Goalkeeping hubbub takes back seat to City attack

Posted by David Mooney

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesEdin Dzeko capped off Manchester City's 7-0 romp over Norwich City with a goal in the 86th minute.

Headline writers around the world had their pens poised, while photographers inside the Etihad Stadium had their lenses fixed in search of a grumpy goalkeeper on the Manchester City bench. Meanwhile, the Blues got on with business and set about earning a record-breaking 7-0 victory over Norwich.

- Report: Man City 7-0 Norwich City

Yes, Costel Pantilimon was in for Joe Hart -- but that's where it ended. The number 1 worked with his replacement during Saturday's warm-up and graciously took his place on the bench, while the number 30 stood in his goalmouth bored. He could have done with an armchair and a mug of warm coffee for the number of times the visiting team threatened.

It's difficult to say whether City were good or whether Norwich were very, very bad -- so it's probably fair to pitch the analysis somewhere in the middle. What can be said, though, is that the Blues' attacking play fully exploited their opponents' defensive frailties in a game that saw the home side score more over 90 minutes than the away side had managed all season.

Ever since the change of manager in the summer, Samir Nasri has been out to impress and -- save for a blip over the past few weeks -- has been turning in performances that few will have seen coming towards the club's toothless end to last season. Again Saturday he provided a masterclass in attacking play -- several times skilfully negotiating his way into the Norwich box before finding another blue shirt (or, in one instance, the post).

It can also be little consolation that David Silva's return to the team has seen them much more potent in attack. Gone are the worries that only one of Silva and Nasri turns up at a time, as the two linked up brilliantly while they shared the Etihad turf. The cute one-twos (or, as was the case today, one-two-three-fours) made City's forward line look like a knife through melted butter.

Maybe it's silly to say that the partnership between Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo appeared to be quieter, given both were on the scoresheet, but it's the truth -- the pair didn't link up Saturday as well as they had done in previous matches. The reason, most likely, is that everybody in blue was linking up with everybody else in blue, so it became less noticeable. And even then, Aguero assisted Negrado's 36th-minute strike.

The scoring began in somewhat comical fashion -- setting the tone for the Norwich defending -- as an Aguero shot sought out as many deflections as it could before it looped over the stranded John Ruddy and into the goal.

As an aside, with the pre-match talk of Hart's exclusion, Ruddy had the chance to impress and rub salt into his competitor's wounds ahead of the trip to Brazil next summer. He didn't particular do himself any favours, as goals two and three squirmed through his grasp -- from Silva and Matija Nastasic, respectively.

Yaya Toure continued his new habit of curling free kicks into the net at the North Stand end of the Etihad, with another unstoppable shot to add City's fifth. It used to be that Aleksandar Kolarov -- when on the pitch -- would automatically get first dibs on a set piece for his goal-scoring knack, but now the Ivorian is on the scene and things might change, even if the debate still rages about whether it should be the Serbian or Frenchman Gael Clichy who takes the left-back slot on a first-choice basis.

Aguero's fine form continued for number six. Anybody without him in their fantasy league side right now is surely onto a loser, as he seems to be in the best form he's ever been in when playing in England. And that before Edin Dzeko rounded off a humiliating day for the Canaries, setting the record for City's biggest-ever Premier League win in the process.

With such a toothless display from the opposition, it's impossible to assess City's defensive capabilities and whether the inclusion of Pantilimon secured up any leaks. In the end, it became an easy decision for Manuel Pellegrini; he dropped his goalkeeper and the replacement made one save in order to preserve his clean sheet. Saturday was all about the attack.

In the end, it'll be interesting to see whether the manager sticks with his line-up for CSKA Moscow's visit Tuesday -- while Hart will be kicking himself that he missed out on the chance of what would have been one of the easiest clean sheets of his career.


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