Wednesday 17 January 2018

Pellegrini purrs as City banish away-day blues in style

Hull City 2 Manchester City 4

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates Edin Dzeko's goal
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates Edin Dzeko's goal
Eliaquim Mangala of Manchester City blocks a shot from Nikica Jelevic of Hull City
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City scores the opening goal

Luke Edwards

Manchester City are not just intent on defending their Premier League title; they also want to do it in style, judging by this ominous flexing of their muscles against Hull City.

Although they trail Chelsea by five points and were held to a draw by the west London club last weekend at the Etihad Stadium, City are in better shape than at the same stage last season, particularly as the poor away form that troubled Manuel Pellegrini has been replaced by the sort of swashbuckling performance they delivered here.

There is a theory that City are struggling more at home as teams travel to the Etihad Stadium with a game plan to contain, whereas there is more space for them to exploit on the road when the onus is on the other team to attack.

Despite the dropped points on home soil, however, it is unlikely to be more than a temporary glitch. They looked like a title-winning side against Hull.

"It was very important for us not to drop points because we have already dropped too may points at home," Pellegrini said.

Dropped

"We've dropped five points, the same as we dropped in the whole of last season. It's important to win away.

"This season, unless I'm mistaken, we have seven points from nine playing away - last season we had just four.

Now it's important to play the same way at home."

Despite two costly mistakes from their new centre-back Eliaquim Mangala that allowed Hull to level the game at 2-2 before half-time, City had a calmness under pressure that enabled them to regroup and retake the lead midway through the second half.

City no longer wonder if they are the best team in England - they seem convinced of it.

Their finishing was clinical, even if their cavalier style sometimes left them vulnerable at the back against a Hull City side that refused to let them get into cruise control ahead of tomorrow's vital first Champions League home game against Roma. "It's a crucial game because Roma won their first match and we lost (at Bayern Munich), so it's important at home to win," Pellegrini said.

"It will be a very tough group and we cannot drop points at home. You have to play six games and if you've lost the first two, it will be more difficult.

"I hope that the team will play the same way as we have this week. I'm very happy with all the performances, against Chelsea, against Sheffield Wednesday and Hull."

That Pellegrini's side were made to work so hard was a source of pride for Hull manager Steve Bruce, but the former Manchester United captain recognised that City are developing into a team even neutrals can admire.

Having raced into the lead with two different, but equally classy finishes from Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, City were pegged back when Mangala headed Leroy Rosenior's cross into his own goal and then brought down Abel Hernandez in the area, with the Uruguayan converting the penalty himself.

The visitors managed to halt Hull's momentum in the second half, with Dzeko delivering another wonderful finish and substitute

Frank Lampard accepted a simple tap in from a Pablo Zabaleta pass.

"It was a breathtaking game and, for an hour, it could have gone either way," Bruce said.

"We weren't quite good enough, but we were playing against a really top, top football team.

"They've got a wonderful mixture.

"You can look at them from one to 11 and there is no weakness in that side.

"They are the champions, they are playing with confidence and they go and beat you.

They commit people forward, and they're very open themselves, but my gosh, when they get hold of the ball they really do cause you problems."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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