The first half was excellent, full of myriad joys and points of encouragement. The second…well, there were parts which made me want to cry, even though we still won in the end. Here are some longer thoughts…
That First Half
For a minute there, the City who we watched over those three special months earlier in the season came back to us. There was speed, movement, invention. Once again the team was inspiring those unique moments of wonder which made us dream. In front of us was a team who wanted to win the title. It’s a shame this didn’t happen when we could actually have won it, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.
There is no player more enjoyable to watch score a goal than Zabaleta. He is clearly made up every single time and celebrates like an exceptionally well built, bald 11 year old. The rest of the team are always so happy for him. That was his first Premier League goal of the season (following a very good tally of assists) and set the tone for a first half performance that was often adventurous and exciting. Aguero and Silva in particular set out to destroy West Brom, offering no quarter.
Sergio’s goal took a lucky deflection back into his path to set him up, but he did not need another chance as he struck the ball into the far corner without pity. Ben Foster had no chance of saving the shot considering the pace and placement. Aguero is still not fully back up to speed following his (latest) injury, but a goal will do him good. The only way we are going to win the title is on goal difference, just like last time, and all goals count equally, but seeing Aguero score is always a treat.
Following this, West Brom got back into the game with a goal ruled dubiously, perhaps incorrectly, offside and an actual goal from Dorrans. The Scotsman controlled the ball wonderfully in the air, flicked it over the defender’s head and buried it past Joe Hart with a wonderful volley on his left foot. There can be no complaints about that. City looked a tiny bit shaky after this, realising that the visitors were capable of causing hurt rather than just being animatronic training cones, but there never looked to be any real danger of losing the three points.
This state of affairs was confirmed in the 35th minute as cult hero Martin Demichelis scored a tap in from a corner as West Brom left him completely unmarked at the far post. Recently, it has been a case of No Martin, No Party, and once again he showed the level of his improvement over the last 2 months. There was speculation that the mockery from the entire football world might be affecting him, but we should have known better; does a man with hair like that care what anyone thinks about him?
Other highlights of the first half include Kompany careering into the visitor’s penalty box and almost getting himself an assist. Total football.
And Then The Second Half…
…Went well off the boil. City calmed down, though there were still some good chances. Jovetic came on for Aguero after about an hour and looked as lively as usual, enough to suggest that a full season with no injuries will be very interesting viewing. His footwork in tight spaces is superb.
And again, West Brom had a few chances despite their fairly comprehensive commitment to not-attacking football. On another day they might have pushed harder and scared the living daylights out of us, but it wasn’t to be this evening.
The real takeaway is that, once again, City went inside themselves when a key player was lost. Silva’s removal on the orange stretcher of doom is about as depressing as it gets for a City fan these days (and isn’t that sentence a sign of how far we have come). Any team would struggle with the forcible removal of their best player, but City react distinctly from other teams, more like shell shock sufferers who take time to refocus the world properly when the bombardment has ended. We’ve seen it this year with Toure, Silva, and Aguero (many times) and it is an area of City’s game which needs to be drastically improved over the summer if this team has a chance to be everything it wants to be.
Pellegrini has confirmed that Silva will have a scan in the morning so we will have to sit and try not to worry. The only positive to draw is that the title challenge is over and so this isn’t an existential blow. It will be a shame if Silva misses what could be his defining World Cup, but it would be preferable to not rush him back into blue and let him have some time off before training in August.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter