Yaya Toure rises from lethargy to spark City rally
Manchester City 2 Swansea City 1
Yaya Toure came to Manchester City's rescue again just as the defending champions were labouring in the second half and looking short of attacking ideas. With David Silva still injured and Sergio Aguero having a quiet game City's attempts to stay in touch with Chelsea at the top of the table were not amounting to much until their influential midfielder suddenly found the energy for one of his trademark bursts into the area.
Toure himself had not been having a particularly impressive game up until that point, and when he is below his best City usually are too, but when Fernandinho set him up with a nonchalant backheel pass into the area just after the hour mark there was no stopping the Ivorian. Storming into the area Toure latched on to the ball and placed a low shot into Lukasz Fabianski's bottom corner almost without breaking stride. It was Toure's first league goal of the season at the Etihad, an indication of how out of sorts he has been, and only once in front did City show the sort of attacking confidence and expansiveness they will need to have any hope of catching Chelsea.
City could not add to their lead in the half-hour or so that remained, though only Fabianski's excellence kept out a late effort from Jesus Navas.
At least they looked as if they believed in themselves and knew the way to goal, a vast improvement on the first half, and they must find a way of keeping the same momentum going to have any chance against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, when Toure will be suspended. They also need to work on their concentration in defence.
Improved though City were in the second half, they might still have been pegged back at the end when Swansea came agonisingly close with a deflected free-kick, or when Wilfried Bony played Bafetimbi Gomis through on goal. Joe Hart came out quickly and did just enough to put the substitute off.
"If we had scored a third goal it might have made the last five minutes easier," Manuel Pellegrini conceded. "But considering we started off a goal down we played well and created a lot of chances.
"Defending is something we work every day to improve, and I hope we don't make the same sort of mistakes when we face a difficult team like Bayern Munich."
The home side had got off to an uncertain start when Swansea took the lead with a goal against the run of play after just nine minutes. It was not that City had been piling on the pressure at the other end, they hadn't, but the visitors had shown little attacking endeavour until Bony and Nathan Dyer combined neatly for the former to find plenty of space in which to beat Hart. Bony supplied Dyer in the first place then moved forward, Dyer delayed the return pass until just the right moment for his team-mate to stay onside, then picked up his run with the deftest of chipped diagonal passes. The City defence could only watch as Bony brought the ball down then turned to shoot past the goalkeeper.
City drew level midway through the first half when, after a patient build-up, Toure supplied Navas on the right, and Stevan Jovetic just about stayed onside to flick home a teasing cross beyond Fabianski.
By the interval the Swansea goalkeeper was keeping his side in it. He showed quick reactions on the half-hour to deny Aguero when a great ball from Samir Nasri had put him through on goal, then on the stroke of half-time his outstretched fingertips pushed a tremendous 30-yard drive from Gael Clichy on to his left-hand upright.
A couple of more routine saves, both from Jovetic, ensured the teams turned round level, though Swansea were possibly lucky to start the second half with the same number of players as City after an incident on the half-hour when Kyle Bartley appeared to strike Aguero. The two players came together well away from the ball, so the referee understandably failed to see what happened, but Aguero first fell to the ground, then got up angrily to confront Angel Rangel. That appeared to be a case of mistaken identity, if a foul had taken place Bartley was the culprit, and the Swansea defender had already been booked for a challenge on the same player.
"This is a hard place to come and I think that's the closest we've been to a result," Swansea manager Garry Monk said. "Considering we were relegation favourites at the start of the season we are not doing so bad."
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