MANCHESTER CITY 0, STOKE CITY 1
Former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes made a triumphant return to the Etihad Stadium as Stoke City snatched a shock 1-0 victory.
It was certainly a coupon buster and appeared a home banker bearing in mind City had lost only once in their previous 70 home Premier League games.
City, impressive against Liverpool on Monday, were a pale shadow of the side which won convincingly on Monday.
Fast forward five days and City struggled against a disciplined display from the Potters who secured their first win of the season through a goal from Manchester United old-boy Mame Diouf.
City huffed, puffed and spluttered as they sadly lacked the craft to break through a Stoke side which executed their game plan to perfection.
They had two banks of four in defence and midfield working in unison to squeeze City who had no space to play through their defence with their usual slick passing routines as they created next to nothing all afternoon.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted it was a frustrating day saying: “Stoke defended well and we couldn’t create space to break them down.
“We had a bad day in a creative way while it was too easy for Stoke to score on a counter attack from our corner when their player ran 70 metres to score.”
Pellegrini was convinced City ought to have been awarded a penalty late in the game for a foul on Yaya Toure.
“I don’t want to talk about the referee, but it was a clear penalty. But I don’t want to analyse the game from one thing,” he continued.
Pellegrini added that it was disappointing to go into the international break on the back of a defeat.
“It was important to try and win nine points before the international break and not good to start it with a defeat,” he concluded.
Hughes, by contrast, was elated by his side’s display enthusing: “It was an important game for us either way in kick starting our season.
“We needed a performance of determination and character and the game could not have gone better for us.
“It is just frustrating that the international break comes and it is stop-start, but that is the way it is at this time of the season.”
Hughes added that last season Stoke’s away form was their Achilles heel, but they have started with a draw and win from their first two games.
The fact that the win was against the club that sacked him didn’t make the victory any sweeter for Hughes.
He continued: “I am delighted for my team, the club and the fans. It was a great goal and fantastic performance.
“I have no axe to grind and I enjoyed my time as manager. It didn’t last as long as I would have liked, but now I am here and working with people I like.”
City made two changes from the side which beat Liverpool on Monday as summer-signing Bacary Sagna was handed his first start whole there was also a first start of the season for Sergio Aguero.
They replaced Pablo Zabaleta and Edin Dzeko who limped off against Liverpool after picking up a knock late in the game.
After the high-octane football against Liverpool, there was a decidedly flat feel at the start of the game as City’s play lacked sparkle.
In a lukewarm opening half hour, Stoke failed to muster a serious goal attempt and City managed only one when Samir Nasri was denied by a smart save from Asmir Begovic.
City also lost midfield man Fernando Reges through injury late in the half as he was replaced by Fernandinho.
Toure came close to breaking the deadlock in first half stoppage time when his shot struck the crossbar, only the second time City had threatened the visitors’ goal.
The same player forced a decent save from Begovic before Stoke snatched the lead after a breakaway just short of the hour.
Diouf, signed in the summer from German Bundesliga side Hannover 96, broke from just outside his own penalty area and breezed past Aleksandar Kolarov and Vincent Kompay before slotting a shot low past keeper Joe Hart.
City, in desperate need of a lift, brought on Dzeko and Jesus Navas for Nasri and Stevan Jovetic.
It could conceivably have got worse for City as Victor Moses and Peter Crouch had chances to extend the lead.
Toure tried to haul City back into the game seeing a drive deflected just wide and then having a late appeal for a penalty waved aside when referee Lee Mason added insult to injury by booking him for diving.