MAN CITY 3, STOKE CITY 0
Manchester City completed the calendar year unbeaten at the Etihad Stadium following a comprehensive victory against Stoke City.
The statistics are remarkable as City have won 27 and drawn the remaining two home fixtures as Fulham and Napoli have been the only teams not to leave vanquished.
City had also gone into the game having become the first team in 49 years to score 50 goals in their first 16 top-flight matches.
Their goal return became even more impressive as Sergio Aguero scored twice and Adam Johnson also found the net as City made it nine out of nine home Barclays Premier League wins this season as they go into the festive period top of the table for the first time since 1929.
In fact City ought to have won by a wider margin as they had 16 goal attempts on target while Stoke mustered none. If there was any criticism, it was they were wasteful in front of goal given the number of chances they carved out.
City manager Roberto Mancini denied it was a stroll in the park explaining Stoke made it difficult in the opening 30 minutes.
“Scoring the first goal was important as Stoke had players behind the ball,” he said.
Mancini, who is celebrating two years in charge at City, is delighted to go into Christmas in top spot but says the most important thing is finishing there at the end of the season.
He was satisfied to have gone through 2011 unbeaten at home adding that is important to their title bid.
However, Mancini believes that is not the sole key to success saying: “It is important to continue to win at home, but now it is also important to win away.
“In the last two away games we have only picked up one point and we need to improve on that.”
It was evident from the star that City would have to be patient as Stoke were set up with a defensive strategy with Kenwyne Jones left to plough a lone furrow up front.
The Potters’ cause was also hindered by the absences of Ryan Shawcross, Matthew Etherington and Peter Crouch.
Stoke defended resolutely for the best part of half an hour as City largely camped in their half, their only chance of note a Johnson shot which deflected off Marc Wilson before looping on to the crossbar.
The breakthrough came in the 29th minute and it was a gift after disappointing defending from the visitors who had won their previous five Premier League matches.
Yaya Toure fired over a low ball from the left which Vincent Kompany flicked towards goal from six yards. Keeper Tomas Sorensen could only parry the ball to Aguero who was stood virtually on the goalline at the far post for an easy tap in.
Seven minutes later and City scored again after they cashed in on charitable defending for a second time. Dean Whitehead’s weak clearance fell to Johnson who walloped home a thunderous 30-yard shot low to the right of Sorensen.
Stoke were forced to be more expansive from the restart and that simply played into City’s hands as they picked off their opponents at will.
Aguero had five clear-cut chances in the opening 14 minutes as he went on a single handed wrecking mission. He converted the third and his 15th for the campaign with another tap in after Gareth Barry and Samir Nasri had carved open the Stoke defence.
The Argentine had the misfortune of missing out by three minutes to become the scorer of the 20,000th Premier League goal as he netted the 2,001st.
Once the third goal went in the 54th minute, it was match over as the remainder of the game petered out. City were assured of victory while Stoke knew there was no way back.
Substitute James Milner and Johnson had chances in stoppage time to add a fourth goal, but Sorensen denied City each time.