Monday 24 September 2018

Classy City go five clear despite some awkward moments

West Brom 2 Manchester City 3

West Bromwich Albion's Jonny Evans battles for the ball with Manchester City's David Silva. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters
West Bromwich Albion's Jonny Evans battles for the ball with Manchester City's David Silva. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Paul Doyle

This was scruffy by Manchester City's recent standards, but Pep Guardiola's team still had too much class for their opponents and duly collected their eighth Premier League win on the trot. Goals from Leroy Sane, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling restored their five-point lead at the top of the table.

Strikes for West Brom by Jay Rodriguez and Matt Phillips briefly introduced some suspense into this contest, but ultimately served only as tantalising reminders that City do have vulnerabilities. The question is whether anyone will be able to exploit those often enough this season to prevent City from cruising to the title.

Guardiola's team had found West Brom to be awkward opponents when they visited here last month in the League Cup, eventually prevailing 2-1 thanks to a pair of goals by Sane. The German picked up where he left off by opening the scoring in the 10th minute this time around. The home team's defence was cut asunder by Fernandinho's sharp low pass, allowing Sane to finish with a deadly thrust, slamming a shot past Ben Foster from 12 yards.

The goalkeeper appeared to be taken by surprise by the suddenness and ferocity of Sane's shot, but three minutes later it was City's turn to be taken aback, as West Brom drew level.

Manchester City's Leroy Sane in action against West Bromwich Albion's Jay Rodriguez. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters
Manchester City's Leroy Sane in action against West Bromwich Albion's Jay Rodriguez. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

They had already hinted at an ability to catch City out at the back when, in the fifth minute, Salomon Rondon ran on to a pass over the top by Grzegroz Krychowiak before John Stones got back to smother the danger. Stones was unable to come to the rescue in the 13th minute, however, when Gareth Barry's chipped pass found Rodriguez, who lifted the ball over the advancing Ederson and into the net.

That was a classy flourish from Barry, but luck was against him two minutes later when he attempted to block Fernandinho's low shot from 25 yards but succeeded only in helping it into the net via the butt of the post.

Barry did not deserve such ill-fortune, but Fernandinho could be said to have earned a good break, as he was among City's best performers, raking in everything in midfield and distributing the ball splendidly.

City continued to hog the ball for the remainder of the first half, but were uncharacteristically short of ideas around an opposing box protected by a five-man defence and three solid central midfielders.

In the 26th minute, however, their hypnotic passing lulled West Brom to sleep and David Silva was able to dart in to get on the end of a delightful pass by Kevin De Bruyne, only for the Spaniard to head over the bar from eight yards. West Brom seldom managed to carry the play down to the other end of the pitch but when they did so, they made City uncomfortable.

A panicky slice by Fabian Delph in the 33rd minute enabled Rondon to send a header goalward from 10 yards, but not with enough power to alarm Ederson, who saved easily. Sirens sounded for the goalkeeper in the early minutes of the second half when Krychowiak crept in unnoticed at the back post to get on the end of a cross from the right. But the Pole's header turned out to be as weak as Rondon's had been.

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus in action with West Bromwich Albion's Jonny Evans. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters
Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus in action with West Bromwich Albion's Jonny Evans. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

Sterling came off the bench on the hour to kill off the home team's resistance. Replacing Bernardo Silva, who had been tidy rather than incisive, the England winger finished off an intricate City move in the 63rd minute, bursting into the box to meet a cross by Kyle Walker and sidefoot into the net from close range.

Pulis threw on Phillips for a centre-back, Gareth McAuley, in pursuit of a comeback. West Brom mustered enough of a threat to expose more nervousness in City's defence - encapsulated by Otamendi's yellow card for a wild tackle on Jake Livermore - but could not test Ederson until the last minute, when Otamendi goofed again, unwittingly chesting a cross into the path of Philipps, who poked into the net. That will have vexed Guardiola, but was not enough to save Pulis from another defeat. West Brom have failed to win 20 of their last 24 matches. Observer

Sunday Indo Sport

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport