Samir Nasri back with a bang for Manchester City
Published 09/04/2016 | 19:46
Samir Nasri celebrated his first start for almost seven months with the winning goal as Manchester City came from behind to beat West Brom 2-1.
The Frenchman, fit again after a lengthy lay-off following thigh surgery, pounced from close range as City interrupted their Champions League quarter-final double-header against Paris Saint-Germain to claim three crucial Barclays Premier League points.
Stephane Sessegnon had fired the Baggies into a sixth-minute lead ith a stunning strike at the Etihad Stadium but the same player then conceded the penalty that allowed Sergio Aguero to equalise.
Aguero limped through the latter stages after a challenge from Craig Gardner but remained a willing runner until being taken off in the 89th minute.
His fitness could be a concern for Tuesday's visit from PSG, which also influenced selection to the extent of five changes to the starting line-up.
Side issues saw fans continue to protest about the price of tickets for Tuesday and Wilfried Bony again struggle up front, but City tightened their grip on fourth place and Nasri finally had something to cheer after a horrendous season.
City were caught out early as the visitors broke from deep to snatch the lead. Fernando - as in Paris in midweek - lost possession and Nasri could not recover as referee Michael Jones blocked his path.
West Brom swept the ball upfield and James McClean whipped in a superb cross which Sessegnon controlled before lashing a fierce strike just inside a static Joe Hart's near post.
It was a fine effort but Sessegnon's joy was soon tempered as he conceded the penalty that allowed City to level just 13 minutes later.
The former Sunderland man slightly mistimed his challenge as Aleksandar Kolarov breezed into the area and was adjudged to have tripped the Serbian. Aguero made no mistake from the spot as he marked his 200th City appearance with his 23rd goal of the season.
It proved a bad few minutes for West Brom as they lost Salomon Rondon to injury moments later and Kolarov went close to a second City goal.
Rondon's replacement Gardner dragged a shot wide and fired a free-kick into the wall but the game lacked intensity.
The hosts retained control but struggled to find top gear and in Bony they had a striker who was clearly out of sorts. Little the Ivorian attempted came off and his contributions gave the side little impetus.
Believing this merely to be the latest in a series of ineffectual displays, the crowd were on his back and it came as no surprise when he was removed on the hour.
Kevin De Bruyne came on in a double substitution that also saw the fit-again Yaya Toure replace Fabian Delph.
Almost immediately City seemed more dynamic and they claimed the lead after 66 minutes after good work from De Bruyne and Jesus Navas, who fed Aguero for a shot that was well blocked by Craig Dawson.
West Brom scrambled to deny Aguero a second opportunity but succeeded only in finding Nasri who could not miss from six yards. He celebrated jubilantly and made a point of acknowledging the medical staff.
West Brom rallied in the latter stages and twice went close through Saido Berahino before McClean shot narrowly wide in injury time. City breathed a sigh of relief, but thoughts might quickly turn to Tuesday and Aguero's fitness.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Nasri, with his best 90's NSYNC haircut, scores to give @MCFC a lead. #MCFCvWBA" - ESPN's Taylor Twellman's (@TaylorTwellman) amusing assessment of Samir Nasri's new haircut as his goal would prove to be the winner for Manchester City.
Joe Hart: 6 (out of 10)
Pablo Zabaleta: 6
Nicolas Otamendi: 6
Eliaquim Mangala: 5
Aleksandar Kolarov: 7
Fabian Delph: 6
Jesus Navas: 6
Samir Nasri: 8
Wilfried Bony: 4
Sergio Aguero: 6
Kevin De Bruyne: 7
Yaya Toure: 6
Gael Clichy: 6
Ben Foster: 6
Craig Dawson: 6
Gareth McAuley: 6
Jonny Evans: 6
James Chester: 6
Darren Fletcher: 7
Stephane Sessegnon: 6
James McClean: 7
Saido Berahino: 5
Salomon Rondon: 5
Craig Gardner: 6
Jonathan Leko: 6
Samir Nasri. Marked his first start since September by delivering a lively performance, capped by scoring the winning goal.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Nasri's goal. It may have been a simple finish, but it was clear from the Frenchman's delighted reaction how much it meant to him to be back in the action and on the scoresheet again after such a long period out injured.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
A Manchester City side featuring several changes, made with Tuesday's Champions League clash with Paris St Germain in mind no doubt, struggled to take the game to their opponents for much of the time here - but ultimately, the result secured completed a good week for Blues manager Manuel Pellegrini. Sergio Aguero coming off looking in some discomfort will have been worrying, though.
While West Brom gave it a good go, their boss Tony Pulis may well be left cursing the fact his men were not in the end able to capitalise on City having a rare off-day at home, the visitors certainly having had their chances.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Wilfried Bony's performance. Not for the first time, the Ivorian produced a hugely ineffective display, and it was perhaps little surprise that City grabbed the lead only six minutes after he was replaced by Kevin De Bruyne on the hour mark.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Manchester City v Paris Saint Germain, UEFA Champions League, Tuesday April 12
West Brom v Watford, Barclays Premier League, Saturday April 16
Nasri, who returned to action after spending months on the sidelines, could not hide his delight at scoring the winner.
"It was great to be back, especially scoring the winning goal, and with the result of Arsenal and West Ham," he told Sky Sports 1.
"I cannot explain how happy I am. It's been more than five and half months I've been out and I played my first 90 minutes.
"I was a bit dead at the end but it was good to win before the Paris St Germain game.
"When you've been out for so long, you come back very hungry because you want to prove to everyone that you have the quality to play in this squad especially with all the new players we have."
West Brom captain Darren Fletcher was disappointed with the result as he felt the West Midlands club deserved a point.
"I thought we did enough to at least get a point. We played really well," said the Scot.
"With the result against Sunderland we really wanted to show what a side we can be and I think we showed that today."
The visitors wanted a penalty when Mangala and Sandro collided in the City box but no spot-kick was awarded and the Scotland international felt his side were hard done by.
"I think it was a penalty," Fletcher added. "You can't do that in the box.
"Climbing on to someone, pushing him to the ground. He (Mangala) doesn't play the ball and I think in the Premier League or at any level you can't fly in like that."