Sunday 19 November 2017

Toure on double as City shake off away-day blues

West Brom 2 Man City 3

Toure of Manchester City celebrates with team mate James Milner
Toure of Manchester City celebrates with team mate James Milner

John Percy

What travel sickness? Manuel Pellegrini's players appeared consumed by wanderlust at the Hawthorns as they produced a deafening response to Jose Mourinho's mischievous mind games.

Mourinho's claim that Manchester City are Chelsea's biggest title rivals was emphatically underlined as Pellegrini's team finally discovered the formula to transport their sensational home performances to an away ground.

In front of Goran Ivanisevic, the former Wimbledon tennis champion and West Bromwich Albion supporter, City wrapped up game, set and match within the opening 25 minutes to secure only their second win on the road this season. This was travel slickness.

Sergio Aguero enhanced his chances of being named the player of the year with another marauding display, collecting his 17th goal of the season, while the return of Vincent Kompany after more than two months provided his defence with the solidity and assuredness they have been lacking.

Pellegrini had refused to comment when asked about Mourinho's remarks on Tuesday but this message could not have been clearer. Victories away from Manchester have been the missing ingredient yet this will provide the City manager with hope that his first season in English football could prove a memorable one.

Sensational at home, suspect away, defensive vulnerability has frequently afflicted City when they venture away from the Etihad Stadium this season.

While defeats at Cardiff, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Sunderland have damaged Pellegrini's hopes of making an even more formidable message of intent their performances have still been enough to get under the skin of Mourinho.

Ahead of this game Mourinho had attempted to inflict more pressure on the Chilean by claiming City have "more responsibilities" to win the title due to their "unique" squad. They certainly took that responsibility seriously here.

City took as early advantage. Aguero had already squandered a chance from close range but there was no repeat of his profligacy on nine minutes when he finished off a typically sublime counter-attacking move.

Pablo Zabaleta, advancing into the Albion area, was found by Edin Dzeko and the defender's low cross was rammed into the top of the net by his fellow Argentinean.

City looked confident and assured in defence, boosted by the return of Vincent Kompany for the first time in 11 games after the captain's thigh injury.

Albion gave them one scare when Saido Berahino arrowed a shot wide from 25 yards but, unlike the chaos on the roads outside the Hawthorns, this was one-way traffic.

They increased their lead in the 24th minute after another enterprising raid into enemy territory, with Yaya Toure delivering a clinical finish from Aleksandar Kolarov's centre.

ISOLATED

City were unstoppable and Steve Clarke, the West Brom manager, prowled his technical area in obvious discomfort as his team were constantly picked apart.

Shane Long, so dangerous against Aston Villa in their last home game, became increasingly isolated as the first half grew older. Albion could have been further behind before the break, Boaz Myhill diving to his right to save from Aguero and Fernandinho blazing over.

To his credit, Long never stopped trying to force a mistake out of the City defence and appeared to have a decent claim for a penalty in the 50th minute when he collapsed under a challenge from Kolarov. But referee Chris Foy was unmoved.

City had the cigars out without ever threatening to repeat the landslide of the first half and Aguero was taken off later in the second half, with forthcoming trips to Southampton and Bayern Munich in Pellegrini's thoughts.

The third goal came in the 73rd minute when another Kolarov charge was halted by Claudio Yacob in the box, with Toure stepping up to convert the spot kick.

What little fight Albion had left in them disintegrated. They did produce some consolation five minutes from time when substitute Matej Vydra's cross came off a combination of Costel Pantilimon and Kolarov and rolled over the line. Victor Anichebe then gave the scoreline a deceiving appearance when he grabbed a second in stoppage-time, easily turning Martin Demichelis to drive a shot into the corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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