independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

City end away day blues

Yaya Toure bagged a brace on the night

In-form Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure provided the perfect antidote to Manchester City's bout of travel sickness this season.

After a 15-minute delay due to congestion on the surrounding roads, first-half goals from Aguero and Toure, combined with a penalty from the latter in the second, were enough to sink West Brom 3-2 at The Hawthorns.

The scoreline was only respectable courtesy of an 86th-minute own goal from Costel Pantilimon, and a very late stoppage-time strike from Victor Anichebe.

The victory, only the club's second away from home in seven Barclays Premier Legaue matches this season, keeps City in touch with leaders Arsenal at the top of the table, albeit still trailing by six points.

That is due to their woeful away record because, while City have been unbeatable at the Etihad Stadium with a run of seven successive wins, manager Manuel Pellegrini's side have strangely faltered on the road.

With four defeats in six away games coming into this encounter, that is as many as were inflicted upon them in 19 away days last season.

Aguero's 17th of the season in the ninth minute, and Toure's first of his brace 15 minutes later, were sublime team goals as City carved their way through the Albion defence.

Beyond that the three points were never in doubt, although if Chris Foy had awarded an early second-half penalty for an Aleksandar Kolarov challenge on Shane Long then maybe the second half might have been different.

Instead, Foy did award a 72nd-minute penalty when Kolarov was tripped by Claudio Yacob, although the midfielder did appear to touch the ball first.

Seven minutes from time Albion did get on the scoresheet, but only after Kolarov had deflected a low cross from Matej Vydra on to the outstretched body of the unfortunate Pantilimon before Anichebe netted his first for the club in the dying moments.

Overall, this was a stroll for City, who should have been in front after just five minutes, only for Aguero to fire a first-time shot across the face of goal after Edin Dzeko had chested down a Toure cross into his path.

As wake-up calls go, though, the alarm should have been heeded by the Baggies who were ripped apart just three minutes later, and this time there was no mistake from Aguero.

An incisive move culminated in Dzeko playing in Pablo Zabaleta, whose surging run had taken him behind his marker Liam Ridgewell, for a cut back to compatriot Aguero.

In the centre of the area and 11 yards from goal, Aguero gave Boaz Myhill no chance with a rasping drive for his ninth goal in his past eight matches.

There was a moment of respite for Albion in the 16th minute when striker Saido Berahino, the England Under-21 international this week rewarded with a big-money contract following a sensational start to the campaign, curled a 25-yard right-foot shot wide of the right-hand post.

Eight minutes later, however, City doubled their advantage with ease, the ball zipping along the left wing between Aguero, Samir Nasri and Kolarov.

From the Serbian's piercing low ball into the heart of the area, Toure simply opened up his body and steered a deft right-foot touch beyond Myhill.

Only the intervention of Myhill in the 36th minute with a fingertip save to push the ball beyond his right-hand post denied Aguero his second on a night when he proved almost unplayable in the first half.

Somehow Albion survived through to the break without further damage being inflicted upon them, and arguably five minutes into the second half they should have been handed a lifeline.

There was definite contact as Kolarov brought down Long, but Foy was unimpressed and waved away furious appeals.

With City in charge, and Albion unable to make any inroads into the the visiting defence marshalled again by skipper Vincent Kompany after two months out with a thigh injury, the second half lacked intensity.

Not even a double substitution, with Victor Anichebe and Zoltan Gera on for Long and James Morrison, could rouse the Baggies before Foy arguably got his second penalty decision wrong 18 minutes from time.

Kolarov did go down under a challenge from Yacob, but only after a clear touch on the ball beforehand.

Toure, however, took full advantage and slotted home the spot-kick for his ninth goal of the season.

The own goal gave City some respect, and although Anichebe added a second four minutes into injury time, the full-time whistle followed soon after to deny hopes of a potentially dramatic end.

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