Dzeko double helps City underline depth of class
West Brom 1
Manchester City 2
The mark of true champions is to win through even in adversity, and 10-man Manchester City came from behind to stun West Bromwich Albion by taking all three points in stoppage time when most sides would have settled for one.
Had Romelu Lukaku's finishing been a bit sharper City could easily have gone home with nothing, for the West Brom substitute missed three late chances in his nine minutes on the pitch, before Edin Dzeko plundered an unlikely winner after levelling the scores 11 minutes earlier. In a match when every substitution made a difference, City's changes combined successfully when Sergio Aguero galloped down the right in the closing seconds before looking up and releasing Dzeko with a perfect pass for a perfect finish.
"It was a strange game but we don't feel as though we pinched the result," City assistant David Platt said. "A few things went against us in the match -- going a man down and conceding a silly goal -- but we stayed in control and I felt we deserved to win."
The character of the game changed abruptly in first half when James Milner was dismissed for a professional foul with over an hour to play. Moments earlier Mario Balotelli had picked up the afternoon's first booking for a retaliatory foul on Claudio Yacob but that was just par for the course. Milner's exit, shortly after he had found Balotelli with a magnificent crossfield pass to help set up a chance for Carlos Tevez, left City short-handed with their most volatile individual treading on eggshells.
While Milner would dispute the term "professional foul" and claim he was going for the ball, he caught Shane Long instead and although the foul was 30 yards out, the Albion forward was denied a clear run on goal. Milner was desperately trying to retrieve Vincent Kompany's error after the City captain had been caught in possession attempting to dribble out of trouble on half way, and a combination of Long's alertness and James Morrison's excellent pass left him with too much to do.
A lively and open encounter became fractious after that, with Long, Yacob and Gabriel Tamas receiving yellow cards for the home side before the interval, and Tevez and Balotelli being fortunate not to join them. Not that Balotelli considered himself fortunate. He went over to make a point to the referee Mark Clattenburg on the half-time whistle, only to be cut off by Joe Hart, who wisely grabbed his arm and ushered him from the pitch. Although Roberto Mancini must have been tempted to make a change, Balotelli returned for the second half, and was soon combining with Tevez for the Argentinian to bring a fine save from Ben Foster.
Tamas made the next save, the big defender bravely getting in the way of a goal-bound drive from Gael Clichy, before Balotelli missed the best chance the game on the hour from a Tevez free-kick.
Although not exactly giving Foster a workout, City were doing most of the attacking at that stage and making light of their numerical disadvantage. So it must have been dispiriting for the home side when Mancini finally brought off Balotelli for Aguero, a striker the visitors were hoping to keep in reserve for Ajax on Wednesday. Steve Clarke made a substitution at the same time, however, and in a rare West Brom attack sub Peter Odemwingie's tame shot allowed Long to stroll between Kompany and Joleon Lescott and guide the ball expertly past Hart.
Two can play at that game though, and when Mancini threw on Dzeko for the last 12 minutes, the Bosnian too found almost immediate reward, getting his head to Tevez's floated free-kick to leave Foster punching fresh air in the manner of Hart in Poland in midweek.
There were late chances for Micah Richards at one end and Lukaku at the other, before Aguero broke from defence to make the game safe.
The Argentinian does not always look up, but this time he did and once he saw Dzeko in space the game was up for a home side who would not have been flattered by a point, or even three, but ended up with none.
"We deserved something from the game," a disappointed but resigned Clarke said. "Maybe we should have been more careful, we were chasing a win instead of settling for a point, but credit to City. They are champions for a reason."
Sunday Indo Sport