Counting beans, counting goals as City romp

Posted by Simon Curtis

On the day when City announced financial results that edge the club closer to Michel Platini's fabled Financial Fair Play levels of acceptance, the men who really matter -- the ones making the ball run out on the pitch -- paid no heed to limits, levels nor barriers by squashing Tottenham, a side that had already conceded six goals in the first game between the two sides at the Etihad.

While the squabbling about the work carried out by the pin-striped suits will no doubt go on for some time, there can be no dissent about the lads wearing the shorts. Even beaten manager Tim Sherwood explained with typical restraint at the end that City were the "best team on the planet" and that it had been unfortunate that they were "not the sort of team to score one and shut up shop."

Indeed and hallelujah to that, for this was Manchester City at their magnificent, steamrolling best. Controlled, dominant, accurate, lethal.

Despite a flurry either side of half-time in which referee Andre Marriner clearly lost control of his whistle and the home side took advantage of his sloppy and incoherent display to do a passable 20-minute impersonation of a high octane Stoke City, the Blues rode the storm.

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Also -- it must be said -- they benefitted a little from Marriner's errant behaviour while coming out worthy and clearcut winners. Their total of 24 shots on goal might well have produced more than the final tally of five had not some unnamed prankster once again placed Edin Dzeko's boots on the opposite feet.

A boisterous, hard-fought game had already taken an early turn for the worse for Tottenham, with David Silva's immaculately delicate through-ball to Sergio Aguero and a slide-rule, angled finish from the little Argentinian that had just the right spin to take it inside the far post and ease City out in front. Aguero had, before that, smacked the bar with a vicious effort in the opening minutes and Hugo Lloris was soon called into action to make a stunning one-handed save to deny Aguero's fierce header.

Already, with a mere twenty minutes on the clock, we had witnessed one of the best passes and one of the best saves of the season so far.

Stevan Jovetic celebrates after returning from injury to score Man City's fourth at Spurs.GettyImagesStevan Jovetic celebrates after returning from injury to score Man City's fourth at Spurs.


It was at this point that the game began to edge away from the referee as he misinterpreted a number of hefty challenges, including one where Martin Demichelis received a yellow card after having his own knee opened up, allowing the home side to surge back into the game. Sherwood's earlier assurances that Spurs would play City at their own game looked slightly hollow as the home side attempted to maintain a form of high-energy rough and tumble to attempt to knock City out of their stride.

Aguero, absolutely unplayable up to this point, left the field injured and collision after collision soon followed, as the atmosphere was cranked up.

With Spurs beginning to threaten after the break, Marriner's decision to award a penalty and dismiss Danny Rose made the home side's plight untenable. Playing with a full compliment of eleven against City in this form is asking a lot of a side, but when you have a man less against the best passing team in the country, all is irretrievably lost.

Despite Dzeko's best efforts to spoon every chance that came his way into the crowd, City soon cantered into an unassailable lead. The passing of David Silva, the work rate and thrust of Fernandinho and the ability to get the ball quickly up either flank through Pablo Zabaleta, Jesus Navas or Gael Clichy made this yet another smooth as silk performance from the Blues.

Knowing that a win would at last see City overtake Arsenal at the top of the table, City again showed great reluctance to take their foot off either the throttle or Tottenham's neck. With Chelsea dropping points at home to West Ham, it may just go down as a pivotal evening in the race for the title, as City at long last push their thoroughbred noses in front.

By the time Chelsea leave the Etihad next Monday, the gap to the West London challengers may already be six points. If the gap between City and one of North London's finest was only four goals on this occasion, they can thank their lucky stars for the impressive agility of Mr. Lloris and the wayward shooting of Mr. Dzeko that it remained so.

In the meantime, it will soon be pertinent to ask how real the possibility is that Pellegrini's marvellous attacking machine can maintain this form to the end of the season. It must be becoming evident to the players that they have it within their grasp to make this the most memorable season in the Manchester City's long history.

While the bean counters pour over more spreadsheets, however, those of us interested in the roll of the ball will look anxiously for signs of life from Sergio Aguero in time for the showdown with Chelsea next week. Though this City side looks irresistable even without the little striker, it looks truly unstoppable with him.

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