Stoke have their merry way with Manch­ester City

CityPress - - Sport -

Stoke City pro­duced an im­pres­sive per­for­mance against ti­tle hope­fuls Manch­ester City as they cruised to a com­fort­able 2-0 vic­tory at the Bri­tan­nia Sta­dium in yes­ter­day’s early Premier League kick­off.

Marko Ar­nau­tović was tor­men­tor in chief as his first-half brace put Man City to the sword, and he could have eas­ily fin­ished the match with four to his name were it not for the wood­work and a bril­liant stop by goal­keeper Joe Hart.

The Ci­ti­zens went into yes­ter­day’s clash aim­ing to build on back-to-back vic­to­ries, against Southamp­ton in the league and Hull City in the Cap­i­tal One Cup quar­ter­fi­nals, but made the worst pos­si­ble start to the con­test as the Pot­ters claimed the lead af­ter just seven min­utes of play.

Xher­dan Shaqiri skipped past three play­ers on the right flank be­fore whip­ping in a cross to­wards the dan­ger area, where Ar­nau­tović man­aged to nip in front of his marker to prod home from close range.

The Ci­ti­zens were still reel­ing from the open­ing goal when Stoke struck again eight min­utes later. The ef­fer­ves­cent Shaqiri was the ar­chi­tect once again, slip­ping a per­fectly weighted pass into the path of Ar­nau­tović, who hit a first-time shot past Hart.

City were strug­gling to im­pose them­selves on pro­ceed­ings and had a half-hearted penalty ap­peal waved away by the ref­eree on the half-hour mark af­ter Ra­heem Ster­ling went to ground un­der the slight­est of con­tact from Ge­off Cameron.

The in­jury-en­forced ab­sence of key duo Ser­gio Agüero and Yaya Touré was cer­tainly be­ing felt by Manuel Pel­le­grini’s side, with the fit-again David Silva un­able to un­lock an ob­sti­nate Stoke de­fence.

Ar­nau­tović, mean­while, con­tin­ued to cause City’s shaky de­fence all sorts of prob­lems, and he nearly net­ted a third on 37 min­utes, nod­ding just inches wide from an Erik Peters cross.

City had a glo­ri­ous op­por­tu­nity to re­duce the deficit on the stroke of half­time, but couldn’t find a way past Jack But­land as the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional re­acted quickly to keep out Alek­san­dar Ko­larov’s pow­er­ful shot with an out­stretched foot.

The ir­re­press­ible Ar­nau­tović had an­other good chance just mo­ments be­fore the half-time whis­tle, but was de­nied by the wood­work af­ter be­ing played through on goal by none other than Shaqiri.

The Ci­ti­zens came out from the half­time break un­changed as Pel­le­grini kept faith in his un­der­per­form­ing stars. How­ever, it seems his faith was mis­placed as the vis­i­tors failed to make an im­pact in the fi­nal third of the pitch.

A change in per­son­nel even­tu­ally came on the hour mark, with Fabian Delph and Kelechi Iheana­cho com­ing on for Wil­fried Bony and Fer­nand­inho. How­ever, it didn’t have the de­sired ef­fect, as Stoke’s staunch de­fence con­tin­ued to frus­trate the vis­it­ing Ci­ti­zens.

Stoke con­tin­ued to cre­ate chances as the sec­ond half wore on, with Shaqiri forc­ing Hart into ac­tion on 64 min­utes, while, at the op­po­site end of the pitch, Delph fired way over the bar from about 23 me­tres out.

Bo­jan Krkić very nearly notched a third for Stoke in the 72nd minute af­ter latch­ing on to a through pass from Shaqiri. But his first touch was slightly too heavy, al­low­ing Hart to nip in and snuff out the dan­ger.

A dis­ap­point­ing af­ter­noon went from bad to worse in the 75th minute as Fer­nand­inho hob­bled off the pitch with a ham­string in­jury, leav­ing the Ci­ti­zens with 10 men on the pitch fol­low­ing the three sub­sti­tu­tions ear­lier in the half.

For­tu­nately for Pel­le­grini and his side, Stoke were un­able to add to their twogoal ad­van­tage as the score­line re­mained un­changed in the re­main­ing min­utes.

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