Manchester City revived hopes for a Premier League title defence with an emphatic win over ten-man West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium.
An apparently erroneous sending off by referee Neil Swarbrick and two goals by Wilfried Bony and Fernando saw a dominant City take a 2-0 lead into the break.
David Silva deflected Stevan Jovetic’s low shot into the net from six yards to close out three points and help guide the champions back in their chase of Chelsea, who now lead by three points with two matches in hand.
The match was an abject disappointment for as many who had waited to assess City’s response after their midweek humbling at Barcelona in the second round of the Uefa Champions League.
And it was a terrible start for West Brom, who had Gareth McAuley wrongly sent off after Craig Dawson had blocked a goal-bound Bony outside the area.
City embarked on torrents of attacking moves for the best of 25 minutes, while West Brom struggled to stay in the game. The champions finally broke West Brom’s resilience in the 27th minute, when Vincent Kompany’s shot was deflected for Bony who calmly side-footed into the net his tenth goal of the league season and his first since his £28m transfer from Swansea.
Tony Pulis could not have envisaged a rather one-sided game after presiding over a run of just three defeats in 13 games in charge of the Midlands outfit prior to kickoff, but there was little the Baggies could muster after the Ivorian’s opener as their heads dropped low, leaving them with little but to fend off charges upon charges.
Boaz Myhill, standing in for the injured Ben Foster was called into action moments later, stretching to divert Jesus Navas’ side-footed shot from the edge of the area.
All of City’s outfield players continued to pile into their opponents’ half and were soon celebrating a second goal after some poor West Brom defending five minutes to the interval. The visitors failed to clear a corner and, when Jonas Olsson made a mess of Kompany’s hooked effort, Fernando was in place to tuck the loose ball into the net and become the recipient of City’s 1000th Premier League goal.
Things could have got messy before the break but Chris Baird was on hand to hack away Aguero’s long-range powerful low drive, which almost got the better of Myhill.
The second-half got underway with the Baggies unsurprisingly playing very deep inside their own half, in a ploy to keep Manuel Pellegrini’s men in check. Having probably watched Joe Hart’s heroic display against Barca- although the English goalkeeper was a lone spectator in this one- Myhill was giving City a run for their money, stabbing Aguero’s and Silva’s efforts for safety in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
And when the Welsh goalkeeper was eventually beaten, the woodwork played to his defence twice in as many seconds as Aguero struck low against the far post and Bony smashed his follow-up against the crossbar.
Any attempt to play the ball forward by either of Stephanie Sessegnon and Saido Berahino was truncated midway into the hosts’ half time and time again, and when out of the blue Olsson headed one into the home box the latter England youth international flicked his header onto the bar before Joleon Lescot headed the rebound over.
Silva had been brilliant all day dictating play from the middle of the park and the Spaniard was rewarded with City’s third goal 13 minutes from full-time. Full-back Gael Clichy’s cut-back is met at the edge of the area by substitute Stevan Jovetic, whose lively shot pierced the crowd and found Silva to turn home with a simple touch.
In all, Man City had 43 shots (including blocked) – one short of the record for most shots on goal in a single Premier League game since 2003-04 (also by the Cityzens against QPR in May 2012).