Thursday 19 July 2018

Silva service puts City one step closer to title

Stoke City 0 Man City 2

Manchester City's David Silva celebrates. Photo: PA
Manchester City's David Silva celebrates. Photo: PA

Jason Burt

The countdown is on. It is possibly just two games to go and Manchester City will be the Premier League champions. There are simply no tricky away nights for City in this league as they imperiously swept aside Stoke City to re-establish their 16-point lead at the top of the table.

With eight games to go it will take two more wins - with the second of those at home to Manchester United - to ensure, mathematically, City cannot be caught but there is really no need for any arithmetic.

The only sums that matter are whether they can break the record for points gained and goals scored, both held by Chelsea in different seasons, and they are achievable. City should surpass the century mark for both and have played such fantastic football that they deserve that.

They are so far ahead of the rest as they proved again against a Stoke side who are fighting for their lives and could give no more. David Silva scored two sublime goals, both brilliant team efforts, and Pep Guardiola continued to insist they attacked and claimed more goals.

City eased into the lead with yet another wonderful, flowing goal as they carved through Stoke.

Fernandinho, fit again and recalled, played the ball in to Gabriel Jesus who turned and took out three Stoke players with a pass that released Raheem Sterling down the right. Sterling looked up quickly and crossed low for the onrushing Silva who arrived between two more Stoke defenders to side-foot first time into the net. It was breath-taking stuff.

David Silva scores City's first goal. Photo: REUTERS
David Silva scores City's first goal. Photo: REUTERS

It also quickly set back Stoke's plan to defend deep and try and counter aggressively with Jese making his first start since October.

Xherdan Shaqiri then had a shot deflected off Fernandinho's foot that flew narrowly past the post and finally the home supporters had something to rally around.

City continued to attack with Sterling tumbling over in the penalty area under Kurt Zouma's challenge. No spot-kick was given and the Stoke fans turned on the winger before Kevin De Bruyne appeared to tee up Silva who mis-timed his attempt to shoot, in fact missing the ball completely. Even then it ran to Fernandinho and he fired over.

Soon after Jack Butland dived low to turn away a more accurate Fernandinho shot with Leroy Sane then volleying a De Bruyne cross back across goal and only just past the post.

Raheem Sterling (left) turns inside a challenge from Stoke City's Kostas Stafylidis. Photo: PA
Raheem Sterling (left) turns inside a challenge from Stoke City's Kostas Stafylidis. Photo: PA

After Guardiola's accusations that his team forgot to attack following the Champions League defeat at home to Basel last week this was a clear response, although they were almost undone by a goal-kick from Butland that flew over Vincent Kompany and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and appeared to release Jese, only for Kyle Walker to intervene but send the ball goalwards with Ederson back-pedalling to tip over.

Stoke were, rightly, cheered off at half-time. No-one could fault their effort. They had worked hard, they had bitten into tackles and tried to close down their opponents and they had carried a goal threat of their own, even if there was always that sense that City were a simple shift through the gears from extending their advantage.

And they did just that. Sterling won the ball back, shielding it well before finding Fernandinho who played it in to Silva (below). His first touch deftly picked out Gabriel Jesus who lifted the ball across the area. Should Butland have come from his goal quicker?

Instead he hesitated but Silva was always, it appeared, going to get there first and he guided the ball past Butland.

David Silva knocks the ball past Jack Butland for Manchester City's second goal. Photo: REUTERS
David Silva knocks the ball past Jack Butland for Manchester City's second goal. Photo: REUTERS

City poured forward once again with a move started and ended by Fernandinho who exchanged passes with De Bruyne and was suddenly through on goal. The angle was tight, though, and the shot hit the side-netting. The pressure was relentless with Sterling tricking his way beyond Kostas Stafylidis and dumping Geoff Cameron to the turf - only for his close-range shot to be saved by Butland.

Soon after and the goalkeeper was beating out another shot, this time from Oleksandr Zinchenko, and then Sane sent a powerful curling drive swinging beyond Butland but just past the post.

How Stoke needed some respite and they should have gained it when Peter Crouch - with his first touch after coming on - headed a free-kick back across goal to Choupo-Moting who set up Bruno Martins Indi with a header, only for the defender to blast his volley over from four yards.

Walker sliced wildly wide when through and Sane forced a save from Butland as City immediately re-asserted themselves.

After a clash of heads there was a drop-ball in the Stoke half with Sterling provoking an angry response as he whisked it away and ran through on goal only to be tackled by a furious Ndiaye. It led to some pushing and shoving and was the only aggravation City faced all evening. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Manchester City's Kyle Walker (third left) and Stoke City's Badou Ndiaye exchange words. Photo: PA
Manchester City's Kyle Walker (third left) and Stoke City's Badou Ndiaye exchange words. Photo: PA

Telegraph.co.uk

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