January 2014 - Reports
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Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 5      Not So Hot Spurs
Wednesday 29th January 2014 : George Hatton for GYKO at White Hart Lane


These are the sort of tests that champions pass. Tottenham Hotspur went into this game rejuvenated and unbeaten in the Premier League under Tim Sherwood and determined to make a statement of their own in the race for Champions League football. City, though, never looked like doing anything other than win, thereby extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 20 matches and jumping to the top of the table.

Tottenham were their equals during the second half of the first half but City ruthlessly exploited the decision of the officials to dismiss Danny Rose after 49 minutes for a tackle on Edin Dzeko and also award a penalty against him. Rose did appear to touch the ball first but nobody in sky blue cared, as Yaya Touré scored from the spot and Dzeko put the points to bed shortly afterwards.

The first half had been shaped by a Sergio Agüero masterclass, in which the Argentina striker scored one and went close on other occasions before he felt his hamstring on 44 minutes and limped off. That was the blot on City's evening. But the positives washed over it. Some of City's football was beautiful and there was a first league goal for the substitute Stevan Jovetic as they closed out their latest rout.

Tottenham showed spirit. They complained about the decision to disallow Michael Dawson's far-post finish on 36 minutes for offside against him or Emmanuel Adebayor, while they fumed about the penalty/red card one-two punch. But there could be no doubt about which was the superior team.

Sherwood called City the best in the country and up there with Bayern Munich and Barcelona in Europe, and the truly sobering thing was that the visitors could easily have matched their six-goal margin of victory over Tottenham at the Etihad in November. Confidence courses through this City team. They look to play their football first and worry about the opposition second and they battered Tottenham at the outset. David Silva was outstanding – does he ever have an off day? – and, when you have Agüero, one thing comes as standard.

The warning shot from him came in the fourth minute. Agüero received the ball from Fernandinho and left Dawson and then Vlad Chiriches in his wake before shooting against the far post. The worry in the home seats was palpable.

Agüero's deadlock-breaker was undercut by trademark explosiveness. The creation was straightforward, Vincent Kompany finding Silva and Silva rolling it into Agüero, who had broken away from Dawson and Rose. The angle was not friendly and Hugo Lloris was off his line quickly. But Agüero's touch was instinctive and the ball was on its way into the far corner.
Manuel Pellegrini pleased with table-topping performance

Agüero seemed to be everywhere. His header from Gaël Clichy's cross drew a flying save from Lloris and he had another effort cleared off the line by Rose and then fired a third just over the crossbar. It was a pity that his evening ended early.

Tottenham treated the ball like a hot potato in the first 20 minutes but they showed their showed character to fight back. City were not infallible in defence – one Christian Eriksen corner sparked flutters - and Touré had two head rushes that landed him in trouble. Having raked Mousa Dembélé to earn a booking, he tripped Rose to flirt with disaster. There was no second yellow.

Niggle crept in. Martin Demichelis went in on Adebayor and was booked, although he felt that the striker had left a boot in on him while Agüero thought Dawson had elbowed him. He had not. Tottenham failed to catch a break when Dawson turned home Eriksen's whipped free-kick; the captain may have been in an offside position while Adebayor, in the middle of the goal, was certainly in front of the last defender.

The game lurched again on further controversy. When Rose lunged in to halt Dzeko as the City striker went through, it looked, at first sighting, to be a reckless tackle but the replays showed it to be fair. Marriner appeared to take advice from his assistant Scott Ledger before pointing to the spot and Rose to the dressing-room.

City turned the screw. After Silva had wriggled and struck the post, Chiriches erred and presented Dzeko with a shooting opportunity that he lashed past Lloris. Tottenham's 10 men were game and the substitute Étienne Capoue scored at the second attempt following a corner. But, after Jovetic's deflected shot had beaten Lloris, Kompany had the final word when he turned home after Dzeko's effort had hit Nabil Bentaleb.
Teams

Spurs:
Lloris, Walker, Rose, Dembélé (Capoue 46), Dawson, Chiriches, Lennon, Bentaleb, Adebayor, Eriksen (Holtby 83), Sigurdsson (Naughton 55)     Unused subs: Soldado, Defoe, Chadli, Friedel    Bookings: Rose (sent off), Naughton

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Navas, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Nastasic 69), Silva (Kolarov 80), Aguero (Jovetic 45), Dzeko

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Negredo, Rodwell   Bookings: Yaya Toure, Zabaleta, Navas, Demichelis

Referee: Andre Marriner        Att:36,071
 

Manchester City 4 Watford 2          Watford Gaps
Saturday 25th January 2014 : GYKO at the Etihad

After a first half that represented a return to the flat Manchester City of last season the usually relaxed Manuel Pellegrini was irate. In the dressing room at the interval the Chilean let his players know that to trail 2-0 to a 16th-placed Championship club was just not on.

"I was very angry because I know what happens in these kind of games if you play the way we did," the manager said. "I didn't lose my temper – it's important to think of the best way to react for the team. [This] was another way because I felt the team needed something else."

Pellegrini said it had been his side's poorest half of the season. "We didn't create any chances to score, they scored two goals and had at least two more chances. We were always very open to the counter-attack and we didn't have a lot of movement to create space," he said.

After Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney had both taken full advantage of poor defending from Martín Demichelis, City were staring at the end of their quadruple dream. Yet Pellegrini drew the response he required by introducing Vincent Kompany for Jack Rodwell – pushing Demichelis into the latter's midfield berth – and Pablo Zabaleta for Micah Richards.

It pleased him. "Yes, of course. I changed just two [players] but we changed absolutely the character of the team and that was also important," Pellegrini said. "I think maybe in the first half we didn't give 100% and that's impossible in football today. But in the second half when we wanted it we could, and that's very important."

City's comeback was an illustration of how Pellegrini has mentally reinvigorated players who last season might have folded. "That's why it's a touch of attention [warning] for the team, a lesson for the whole squad," he said. "But it also demonstrates that this team has enough trust to believe what they can do if they play in the way they must. This experience will happen every year in cup games because normally the players don't believe it will be so difficult. But the most important thing is the way they react and that gives me another way that this team can win."

It helps, of course, to have a player of Sergio Agüero's calibre. After a month out with a calf injury, the Argentinian striker resumed the flying form of beforehand and his second-half hat-trick made it five goals in three appearances since returning. He has now scored 25 goals in 24 matches and Pellegrini believes he could soon join Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as one of the world's very best.

Pellegrini added: "It's what we are trying to do. It wasn't easy for Sergio to come back from his injury. That's why I said it was not the idea to give him 90 minutes but we needed him the whole match and he played without a problem. He makes the difference. In two or three matches he will continue improving because it's always difficult to come back from a calf injury. He's a very young player who has a lot of things to improve. He has the quality to be among the best players but that depends on what he wants to reach in his career."

Agüero's first two efforts drew City level before Aleksandar Kolarov's 25-yard pot-shot squirmed through the hands of the Watford goalkeeper, Jonathan Bond. It was then left to Agüero to complete the victory with a far-post header.

Steven Jovetic came on for Marcos Lopes in the 57th minute to continue his comeback from the injury nightmare that has blighted the start of his City career. "It's been so difficult. I got one injury, then another," he said. "The problem was I came to Hong Kong [for a pre-season tournament], whereas in South Africa the players had been working three times a day. I didn't start at the beginning of the pre-season, so when I played games I was always a bit behind everyone else.

All this time I've been working hard, in the gym, outside. But now finally I feel good and ready to help."We'll need all the players fit. In this team all the players are important. There's a lot of ga I've wanted to score but I also need to say thank you to the guys. They've done so well in the Premier League – and we are playing Barcelona in the Champions League.

Teams

Manchester City:
Pantilimon, Richards (Zabaleta 46), Kolarov, Lescott, Demichelis, Yaya Toure, Rodwell (Kompany 46), Lopes (Jovetic 57), Navas, Dzeko, Aguero    Unused subs: Hart, Nastasic, Clichy, Fernandinho    Bookings: Dzeko

Watford: Bond, Angella, Ekstrand, Battocchio, Deeney, Forestieri (Cassetti 60), Doyley, Murray (Abdi 75), Pudli, Faraoni (Fabbrini 84), Anya   Unused subs: Almunia, Ranegie, Fabbrini, Hoban, O'Nien    Bookings: Pudli, Cassetti

Referee: Kevin Friend       Att:46,514

West Ham United 0 Manchester City 3    West Hammered
Tuesday 21st January 2014 : Richard Harrison at Upton Park

Sam Allardyce had mused after West Ham United's Capital One Cup quarter-final win at Tottenham Hotspur, in the knowledge that it would be Manchester City next, that the competition's format had a flaw. "It is a shame," the West Ham manager said, "that the semi-final cannot be over one leg." He suggested that West Ham might have a chance if that one-off tie were at Upton Park.

The events here did little to strengthen the hypothesis. Yes, this semi-final was already over, after the mauling that City handed out in the first leg but the manner in which they strolled to victory suggested that they would be happy to play West Ham whenever and wherever.

City looked sharp, even as they played within themselves and the only question, from the moment that Álvaro Negredo nodded them into an early lead, was the number of goals that they would deign to score, how severely they would punish West Ham.

An utter rout appeared to be on but City settled on three, making nine overall, with Sergio Agüero, who returned to the starting XI, and Negredo, again, doing the damage. The strikers were in remorseless mood and they were helped by a thrusting performance from the 18-year-old Brazilian-born Portuguese winger Marcos Lopes.

City's confidence is overflowing and they will surely hope that Manchester United, rather than Sunderland, emerge from the other semi-final to be the opposition in the Wembley final on 2 March. City took their goal tally for the season to 106 in all competitions. They are unbeaten in 18 matches. And, most tantalising of all, they remain in contention for all four trophies.

"I'm proud," Manuel Pellegrini, the manager, said. "We are the only team still in all four. I have never been to Wembley as a manager, so it is special. We just want to continue with our ambition."

Gallows humour framed this occasion. West Ham boasted only one hat-trick in the team and that was Roger Johnson with his three relegations. Forget City's quest for the quadruple. The defender is on for his own version. A local bookmaker advertised the return on a 7-0 West Ham win in his window beforehand: the keys to the shop.

"Being realistic," Allardyce wrote in his programme notes, with glorious understatement, "we are unlikely to overturn our first-leg deficit." West Ham, and only West Ham, had been in this situation before. In 1990 they crashed to a then League Cup semi-final record 6-0 defeat to Oldham Athletic. A line for the historians: they won the return leg 3-0.

The West Ham nightmare continued after two minutes and 36 seconds and Allardyce was left to rage at the lack of marking that presented Negredo with a free header in front of goal.

Perhaps it was Agüero's presence inside the area that brought on James Tomkins' brain-fade. Either way, it was negligent in the extreme of the West Ham centre-half to drift away from Negredo and he headed Lopes's left-wing cross beyond the exposed Jussi Jaaskelainen.

The attendance was recorded at 14,390 but with tickets still pricey, the real surprise was that so many turned up for such a hopeless cause. There was no cup fever, only angst from Allardyce, which deepened with the losses through injury of Joe Cole and Mohamed Diamé. Cole tweaked a groin and Diamé departed on a stretcher in the last minute after banging his knee.

Allardyce said Diamé's problem might not be as bad as it looked but the frustration was everywhere. Allardyce urgently wants reinforcements for the quest to hit his target of 22 points from the remaining 16 Premier League matches to dodge relegation but he seems to be hitting brick walls.

"I would not have a clue," he said, when asked about the prospects of January purchases. "Every time I get a signing, somebody else takes him." West Ham were close to a deal for Monaco's Lacina Traoré – Allardyce even attended the work permit hearing – but the striker is now bound for Everton. Other players have turned down West Ham, including Everton's John Heitinga.

City's second came after another burst from Lopes. The ball broke to Agüero, who did not look the favourite to get past Razvan Rat and Matt Taylor but he did, due to hapless defending. He tapped past Jaaskelainen as though on the training ground. Agüero had earlier been denied from a distance by the goalkeeper.

Allardyce got 45 minutes out of Andy Carroll, on the striker's first start of the season, and he put himself about, particularly in the air. Kevin Nolan, back from a four-match ban, had the ball in the net on six minutes only to be correctly pulled back for offside.

West Ham sought the most hollow of consolations in the second half and there were flashes from Ravel Morrison of his touch and mazy dribbling. He had two decent appeals for penalties overlooked and the substitute Carlton Cole twice went close.

Yet the evening was summed up by Diamé running at Carlton Cole inside the City area and neither player changing directions and, shortly afterwards, Negredo running in between Johnson and Taylor as though they did not exist before stretching to scoop past Jaaskelainen.

"Nine-nil in your cup final," taunted the City fans. West Ham wanted to raise confidence and restore pride. They failed.

Teams

West Ham United:
Jaaskelainen, Nolan, Tomkins, Rat, Carroll (C.Cole 45mins), Taylor, Morrison, Diarra, Diame (Collison 90mins), J.Cole (Downing 46mins), Johnson    Unused subs: Jarvis, Adrian, Noble, Chambers     Bookings: Diarra 37mins

Manchester City: Pantilimon; Boyata, Lescott (c), Nastasic, Clichy; Fernandinho, Garcia (Rodwell 63mins), Navas (Kolarov 77mins), Lopes; Negredo, Aguero (Jovetic 64mins)   Unused subs: Hart, Demichelis, Dzeko, Zabaleta      Bookings: Aguero 30mins

Referee: Christopher Foy     Att:14,390

Manchester City 4 Cardiff City 2              Welsh Wobble
Saturday 18th January 2014 : GYKO at the Etihad

Manchester City's100th goal of this stellar campaign arrived in the opening quarter-hour though confirmation of victory had to wait until the closing minutes when Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero collected numbers 102 and 103.

The Ivorian's was a simple give-and-go with Agüero that ended with his left-foot shot beating David Marshall. The Argentinian's 21st goal of the season came when he bedazzled the visiting rearguard before rifling home beyond the goalkeeper.

This meant the crowd had witnessed yet more stockpiling of goals when the usual glut City have returned here had not been required if they were to become the fastest club to hit 100 in all competitions.

Score once against Cardiff and Chelsea's mark of 42 games, which was set last season, would be broken in eight fewer outings by Sheikh Mansour's boys in blue.

The effort that chalked up the century derived from David Silva, who enjoyed free rein all afternoon. He took possession near the Cardiff byline, beat Kevin Théophile-Catherine, the visiting right-back, left a sluggish Gary Medel, who was busy claiming handball, before finding Edin Dzeko.

The shot was miscued and Kevin McNaughton thought he may have cleared but after a pause goalline technology informed the referee, Neil Swarbrick, correctly, that the left-back had failed, and it was 1-0 to City.

A contest that instantly became a game of attack v defence from kick-off – and stayed the same, more or less, throughout – threatened to become a post-Christmas turkey shoot before the break was reached as City continually reloaded and aimed both barrels at Cardiff.

Silva was in mesmeric mood, with virtually every City surge coming from him. It was his floated ball that landed sweetly for Álvaro Negredo and the striker should have doubled the score. The man known as The Beast in these parts had another clear chance moments later but his effort missed, being prodded to the right of Marshall.

Negredo and company rued this sloppiness when, having been coasting, Cardiff split them open with ease. Théophile-Catherine began a move down the right by finding Aron Gunnarsson whose instant flick set Craig Noone on a diagonal trajectory towards Joe Hart. The wideman dropped a shoulder to leave Vincent Kompany a spectator then rifled in the finish.

This was just before the half-hour. Four minutes later Jesús Navas had a fourth league goal of his debut City season. Touré imperiously bundled Gunnarsson away from the ball near his area, span 180 degrees, then let go a pass with the outside of his right foot along the City left to Dzeko. Trying to cut inside he ran into Steven Caulker and when the ball found Navas the finish came via Marshall's right hand.

If Pellegrini warned his team at half-time to be wary of complacency the Chilean will have been displeased at what he saw a few minutes into the second period. Jordon Mutch was allowed to wander forward unchallenged and let go a shot that had Hart saving sharply to his left.

Dzeko, whose calling card features an ability to convince and bemuse, offered an illustration when he ambled down the left and mishit an effort that went wide. The forward then proved he has a light touch when being the third man in a sequence that nearly gave Silva the goal he deserved.

Negredo, who would be replaced by Agüero after this move, passed to Aleksandar Kolarov on the left. He pinged the ball back into Dzeko and his deft stab allowed Silva to wheel around the back of the defence before poking his attempt to the left of Marshall but wide of his post.

Noone indicated his equaliser had been no fluke when roving from close to his area to near City's, the attempt at Hart requiring another fine stop.

Fraizer Campbell made the scoreline respectable for Cardiff when taking advantage of the snoozing Blues to finish from a corner. The loss, though, leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side bottom, with the new manager having lost his first two league games. "We can stay up. No doubt about that," he said. The league got tighter on Saturday – from bottom to 10th it is six points.

"We will look to improve. Parts of all the performances have been very good. For half an hour we did very well but for two or three minutes they blitzed us. You have to enjoy life, these kind of performances won't make me look older because at times we looked like a proper team.

"We did feel that after about 60 minutes we were in the game. The crowd was maybe turning a little against them and you start wondering if we could get something from the game, but they have quality players who scored their extra two goals."
Teams
Manchester City:


Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Demichelis, Kompany, Garcia, Yaya Toure, Navas (Clichy 82) , Silva (Milner 80), Dzeko, Negredo (Aguero 62)  Unused subs: Pantilimon, Nastasic, Lescott, Fernandinho     Bookings: Negredo, Kolarov

Cardiff City: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, McNaughton (John 68), Caulker, Turner, Noone, Gunnarsson (Eikrem 78), Medel, Mutch, Whittingham (Bellamy 68), Campbell     Unused subs: Lewis, Kim, Hudson, Odemwingie

Referee: Neil Swarbrick             Att:47,213

Manchester City 5 Blackburn Rovers 0      It's All Rover Now
Wednesday 15th January 2014 : GYKO at the Etihad

Manuel Pellegrini hailed the 99 goals his Manchester City side have scored in all competitions as Blackburn Rovers were routed 5-0 in the FA Cup third-round replay.

Sergio Agüero found the net 49 seconds after coming off the bench on his return from injury and Pellegrini stated that offered him a good selection headache as Álvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, who started in the City attack, each scored twice.

City face Cardiff City next in Saturday's Premier League game at the Etihad and Pellegrini welcomed being faced with potentially having to choose two of his three strikers.

"That is not a problem," the manager said. "It is a problem when you don't have players to choose. I think that Álvaro and Edin are in a very good moment. It is very important for the team that Sergio comes back and scored. We have so many games in the future and we don't have any problem in that part of the field. We also have [Stevan] Jovetic coming back and it must be important for the team."

Asked if he rated the three as the best strike force in Europe, Pellegrini said: "I don't think we have the three best but I think we have three top players."

Of the tally of 99, he added: "It is an important amount of goals. It is important for the fans to come here to know we are going to try to play a very good game and score the most amount of goals that we can."

The 99 have come from 33 matches and City average four goals a game at home, with 64 from 16 fixtures.

Agüero scored City's fourth, within moments of entering as late replacement, and Pellegrini is clear he could have no sympathy with the opposition over having such a stand-out substitute. "I act without thinking of the other team," said the Chilean. "It is important for our team to keep playing in the same way, changing names but in the same style. We try to play independent of the score at that time."

Teams

Manchester City:
Pantilimon, Richards (Huws 77), Clichy, Lescott, Nastasic, Garcia, Fernandinho (Kolarov 46), Milner, Navas, Negredo (Aguero 72), Dzeko   Unused subs: Hart, Demichelis, Lopes, Zabaleta Bookings: Kolarov, Milner

Blackburn Rovers: Robinson (Eastwood 46), Spurr, Henley, Kilgallon, Hanley, Lowe, Marshall, Cairney, Taylor, Williamson (Mahoney 89), Campbell (King 60)        Unused subs: Dunn, Olsson, Rochina, Gestede   Bookings: Campbell

Referee: Craig Pawson       Att:35,000

Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 2    Sami injury sours win
Sunday 12th January 2014 : don Livingstone at St James Park

An afternoon punctuated by refereeing controversy, rising tempers and Samir Nasri's removal on a stretcher nursing serious knee ligament damage ended with Manchester City back on top of the Premier League and Newcastle United suffering a fourth straight defeat.

Along the way came the unedifying sight of Alan Pardew calling Manuel Pellegrini "a fucking old cunt", plus numerous reminders that City's defenders are mortals after all while Newcastle, who probably deserved a point, are much, much better than their recent run suggests.

There were also mysteries. Why, for instance, did Pardew leave it so late before liberating Hatem Ben Arfa from the bench? And how on earth was Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa not sent off for a dreadful challenge on Nasri?

It did not take long before Pardew was muttering to himself. Newcastle had gone a goal down at the conclusion of a move which began with David Silva's hoodwinking of Vurnon Anita and involved Aleksandar Kolarov dodging Yanga-Mbiwa and crossing low. Connecting with that delivery Edin Dzeko - whose place could be under threat after Sergio Agüero said he could make his return from injury in Wednesday's FA Cup replay with Blackburn - seamlessly swept the ball beyond Tim Krul on the half volley before Steven Taylor could intercept.

The game had barely kicked off when Kolarov turned Yanga-Mbiwa - deputising at right back for the suspended Mathieu Debuchy - inside out and, suitably encouraged, Pellegrini's players launched a series of increasingly menacing attacks down that flank. With Silva and the seemingly irrepresible Kolarov invariably at the heart of such manoeuvres it clearly made uncomfortable viewing for Pardew whose defence was not merely missing Debuchy's presence but that of the injured Fabricio Coloccini, Newcastle's best centre half.

It hardly helped that normally reliable home performers such as Cheick Tioté initially gave the ball away far too easily, provoking fast counter-attacks on City's part.

If Newcastle's fortunes appeared to be improving when Taylor volleyed fractionally wide following a corner and Pablo Zabaleta's failure to deal with a high ball prefaced the impressive Joe Hart saving brilliantly from Yohan Cabaye, fortune was about to frown on Pardew.

When Tioté lashed the ball into the top corner quite brilliantly from just outside the area after City could only semi clear a corner Newcastle's players ran towards their manager in celebration unaware that referee, Mike Jones, had disallowed the "goal" for offside.

Prolonged, booing proved testament to the crowd's anger but three Newcastle players were in offside positions when Tioté "scored". If a couple could not be said to be interfering with play, Yoan Gouffran, hovering in front of Hart and arguably blocking his view, did not, technically at least, possess such a strong case.

The latest refinement to the law clarifies the obstruction rule by re-defining it as "clearly obstructing the line of vision or movement or challenging an opponent for the ball." Hart argued that Gouffran's position prevented him from diving but Pardew felt that this was a pedantic application of a rule rendered irrelevant by the quality and ferocity of Tioté's effort which Hart was never going to save. So furious was Pardew, that as half time beckoned, he initiated a less than amicable nose to nose technical area debate with Pellegrini. In the end it took the intervention of John Carver, Newcastle's normally cumbustible assistant manager, to restore an uneasy peace.

The mood remained anything but harmonious. From Newcastle's viewpoint this was probably no bad thing. With righteous indignation upping their adrenalin levels they delighted in demonstrating that, inexorable as City can be going forward, defending is not always their forte.

With Tioté and Anita beginning to make much more of an impact in central midfield, it took a superb save from Hart to divert Cabaye's swerving shot from 25 yards at the start of the second half. While Hart subsequently did very well to deny Loïc Rémy a goal, Cabaye was slightly fortunate not to receive a second yellow card for a foolish tackle on Jesús Navas - on for Dzeko. By now the increasingly febrile atmosphere had already produced five yellow cards - with Cabaye, Tioté, Moussa Sissoko, Zabaleta and Fernandinho all going into Jones's book.

Perhaps thinking about the perils of his drive out of St James' Park, the referee refrained from dismissing Cabaye following another yellow card worthy challenge on Kolarov, settling for a final warning.

Jones almost certainly should have shown Yanga-Mbiwa a straight red card for that wild hack at Nasri which left the City midfielder writhing in agony and requiring prolonged treatment before being carried off with his left leg in a brace protecting torn medial ligaments. As tears rolled down Nasri's face, Yanga-Mbiwa was merely booked but almost immediately found himself replaced by Massaido Haïdara in one of Pardew's more sensible moves of the afternoon.

By now Newcastle's manager had finally introduced Ben Arfa who threatened to produce an equaliser. Pardew's only problem was that his side had no option but to leave themselves open to visiting counter-attacks.

Although Taylor thwarted one such advance by clearing off the line from Negredo, the same striker doubled City's advantage at the end of a break initiated by James Milner deep in stoppage time. It left the scoreline looking deceptively, and flatteringly, comfortable but, much as Newcastle could feel hard done by, their manager had hardly covered himself in glory.

Teams

Newcastle United:
Krul, Yanga-Mbiwa (Haidara 82), Santon, Williamson, Tiote, Taylor, Sissoko, Anita (Cisse 73), Cabaye, Remy, Gouffran (Ben Arfa 81)  Unused subs: Gosling, Elliot, Marveaux, Sam Ameobi   Bookings: Sissoko, Cabaye, Tiote, Yanga-Mbiwa

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Demichelis, Kompany, Yaya Toure (Garcia 60), Fernandinho, Nasri (Milner 76), Silva, Negredo, Dzeko (Navas 51)  Unused subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Lescott, Richards      Bookings: Fernandinho, Zabaleta

Referee: Michael Jones       Att:51,000

Manchester City 6  West Ham United 0    Look Away Sam
Wednesday 8th January 2014 : GYKO at the Etihad

The only surprise, perhaps, was that Manchester City restricted themselves to six. The tie was so one-sided, the opposition so utterly abject, that there were moments when it was easy to imagine City would go even better than the seven they rattled past Norwich earlier in the season, never mind the six that Arsenal and Tottenham sieved inside this stadium. The fifth goal went in with more than a third of the game still to go and, after that, the goal machine that is Manuel Pellegrini's team must have been feeling charitable to add only one more.

Their latest haul, incorporating a stylish hat-trick from Alvaro Negredo, brings their tally to 59 goals in 15 home matches this season, keeping up the remarkable average of almost four every game. To put it another way, they have just won in straight sets – 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 – against three of London's top clubs. West Ham, once again, were shocking in their ineptitude, and  Allardyce's latest ordeal ended with the away fans making it very clear they did not want him as manager.

West Ham certainly did their bit to be remembered as the least distinguished team to visit this ground this season. It was a capitulation that makes the return leg a formality and means City can start their arrangements for a Wembley final against either Sunderland or Manchester United. Judging by the chants of "David Moyes is a football genius", their supporters do not seem too alarmed by the prospect of an all-Manchester affair.

West Ham, in stark contrast, move on to the game at Cardiff that Allardyce had always prioritised, lurching deeper into crisis and with it becoming increasingly clear that a good proportion of the club's followers have had enough. Allardyce was the subject of loud, abusive chants as he stood, almost motionless, by the touchline, his hood up in a filthy Mancunian downpour, hands firmly entrenched in his pockets. He looked a picture of misery.

At one point early on, Allardyce's team won a corner and the away end celebrated as though a goal had been scored. Unfortunately, in football it is never encouraging when supporters resort to gallows humour. The corner was cleared and it was the next piece of action that saw Yaya Touré pick out Negredo's run for the Spaniard to crack in a wonderful opening goal.
Manchester City v West Ham United - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: First Leg Manchester City's Alvaro Negredo completes his hat trick goal by scoring his side's fourth goal against West Ham. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Negredo's perfectly judged volley came after 11 minutes and was probably the moment the West Ham supporters, who saw their team trounced 5-0 by Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Sunday, knew the night was about to become another public humiliation. Their team had Mohamed Diamé, a midfielder, playing in attack and a full-back, George McCartney, in the centre of defence alongside Roger Johnson, fast-tracked into the team after his loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers. They were out of their depth and afterwards it spoke volumes that Dzeko, scorer of the last two goals, talked about it being 5-0. The striker had evidently lost count.

Perhaps the most alarming part for West Ham was that their opponents were still a good notch or two below their optimum. The bottom line is that City did not have to be at their very best when the gulf was so considerable. Plenty of teams have taken a pummelling at City this season but not all of them have surrendered so meekly. For West Ham, it brought a now-familiar sense of embarrassment, with 11 goals conceded in four days.

Negredo's second was another beauty, flicking the ball into Dzeko, then running on to the return pass and sweeping a rising, diagonal shot beyond Adrián, West Ham's overworked goalkeeper.

The game was by now already an exercise in damage limitation for West Ham, and when Touré surged through the middle of their defence to make it three, six minutes before the interval, any lingering hopes of Allardyce's team finding a way back into the tie went from miniscule to non-existent. Those driving runs from Touré are a formidable sight, but there was something fairly wretched about the way Johnson simply retreated, backing away until Touré was in the penalty area and choosing where to put his shot. Johnson looked what he was: a Championship or League One defender trying to stop the most formidable attack in the land.

Negredo's hat-trick, taking him to 18 goals in 28 appearances, came early in the second half from another of those quick, penetrating moves through the opposition's defence, culminating in David Silva's pass and another classy finish from the striker's left boot. Dzeko made it 5-0 when he stabbed in Gaël Clichy's cross and the same player finished the rout with a handsome left-foot shot from the substitute Aleksandar Kolarov's cutback.

"We want our West Ham back," went the cry from the away enclosure.

Teams                Capital One Cup Semi Final

Manchester City:
Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Clichy, Lescott, Kompany, Garcia, Yaya Toure (Demichelis 66), Nasri, Silva (Lopes 73), Negredo (Kolarov 79), Dzeko   Unused subs: Hart, Nastasic, Fernandinho, Milner

West Ham United: Adrian, McCartney, Maiga (C Cole 46), O'Brien (Rat 75), Johnson, Diame, Demel, Noble (Diarra 57), Taylor, J Cole, Downing      Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Jarvis, Collison, Morrison

Referee:Jon Moss      Att:30,381

Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester City 1    It's Not All Rover Yet
Saturday 4th January 2014 : GYKO at Ewood Park


No one ever expects an FA Cup upset, otherwise it would hardly count as an upset, and you could tell from a sparsely populated Blackburn end that home hopes were not high. Manchester City, by contrast, packed out the Darwen End with 7,000 fans, with rumours of even more turning up ticketless just to visit the town centre. Up until half-time it seemed Blackburn central might be the better bet for excitement. Then, as if by magic, a full-blown Cup tie appeared, complete with City going down to 10 men for the last few minutes and hanging on desperately for a draw as DJ Campbell and Tom Cairney went close to grabbing a late winner.

The killer blow eluded Blackburn, though it was not for the want of trying. Or scoring opportunities. At the end Manuel Pellegrini looked as if his first exposure to the reckless romance of the Cup had aged him by a decade or so.

"We are not out of the FA Cup so I am not too disappointed," the City manager said. He declined to blame his goalkeeper for the rather obvious mistake that allowed Blackburn to level the scores, arguing it was a team matter rather than Costel Pantilimon's fault. You could see where he was coming from, even after Scott Dann's goal City had over half an hour to get back in front, yet had Pantilimon simply caught the ball, or had Pellegrini stuck with the back-in-form Joe Hart, a replay might have been avoided and his players might now be looking forward to a warm-weather break in Abu Dhabi rather than an extra game in January. "An extra match is not an extra problem," Pellegrini said, more than a little grumpily. "Everyone wants to win all their games but today we played against a very strong team."

City were unrecognisably lethargic in the first half, even allowing for Yaya Touré being given another rest, misplacing passes, squandering opportunities and generally looking stumped for ideas on how to break down Blackburn's well-organised defence. Blackburn occasionally managed to look the more enterprising of the two sides before City took the lead on the stroke of half-time, with Rudy Gestede in particular unlucky not to get on the end of a good run and cross from Ben Marshall. Despite having both Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko to aim for, City spent the first half finding neither. Only David Silva and Fernandinho were getting forward with any purpose, and when the former skied a decent chance from 10 yards on the half-hour it began to look as though City might be having one of their off-days. That perception changed when they took the lead from a set piece in the last minute of the first half, Edin Dzeko heading on Silva's corner to leave Negredo a simple far post tap-in.

There was a suggestion of offside, though the flag stayed down and rather to their supporters' surprise, City turned round in front. Any suggestion of job done, however, was dispelled after nine minutes of the second half when Pantilimon's error from a Blackburn corner invited the home side back into the game. The goalkeeper appeared to have Gestede's firm header covered but let the ball bounce back off him, allowing Dann the game's second straightforward tap-in from a position almost identical to where Negredo had scored.

Understandably that boosted Rovers' confidence and City had to survive a rocky spell midway through the second half, with Chris Taylor going close, Dedryck Boyata going into the book and Pellegrini deciding Touré might be needed on the pitch after all. Paul Robinson, back in the Blackburn goal after more than a year out with complications following back surgery, made a diving save from Dzeko and saw Negredo head the rebound wide, before getting down low to his right to keep out a shot from Jesús Navas.

Boyata followed up his foul on Josh King with an even dozier swipe at Campbell to leave Michael Oliver no choice but to produce a red card to make the last eight minutes even more interesting. City made it to the end, but this was a day for Blackburn, whose defenders left the field at half-time arguing among themselves over who was at fault for letting the visitors on to the scoresheet, to show they are well on the road to recovery.

Teams

Blackburn Rovers:
Robinson, Henley, Spurr, Lowe, Dann, Hanley, Cairney, Taylor, Gestede (Rhodes 81), Williamson (King 64), Marshall (Campbell 81) Unused subs: Kilgallon, Rochina, Judge, Eastwood


Manchester City: Pantilimon, Boyata, Lescott, Nastasic, Clichy, Milner, Fernandinho (Yaya Toure 64), Garcia, Silva (Zabaleta 88), Negredo (Navas 74), Dzeko   Unused subs: Hart, Kompany, Kolarov, Lopes   Bookings: Nastasic, Boyata (sent-off)

Referee:  Michael Oliver      Att:16,000

Swansea City 2 Manchester City 3  
Wednesday 1st January 2014 : Dai Bowen for GYKO at the Liberty Stadium


The Manchester City juggernaut rolls on. Another three goals and another three points for Manuel Pellegrini's team, who survived a late scare to rack up a fifth straight Premier League win to strengthen their title challenge on a wet and blustery afternoon in south Wales.

It was the first time that City have won back-to-back away games in the league under Pellegrini and, although the excellent Wilfried Bony's second goal of the afternoon, in the 91st minute, led to an anxious final few moments for the visitors, the result was never really in doubt.

City, who have now scored a remarkable 57 goals in 20 Premier League matches this season, are playing with the confidence of a team who believe they will score whenever they set foot on the pitch. It says everything about the depth of the goal-scoring potential in Pellegrini's team that, on a day when Sergio Agüero, their prolific striker, was again absent through injury, Älvaro Negredo was substituted and Edin Dzeko frustrated in his attempts to add to his record, City still scored three times away from home.

Fernandinho, who waited until the middle of December to register his first for City, has now scored three in his last five matches; Yaya Touré took his Premier League tally for the season into double figures to restore the visitors' lead, after Bony had equalised for Swansea on the stroke of half-time; and Aleksandar Kolarov provided the gloss with a superb individual effort.

It was the sort of game that Manchester City might have lost away from home earlier in the season, when they were defeated 3-2 by Cardiff City and Aston Villa in August and September, but there is greater resilience about Pellegrini's team now.

The manager insisted that nothing has changed in terms of the way City are approaching matches on the road but instead suggested that his team are benefiting from no longer committing the sort of defensive errors that Cardiff and Villa took great pleasure in punishing.

"It's very important, that character [we showed today], because at the beginning of the season we dropped too many points away," Pellegrini said.

"I think it's not good for this team to win just 11 points out of 27 [from the away games] we played in the first half of the season. Winning here, the first game away [of the year], is very important for us.

"I think the key [to better away form] was to continue playing exactly the same way we did at the beginning. We didn't lose the games against Cardiff and Aston Villa because we didn't play well; we made a lot of mistakes and conceded easy goals."

Michael Laudrup had no complaints about the result but the Swansea manager was understandably bitterly disappointed with the first and third goals his team conceded. The opener came about after Samir Nasri's corner bounced off Jonathan de Guzmán and ran through to the edge of the penalty area, from where Fernandinho, completely unmarked, lashed a low shot into the net.

Swansea, to their credit, never allowed the visitors to take a stranglehold on the match and equalised through Bony in first-half injury-time. Having twice drilled narrowly wide of Joe Hart's far post, Bony found his range with a well directed – albeit marginally offside – header from De Guzmán's cross.

Buoyed by that goal, Swansea started the second half with renewed belief but were behind again when Touré thrashed an angled drive beyond Gerhard Tremmel via a deflection off the sole of Ashley Williams's right boot.

Within eight minutes City had a third. Kolarov dispossessed Wayne Routledge close to the touchline and ran from inside his own half to the edge of the Swansea penalty area without being challenged. After stepping inside Chico Flores's half-hearted attempt to stop him, the left-back hit a right-footed shot that brushed off José Cañas en route to the back of the net.

Hart, coming off his line for a corner he had no chance of getting, almost handed Williams a goal in the 73rd minute before Bony got his and Swansea's second with a 30-yard raking drive in injury-time.

The two goals were no more than the Ivorian deserved.

"It was by far the best performance from Bony while he was a Swansea player," Laudrup said. "That's the way we want to see him. If he can do it against [Vincent] Kompany and [Matija] Nastasic, he can do it against anyone."


Teams

Swansea City:
Tremmel, Rangel, Davies, Cañas, Chico, Williams, Hernández (Lamah 10), De Guzmán, Bony, Shelvey (Pozuelo 81), Routledge  Unused subs: Amat, Taylor, Tiendalli, Alvaro, Zabret    Bookings: Canas, Shelvey

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Nastasic, Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Nasri (Milner 70), Navas (Rodwell 90), Dzeko, Negredo (Garcia 60)

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Clichy, Boyata  Bookings: Dzeko, Nasri, Milner, Kompany, Zabaleta, Kompany

Referee:  Phil Dowd      Att:20,498

 

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