The Ped Report City 3-1 Hull City
The sun shone in glorious fashion in East Manchester as City set themselves up to face Hull City at the Etihad Stadium. The Tigers, who had plundered 4 goals in midweek are engrossed in a relegation dogfight and this is one of those fixtures that even the most optimistic of City fans choose not to like.
I was talking to my old friend Fred Eyre shortly after the team was announced and wondered whether it was Fred himself who had selected it and we had a bit of a chuckle when we saw that Bravo returned to not mind the nets and that Guardiola seemed to be persisting with the concept of playing Navas at right back.
Then, as usual the mystery deepened as City set up for David Silva's 300th match with Yaya and Delph holding, the S factor of Sterling, Silva and Sane ahead and of course the mighty Sergio up top. Stones, Kolarov and Clichy made up the back four.
This meant that Kompany and De Bruyne were sent to the bench and there was no involvement at all for Fernandinho.
By the time the 25th minute arrived I was beginning to think that this would be the shortest Ped Report ever written as precisely nothing had happened. I could have been forgiven for thinking I was watching the two teams of waiters who on occasions play beach football at Benalmadena as first-gear City enjoyed their stroll in the sun, but then, at last things started to happen for a short while.
Just why Delph thinks he is going to score from 30 yards I'm not sure, but bless him he tried twice with zero success. When the third attempt came, this time it was Yaya and his "sighter" didn't drop soon enough and finished in the family stand. Next up was a free kick on the edge of the box which was just too close to the goalie and he was able to shove it to safety, just as he did with the header, again from Yaya, from the resultant corner.
So we were lined up for one of those days. Away team doing nothing and the keeper on course to have a blinder. That was however until a minute or so later when Silva set up Navas wide out. The delivery would have been perfect for Dzeko, but too high for Aguero, but Elmohamady, who I think has previous at the Etihad obliged by placing his attempted clearance into the back of the net.
For once, maybe a bit of luck for City.
That said, the goal woke Hull up from being a nine-at-the-back set of time-wasters to needing an equaliser and they almost got it immediately when some typical City kamikaze defending left Niasse free in front of goal and onside but he got the ball stuck in his feet and his tap-in tapped-out. And with that went more or less any chance that Hull had of causing any kind of upset.
City calmly stroked their way to half time before introducing a second half Raheem Sterling masterclass. In recent weeks most of what has been good with City has appeared from the opposite side of the field as Sane has scared the wits out of summary right backs, but today Raheem stepped up to the plate.
Within three minutes of the restart Sterling skipped through the Tigers defence and attacked the space behind. He then squared the ball along the six yard line taking out two retreating defenders and found Super Sergio who had work to do, but was able to strike home to make it 2-0. Hull were not really going to get back from this.
City were now in cruise control but Sterling looked a handful every time he went anywhere near the ball. On 64 minutes, as City moved out of defence with ease and precision, Sterling out wide drew two defenders. Both Sane and Delph were haring through, Delph through the middle and Sane in from the left. Sterling could take his pick as he slid a superb pass in their direction. Delph was on to it quickly, stopped the ball and them hammered home from the edge of the box.
It should really have been the signal for an avalanche of goals, but as is City's want they settled for an afternoon of ease and simplicity and staying healthy, at least until minute 85 when Bravo's expectations of a clean sheet were extinguished in favour of him adding to his abysmal shots-on-target to goals conceded ratio.
Hull found some space down the left and for some reason Clichy found himself out there and effectively out of position. Navas didn't close down Robertson and his pass to Grosicki and Grosicki`s to Maloney took out an unconcerned Clichy. The cutback was hit first time by Ranocchia straight at Bravo who selected to let it in much to Kolarov's dismay. Bravo was lambasted by Kolarov as Hull's only shot on target all afternoon, inexplicably, or more likely explicably, with Bravo in attendance, found its way into the back of the net.
This took a bit of the shine off proceedings. Winning 3-0 sounds so much better than 3-1. Hull hadn't really deserved a goal but when Clownio is present you know they're going to get one.
That was effectively that. The sun still shone but it was Sterling who shone for the latter part of the afternoon setting up the Blues last two goals.
The poorer news of the day was that Liverpool had clawed themselves back from losing 1-0 at Stoke to take the spoils at 2-1. I suppose the best thing to come out of that was that Liverpool and City keep their noses ahead of the Stretfords and Arsenal plus the bonus that Sue would not have smashed all the plates by the time I got home. All the other results of the went more or less to plan with Chelsea's relentless march keeping them well ahead of the pack. Although Spuds put 4 past Watford, they made no indentation at all in their bid to topple the league leaders.
But the best result of the day was waiting for me when I got home as the mighty Malaga were playing Barcelona. Back in the 90s when Malaga were in Segunda B I went with some Spanish friends to La Rosaleda and for a while got hooked on watching a team that mirrored City in some many ways. I was there when they were promoted to La Liga in 1999 and at the Camp Nou when they beat Barca 2-1 with 2 goals from Victor Valcarce (who?). My friends would refer to me as the Fundador, Presidente y Unico Socio of the Pena Malaguista de Manchester. Founder, President and only member of Malaga`s Manchester Supporters Club!
I've always since then had a soft spot for el Blanquiazul and at 16th in the table and Barca needing to win to keep their title hopes alive, the Boquerones beat them 2-0. And this with a perfectly executed goal disallowed for offside when the player was at least a yard onside and a penalty being turned down, you know, the usual attributes that only apply to Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain.
As for City, once again we have a challenging run of fixtures. Next up is a trip to St Mary's to face Southampton, not always a happy hunting ground for City before the Blues head to Wembley to play Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final. After that of course the Monsters of Stretford appear at the Etihad in a match which they are already billing as a shoot-out for fourth place.
It's never a dull moment these days but City now need to put their sunshine stroll behind them and get down to business. With Gabriel Jesus back in training things are looking up. The Jesus effect has had a marked impression on Sergio Aguero's game. He has really started to deliver more than just goals and this has resonated around the team. I would personally like to see Guardiola consider Kompany for both the Arsenal match and the Derby, but I don't expect him to play in both. Vinny, if fit, might make the difference against Arsenal and of course in the League Cup, United didn't look like scoring while VK was on the pitch.
The Pedmachine will be back with reports on all of these matches.