minutes Young slipped the ball
through Zabaleta’s legs, then took it back from Daley
Blind. Fellaini had made his way to the far post and had
several inches on the nearest defender, Clichy, to head
United into the lead.
City had legitimate complaints that Fellaini was
fractionally offside, even if it was by little more than
a few tufts of hair, and similar grievances about Mata’s
starting position when Wayne Rooney played him in midway
through the second half. Yet Pellegrini was more
concerned about his team’s defending. Demichelis lost
the ball to Fellaini in the build-up to Mata’s goal,
leaving himself badly out of position as the Spaniard
ran clear to clip his shot past Joe Hart.
Six minutes later Demichelis did not follow Smalling’s
run and the defender headed in Young’s free-kick to beat
Hart again. United were rampant and Agüero’s late goal,
from Zabaleta’s cutback, came almost in slow motion,
with barely a flicker of celebration.
Manchester United:De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones
(Rojo 75), Blind, Carrick, Fellaini (Falcao 83),
Herrera, Mata (Di Maria 81), Young, Rooney
Unused subs:Valdes, Rafael, McNair, Januzaj
Manchester City:Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (Mangala
46), Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Milner (Nasri 63),
Yaya Toure, Navas (Lampard 74), Silva, Aguero
Unused subs:Caballero, Kolarov, Dzeko, Fernando
Bookings:Milner, Silva, Kompany
Crystal Palace 2
Manchester City 1 Lack of fight
at the Palace
Monday 6th April 2015 : james Coe
at Selhurst Park forGYKO
City’s Premier League title
defence suffered another damaging blow with defeat at
in-form Crystal Palace.
Hopes of an Easter revival were dashed at Selhurst Park
where goals from Glenn Murray and Jason Puncheon sank
the champions, with Yaya Toure’s stunning late drive
merely a consolation.
With City now nine points behind leaders Chelsea having
played a game more a comeback in the title race would
take a near-miraculous turn around.
Immediate focus must now turn to Sunday’s derby
opponents United, who sit a point and a place above City
in the table in third.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men had started the evening well in
the capital, dominating the early possession and
striking the woodwork through Sergio Aguero’s rasping
David Silva was prompting and probing through the middle
in characteristic style - the little Spaniard forced
Eagles keeper Julian Speroni into two sharp saves -
while Jesus Navas injected tempo with his raiding runs
down the right.
It seemed only a matter of when not if City would take
the lead. Then, seemingly from nowhere, Palace went
ahead after 34 minutes.
Murray prodded in from close range after Scott Dann’s
deflected shot, although there was a suspicion of
offside against both players.
Despite the setback the early pattern of play was
quickly re-established, with Martin Demichelis flashing
one volley just over after Edin Dzeko's flick on.
City went in at half time behind and their arrears
increased shortly after the restart.
Fernandinho felled Murray as he drove goalwards and from
the resulting free-kick Puncheon curled the ball over
City’s wall and beyond Joe Hart.
Now City had it all to do and the play became broken as
Palace’s organised banks of defence dug in.
There was penalty woe for Pellegrini’s men when Murray
appeared to handle the ball in the box with nothing
Eventually City had hope.
Substitute Samir Nasri had a hand in the build up but
the finish was all down to Toure, who lashed a curling
left-footed effort in from distance with 77 minutes on
Only a brilliant one-handed save from Speroni denied
Toure a second as time ticked away.
City couldn’t make the breakthrough and slipped to their
third Premier League defeat in four games. The champions
will need to show all their mettle now in the Old
Trafford derby this weekend.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly,
Zaha (Gayle, 88), Ledley, McArthur, Bolasie (Souare,
84), Puncheon, Murray (Sanogo, 83).
Unused subs:Hennessey, Hangeland, Boateng, Ameobi.
Bookings: Delaney, Puncheon
Manchester City:Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C),
Demichelis, Clichy, Navas (Nasri, 75), Fernandinho
(Milner, 88), Toure, Silva, Dzeko (Lampard, 65), Aguero
Unused subs:Caballero, Zabaleta, Mangala,