Verdict: Manchester City 3 Stoke City 0
Goals: Tevez (14, 65 mins), Lescott (52 mins) for City.
City moved up to third in the table with a confident and professional defeat of injury ravaged Stoke. Carlos Tevez was the hero with two contrasting goals of the highest quality, while a Joleon Lescott header was sandwiched inbetween.
Afterwards Mancini claimed Tevez is set to stay with the club. It’s to be hoped he is, but one can’t help but feel the captain’s future is a story that is set to run for a while yet.
Whatever happens, it can’t distract from his importance to this side. It wasn’t just the goals, but the workrate and movement which destroyed Stoke. Dropping deep, cajoling his team-mates forward – it was all there to be admired.
Not that he was alone in playing well. Once again this was an excellent team effort. Deprived of Etherington and Pennant on the wings and Delap’s throws, Stoke may have posed little threat, but the display of our defence was hugely impressive.
Micah Richards was at his buccaneering best. Joleon Lescott even showed off his footwork in the first half before scoring in the second. Vincent Kompany was as commanding as ever, while Zabaleta once again spilt blood for the cause.
Joe Hart couldn’t have asked for better protection, and the clean sheet record is now his outright.
With this foundation, the creative players had license to pass Stoke into submission. The interchanging of positions and movement of the players gave the sense of total control throughout.
Milner’s renowned stamina ensures he is more involved than Barry and the way he looks to take responsibility when played in the middle is encouraging. Not all passes come off, but the England man is always looking to play progressively and was responsible for playing in Tevez for his first goal.
There was still plenty for Tevez to do after Milner had played a one-two, but turning one way and then the other, Carlos scattered the Stoke defence and drove a rising shot past Sorenson and into the net.
Silva, Johnson, Milner and Yaya all had chances during the first half, but only Tevez had the determination to score. The second half followed a similar pattern with City in total control.
The only minor concern was our failure to score again from open play, but the two set-piece goals were more than enough. Lescott took his aerial dominance to the other end of the pitch to get on the end of a beautifully weighted Adam Johnson free-kick.
Finally it was down to Tevez to send the ball round the wall with terriffic power and placement, leaving Sorenson helpless as it flew into the top corner.
“He’s scored 21 goals this season and I keep repeating myself that he’s a very important player for us.
“Carlos is Carlos – a fantastic striker and a fantastic all-round player.”
Mancini eventually took his captain off, giving Carlos the opportunity of a deserved ovation. Silva had earlier made way following a subdued performance, which was presumably down to the injury that had made him a doubtful starter. It’s to be hoped he’s ok for Bolton.
With victory taking us up to third place, all that remains is to stay there. Bolton will be a tougher test than a jaded and injury hit Stoke side.
However Arsenal face a similarly tricky fixture at Fulham, and we only need to match the Gunners result to secure direct qualifaction to the Champions League group stages. That would be a huge boost next season, and it’s to be hoped Mancini can keep his side focussed for one final time.