MAN CITY 3, WEST BROM 0
Manchester City’s home win against West Brom was even more of a formality than expected.
Gareth McAuley’s second-minute sending off, following yet another case of mistaken identity, made a case of Mission Improbable becoming Mission Impossible for the Baggies.
And City hardly had to break sweat as they cut Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to three points, though Jose Mourinho’s side has played two less games.
If there was any criticism of City, it was they ought to have improved their goal difference by much more distance after racking up a remarkable 43 shots at goal.
It was a combination of inspired goalkeeping from Boaz Myhill and bad finishing that saw City finish with a modest three goals from Wilfried Bony, Fernando Reges and David Silva.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini said: “It was a comfortable win because we played with one player more for 89 minutes. Today we defended well and concentrated well not to allow them to score.
“Unfortunately for West Brom, the rule is clear. He was the last man but the game is different when you have to play with one less player. It was a clear red card.”
Pellegrini added it was important to get back to winning ways after losing to Burnley and Barcelona in their last two games.
And City’s manager, when quizzed about their title prospects, said: “I am not thinking about Chelsea. We have eight games and we will try to win all of them.
“If Chelsea do not drop any more points, we cannot win the title. The most important thing is to win the next game against Crystal Palace.”
Pellegrini was delighted to see Bony score his first goal on his first start saying it was not easy arriving from the African Cup of Nations after playing six games in 18 days adding that is the reason why he has been eased into the team and has not been playing every game.
Baggies’ manager Tony Pulis again called for referees to be given help in a bid to eradicate errors such as the wrong player being sent off.
He said: “We have one of the greatest products which is sold all over the world and we have to look to help referees.
“I would like managers to have two calls each game which can be watched upstairs on video. And clubs can make money by having adverts on the screen when play has stopped.
“We need to eradicate major decisions which affect the outcome of games. Referees are human and will made mistakes and we have to find ways of improving the game. It is important we help referees.”
Apart from McAuley being wrongly sent off, Pulis was annoyed claiming Eliaquim Mangala fouled Jonas Olsson in the build up to the second goal.
It was all change for City as only four starters remained from the team which kicked off in Barcelona three days earlier.
Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Silva and Sergio Aguero were the only survivors from the Nou Camp as Pellegrini looked to freshen up his side.
There was a dramatic start as the Baggies were reduced to 10 men after only 90 seconds when Wilfried Bony was hauled down by Craig Dawson, but McAuley was shown a red card by referee Neil Swarbrick in what appeared a case of mistaken identity.
It left West Brom leaving Saido Berahino as their lone front man as behind him were two banks of four in defence and midfield.
City had plenty of attempts at goal, but didn’t test Myhill until the 23rd minute when Silva forced the keeper to make a splendid save.
The breakthrough came four minutes later when Bony scored the first goal since his £28million move from Swansea.
An initial shot from Fernando Reges by blocked by Olsson and fell luckily to Bony who produced a delightful touch before firing high into the roof of the net.
And it would have been 2-0 soon afterwards but for a fine stop by Myhill to keep out an effort from Jesus Navas.
City doubled their advantage five minutes before the break when Fernando Reges scored City’s 1,000th goal in the Premier League.
Olsson and James Morrison failed to clear a corner from Navas and, when the ball was parried by Myhill, Fernando slotted home from six yards for his second goal of the season, both of which were against the Baggies.
Myhill was in action either side of half time saving well from Aguero and Bony as City remained in control as they had enjoyed 79-per-cent possession in the opening period.
The Baggies’ keeper was certainly earning his corn as he twice denied Aguero and also Silva as City ought to have added to their goal tally.
The visitors’ goal was certainly leading a charmed life as Aguero struck an upright and Bony, following up, saw his effort hit the crossbar.
West Brom almost halved the deficit after 73 minutes with their first goal attempt of the game when Berahino headed against the bar from three yards after Joleon Lescott flicked on a Craig Gardner corner.
City finally netted a third goal after 77 minutes when Gael Clichy cut the ball back to substitute Stevan Jovetic and his shot from the edge of the box was diverted past Myhill after a touch by Silva who was awarded the goal, his 11th goal of the season.