City picked up their first three points away from home since early September with a late comeback to defeat Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday evening.
Manuel Pellegrini picked an unchanged starting XI from the one which drew at Leicester in the previous match but, a few minor intervals of good football aside, the Blues weren’t at the races for much of the night and looked to be heading for their sixth defeat of the season after a Watford corner had skimmed off the head of Aleksandar Kolarov and flown into the back of Joe Hart’s net ten minutes into the second half.
However, City kept plugging away and finally drew level in the 82nd minute when captain Yaya Touré volleyed in superbly from a corner at the near post.
Then, two and a half minutes later they got the winner thanks to a wonderful looping Sergio Agüero header from a tremendous Bacary Sagna cross.
Here’s how I rated all of the City players on the night.
1 Joe Hart – 7/10
Made a superb save when one-on-one with Odion Ighalo in the first half and a decent stop to prevent the Nigerian from grabbing an equaliser at the end. Replays showed he probably would have kept Ben Watson’s whipped corner out were it not for the deflection so we can once again have few complaints with our goalkeeper. He showed just how much this win meant, and how much this club means to him when he celebrated with the travelling supporters at the end.
3 Bacary Sagna – 9/10
If City had lost or drawn this match I probably wouldn’t have been alone in suggesting Sagna’s performance had been one of few positives to take from a poor team performance overall. As it happened, City won and the Frenchman wasn’t only the best player in a blue shirt but also the one who assisted the winning goal with a fine run and cross. Something football fans often seem to take for granted is players’ fitness and energy levels, particularly late in games. Sagna may well train every day and earn a lot of money for doing so but he did a hell of a lot of running in this match and really had to bust a gut to get down the wing and make that cross in the 85th minute. Another fine performance in what has been a mostly excellent season so far.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 6/10
Got rolled far too easily by Ighalo on the edge of the box in the first half but was reasonably solid aside from that and played the ball out well from the back. He’s never usually one to shirk a tackle but there was a moment in the second half where he appeared to disappointingly bottle a 50/50. We could really do with the return of the player whose dominating performances made him the fearsome force he was in La Liga sooner rather than later.
20 Eliaquim Mangala – 6/10
He may have been substituted with 15 minutes to go but as Mangala performances go, this one wasn’t actually that bad. Watford understandably seemed to have targeted him as City’s weak link, particularly in the first half, and at times he looked nervous, frantic and positionally suspect, much like Ciaran Murray when he spies a pretty girl across a nightclub dancefloor. Then again, he didn’t make any catastrophic errors and seemed to settle into the game as the night wore on so it’s difficult to be too critical of him on this occasion. That was the 24-year-old’s 50th game for City and, like everyone, I’m still none the wiser as to whether he’s actually any good or not.
11 Aleksandar Kolarov – 4/10
When it comes to Kolarov, you know you’re always going to get someone who will bomb forward at every opportunity and who isn’t afraid to whip a cross in or have a crack at goal from time to time. You also know you aren’t usually going to get much to shout about defensively but in this match it seemed as if the Serbian had been told he didn’t need to worry about the defensive side of his game whatsoever and at times barely even bothered to run back and help out. City’s biggest problem at the moment is without doubt the defence and having a left back who contributes little to nothing defensively can’t be helping matters, especially when it leaves Eliaquim Mangala horribly exposed. If you wanted to be harsh, you’d also say the way Kolarov closed his eyes and let the ball skim off the top of his head for Watford’s goal was pretty cowardly, but it was a very good corner and he was possibly distracted by Kevin De Bruyne jumping in front of him so perhaps we can let him off this time. He also went some way towards redeeming himself with a good intervention to deny Watford a chance late on. Who says he doesn’t defend?
25 Fernandinho – 6/10
The Brazilian did his usual job of holding things together in midfield as well as he pretty much always does (which, if you’re reading this Yaya, doesn’t mean he couldn’t use of a bit of help) and recycled possession throughout the evening. He missed a good chance when presented with a free header from a second half corner and could possibly have got on the end of another one a bit later on but otherwise the boy done good.
42 Yaya Touré – 7/10
Much like Aleksandar Kolarov, the Ivorian seemed to have decided he didn’t fancy doing any defensive work in the first half and might as well have gone for a nice sit down whenever Watford had possession. Thankfully, this improved greatly in the second half and he won the ball back a few times using those sliding tackles he does which seem to end in a different postcode from the one in which they began. For the third time in four matches he scored a technically brilliant goal which again reminds us that Yaya Touré ain’t done yet.
7 Raheem Sterling – 2/10
Against Leicester, Sterling seemed to spend much of the night playing alongside Sergio Agüero in a 4-4-2 formation and arguably looked more dangerous than he has done for a while. In this match he spent most of his time out on the left and, not for the first time, it took his 60th minute substitution to remind me that he’d even set foot on the pitch in the first place. Is playing Sterling up front in a 4-4-2 the way forward? It’s certainly food for thought.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 4/10
As good as KDB undoubtedly is, even on his best days he seems to make a fairly sizable proportion of incorrect decisions or misplaced passes. When he’s on form, he probably does the right thing 80 or 90 percent of the time whereas in this match he probably only did the right thing 30 or 40 percent of the time. In the grand scheme of things, someone having the courage to try things and them not always coming off isn’t really something to worry about, particularly if they’re a young player, but it can be frustrating to watch at times and it was in this match.
21 David Silva – 3/10
While we’re on the subject of players being frustrating to watch, was it just me or was this one of Silva’s worst ever games in a City shirt? I’m honestly struggling to recall a time he received the ball in this match and didn’t immediately just give it away somehow. The fact that despite how badly he was playing I still didn’t want him to come off is testament to what a great player he is, but this was definitely a night the Spaniard will want to forget in a hurry.
10 Sergio Agüero – 6/10
Wilfried Bony’s suitability to City’s system is something which has been debated at great length this season but I’m beginning to think the problem is actually much bigger than we thought and that the team generally isn’t as effective when playing with just one striker. Sergio Agüero probably still isn’t 100% fit but he worked very hard in this match, made some good runs and held the ball up well, often with his back to goal. That said, he also looked desperately isolated most of the time and would have been unlikely to get his name on the scoresheet were it not for Manuel Pellegrini’s 75th minute tactical alteration. Is it a coincidence that City won the game after switching to two up front? Possibly, but it definitely put the cat amongst the pigeons and gave Agüero the bit of breathing space he needed. What a header that was, by the way. Jon Macken eat your heart out.
15 Jesús Navas – Came on too late to mark
Wasn’t much more effective than the man he replaced but his introduction at least enabled De Bruyne to move over to his preferred left side.
14 Wilfried Bony – Came on too late to mark
Came on with his team trailing 1-0 and went off with his team having won 2-1. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
26 Martín Demichelis – Came on too late to mark
Great to see him celebrating the winning goal with such gusto on the sidelines, not so great to see him let Ighalo have a chance which could have resulted in a late equaliser after coming on.
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Written by Dan Burke