BEST OF THE MANSOUR ERA: City Do It On A Cold Winter Night At Stoke… In Style

Throughout June on Typical City, we’re looking at some of the best matches Manchester City have played in the Sheikh Mansour-era. Day by day, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to some of the classic encounters the Blues have had since the 2008 takeover – you can view the rest of the featured games on the Best of the Mansour Era page.

Today, it’s an evening trip to the Britannia Stadium for the Blues – a ground they always seemed to struggle at. For once, though, they took a comprehensive victory and their first there in the Premier League…

Stoke City 1-4 Manchester City
Wednesday 11 February 2015
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov, Nasri (Navas 86), Fernando, Fernandinho, Silva (Lampard 80), Milner, Aguero (Dzeko 73).
Unused: Caballero, Sagna, Demichelis, Jovetic
Goals: Aguero (33, pen 70), Milner (55), Nasri (76)

After just one win in their last eight visits to the Britannia Stadium, Manchester City fans were rarely confident of away matches at Stoke. They’d never taken a Premier League victory on that ground and had generally underperformed, despite the investment into the first team. What made the trip there in 2014-15 worse was that the Blues were in dire form, having not won in their last five matches and slipping further and further away from eventual champions Chelsea.

However, the travelling fans were in for a treat. It was a nervy start from the away side – Joe Hart fumbled a shot dangerously, before Peter Crouch found the net from close range. The goal, though, was ruled out as the linesman’s flag was up for an offside. City were fortunate.

Despite early Stoke pressure, it was the away side who opened the scoring through some brilliant determination from Sergio Aguero. A free kick into the City box was headed down to James Milner – who thumped the ball clear to the halfway line. Aguero was there, but by no means the favourite to win possession.

The striker chased the loose ball down and challenged for it just inside the Stoke half. Up against two defenders, he was brought down by one as the other dropped towards the box. It looked as though he should have been given a foul, but the referee saw nothing wrong – and it left Aguero to quickly stand up and race onto the ball first. He continued to the edge of the area and, using his teammates in the middle as a decoy, he stepped to the right and fired in a low shot past Asmir Begovic.

City’s lead lasted just five minutes. The home side levelled when a cross into the box from deep tempted Hart to come and claim. However, he’d misjudged the flight of the ball and was stuck in no man’s land when he realised, left only to watch Crouch stoop to head it into the net at the far post.

There was a bizarre moment on the stroke of half time. It looked as though the away side had gone back in front when Aguero latched on to a loose ball inside the six-yard box – and had an open goal in front of him. Running at pace, he headed in and ran off celebrating – only to be pulled back by the referee and booked for handball. On closer inspection, the official had spotted it correctly. The striker had headed it at goal, before flicking it with a flailing hand, perhaps worried he’d nodded the initial effort wide.

But the disallowed strike didn’t matter. The Blues eased through the gears after the turnaround and were much the better side. Samir Nasir and David Silva played several one-twos with each other on the right flank to work a crossing opportunity for the Frenchman. His centre sat up perfectly for the late-arriving James Milner into the area, leaving the midfielder to head into the bottom corner.

A brainless challenge by Geoff Cameron gave City the opportunity to go further in front with around 20 minutes to play. Silva, who had escaped one attempted tackle to break into the box, beat the Stoke defender on the by-line with a neat turn. Cameron dragged him back, pulling him to the ground and leaving the referee with no option but to point to the spot. Aguero stepped up and slotted it past Begovic into the bottom right corner.

The icing on the cake was an excellent individual effort from Nasri. He picked up a loose ball in the midfield and drove towards the box, stepping past a couple of the home side’s players en route. As he reached the area, he shifted the ball onto his right and found a gap – before smashing a shot into the bottom left of Begovic’s goal.

It capped off a fine evening and the City fans were jubilant at the club finally putting in a decent showing when playing away at Stoke. A victory over Newcastle followed, but the Blues slipped well off the top of the table with just two wins in their next six league matches.

However, that night, after several weeks of underperformance, manager Manuel Pellegrini was happy with the display: “We returned to our normal performance, especially in the second half. We scored three goals in the second half and had more chances.

“It is important, not just the score, but also because it is not easy to score four goals at Stoke. They have been the difficult team for us to score against while I have been here. It is a tough place to come. The most important thing was to win and in the way we did today.”

Written by David Mooney

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