Manchester City were comfortable winners over Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday thanks to goals from Fernando, Sergio Agüero and a brace from Kelechi Iheanacho.
The win moves Manuel Pellegrini’s men up to third place in the Premier League table (at least until Arsenal play at Sunderland on Sunday) and is a step closer to securing qualification for next season’s Champions League.
Here’s how I rated the players.
1 Joe Hart – 7/10
Made an excellent save in the second half with the score at 2-0 but wasn’t made to work particularly hard for his clean sheet otherwise. I make that 15 Premier League shut-outs for the season for Hart, which puts him in pole position for a fifth consecutive Golden Glove. Something tells me he might be a bit busier on Tuesday night, though.
5 Pablo Zabaleta – 7/10
The noticeable decline in Zaba’s game hasn’t been nice to watch this season. The injury which kept him sidelined for most of the first half of the campaign can’t have helped matters, but he isn’t getting any younger and his legs definitely seem to be carrying a bit of extra weight these days. He had a good game against Stoke, however, and even assisted his team’s third goal following one of his trademark forays forward. His summer departure still feels rather inevitable given the season Bacary Sagna’s had, but you never know.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 7/10
Put himself under needless pressure when he could have just cleared the ball in the second half – a gaffe which would have led to a Stoke goal had Joe Hart not come to the rescue. Other than that, the mercurial Argentine had a reasonably solid game and won the ball back with some decisive interceptions on a few occasions. It’ll be very interesting to see whether it is he or Eliaquim Mangala who makes way for Vincent Kompany when Real Madrid come to town in the week.
20 Eliaquim Mangala – 7/10
Speaking of Mangala, the way he managed to somehow direct a simple first time pass to the left flank back towards his own goal in the first half defied the laws of physics. Is there anything this man can’t do? His afternoon was pretty unremarkable aside from that, which must mean he did quite well. He’s possibly on the best run of form since he came to City and if you ask me, he should play against Real Madrid.
— Eliaquim Mangala (@Elia22Mangala) April 23, 2016
11 Aleksandar Kolarov – 7/10
Had a much better game than he did against Newcastle, but it could hardly have been much worse. The Serbian didn’t seem to be as involved at the attacking end of the pitch as he usually is but he didn’t give much away at the other end and ultimately, that is his job.
6 Fernando – 7/10
Opened the scoring with a decent header from a corner and put in a tidy performance in midfield before he was substituted with 20 minutes to go in order to rest up for the Champions League semi-final. I can’t quite believe that’s a real sentence either, and I just typed it. All jokes aside, Fernando’s in very good form and he’ll be an important cog in City’s machine on Tuesday night.
42 Yaya Toure – 7/10
Was perhaps guilty of being a little lackadaisical in possession at times but he passed the ball well generally, particularly the little one-two he played with Iheanacho prior to the penalty incident. The thigh injury he sustained towards the end of the game looks like it will keep him out of the Real Madrid game but he was unlikely to have started anyway and his absence won’t be the disaster it once was. It’s telling that when given a choice between saving Yaya or Fernando for mid-week, Pellegrini plumped for the latter.
15 Jesús Navas – 8/10
Worked tirelessly for the team all day long, kept hold of the ball well and was the only City player able to penetrate and get in behind Stoke’s back line before the deadlock was broken. He may not be the most show-stopping player in City’s ranks but he’s a footballer’s footballer and you can bet his hard work is thoroughly appreciated by his teammates. Will he start on Tuesday? Probably not, but you won’t hear any complaints from me if he does.
21 David Silva – 7/10
Had a decent game without being particularly magnificent, which has pretty much been the case all season. Silva always seems more comfortable when he plays in the number 10 position whereas he was forced to drift out to the left flank more often in this match and it nullified him somewhat. On Tuesday he will likely share the two positions with Kevin De Bruyne, which has proved to be a very effective system at times this season. Silva is getting back to his best but there’s still something missing. Whether it’s gone for good or can be regained by a nice long rest remains to be seen.
72 Kelechi Iheanacho – 9/10
Almost scored with a well-intentioned side-footed effort early on but did grab two goals in the second half and won his side a penalty. The Stoke defending wasn’t great for his first goal but it was his intelligent, instinctive movement which resulted in him having a tap in from the penalty spot and his second goal was a great display of pace, power and composure. Kelechi rarely lets us down when called upon and even when he does something wrong, you can tell he had the right intentions. Manuel Pellegrini’s persistence with Wilfried Bony has been frustrating for a number of reasons this season, and it’s difficult not to wonder where City would be had Kelechi been afforded more opportunities. 11 goals in eight starts tells its own story. This boy is going to be a star.
10 Sergio Agüero – 7/10
Tucked away his 101st Premier League goal coolly from the spot, taking his tally to 23 for the season in the league. If you had to be critical, you’d point to the two or three occasions on which he had the ball on his right foot in a decent shooting position and inexplicably decided to try and cut inside instead. He’ll have a big part to play on Tuesday night and Pellegrini’s decision to withdraw him with 25 minutes left was a no brainer.
18 Fabian Delph – Came on too late to mark
Replaced David Silva with just over half an hour left and put in a solid shift on the left of midfield without being hugely influential on the match. He was very poor in the draw at Newcastle last week and you have to wonder how satisfied he is with his utility role in this team because it’s difficult to imagine him being given more responsibility next season. Whatever he’s feeling at the moment, I’m sure he’s still glad he got the hell out of Aston Villa when he did.
14 Wilfried Bony – Came on too late to mark
His introduction for the last 25 minutes wasn’t greeted with the greatest amount of enthusiasm the Etihad Stadium has ever seen but his pass into Iheanacho’s path for the fourth goal was a good one and he must have been relieved to have made a positive contribution for a change. Let’s just hope that contribution doesn’t somehow make his manager feel justified in picking him over Iheanacho again any time soon.
26 Martín Demichelis – Came on too late to mark
Replaced Fernando in midfield for the last 20 minutes and was neither bad nor particularly good, which is about the most we can ask of him nowadays.
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Written by Dan Burke