Pellegrini’s men maintain perfect home record with victory
Manchester City’s 100th goal of the season also happened to be their ugliest. But Edin Dzeko will not mind as he made history with the aid of technology.
Dzeko’s left-footed stab after 14 minutes contained just enough power to force the ball over the Cardiff goalline, but not into the net. As Manchester City players celebrated and Cardiff complained, referee Neil Swarbrick checked his watch to see the Goal Decision System award its verdict. Goal given — and correctly so.
It was the first time goal-line technology — introduced in the Premier League at the start of the season — had been used to award a goal. But the history did not stop there.
Dzeko’s effort gave City their 100th goal of the season, making them the fastest team to a century of goals in the Premier League era. City did it in just 34 games, easily beating Chelsea’s previous best.
The giant screen in the corner of the Etihad Stadium flashed up its congratulations immediately — ‘One hundred and counting’ — as Dzeko was mobbed by jubilant team-mates having converted David Silva’s pass. And the fans were able to count in three more before the final whistle blew.
Once again, it was a win that symbolised the new, improved Manchester City under a manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who is clearly not as dour as he looks.
After Cardiff had briefly levelled, Pellegrini’s forward players blitzed the opposition to lead 4-1 through Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. Their old defensive fragility crept in again late to allow Fraizer Campbell to grab a late consolation.
‘It is a very important achievement for the team,’ said manager Pellegrini. ‘It is not easy to pass 100 goals in the middle of the season. It is a very important achievement for the team.
‘It reflects what we think of the way this team must play. We are comfortable in what we are doing. We have chances to score goals in every game.
‘The first half today was one of the best 45 minutes in this season so far. It is important to continue in that way.
Ahead: City striker Dzeko shoots Manuel Pellegrini’s men into the lead against Cardiff after 13 minutes
All smiles: Dzeko’s opener set Man City on their way to their eleventh home victory of the season
The Chilean may not be the most demonstrative manager around but he has given Manchester City a license to thrill after the Mancini years. Two strikers are fielded at nearly all times and they play with a conviction to carry on attacking even though they leaked goals earlier in the season, perhaps most notably in a 3-2 reverse at Cardiff when Vincent Tan was still adored in south Wales.
Pellegrini’s tactics have delivered 11 wins out of 11 at home in the Barclays Premier League for Manchester City this season.
The dream of winning an unprecedented four trophies may end up as just that, particularly with Barcelona lying in wait in the last 16 of the Champions League. But they will surely have fun trying.
Cardiff slipped to the bottom of the table as a result of their defeat, but new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is clearly a glass half-full man.
‘It was a great response after the poor start we had,’ he said. ‘I knew when I came here it would be tough — not all-singing and all-dancing. But it’s only five points up to number 11 (in the table). It’s very tight.’
Leveller: Craig Noone fires home Cardiff’s equaliser as City defender Vincent Kompany watches on
Back in it: Bluebirds striker Fraizer Campbell congratulates Noone as the midfielder wheels away to celebrate
Jumping for joy: Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall punches the air following Noone’s equaliser
Flying high: Jesus Navas jumps over the corner flag at The Etihad after putting City back infront
City’s quest for their 100th goal could have been over even earlier, with Dzeko, Pablo Zabaleta and Navas all going close. Dzeko’s goal prompted some argy-bargy in the away end but the mood of the Cardiff fans turned sweeter just before the half-hour mark when full-back Kevin Theophile-Catherine went on a rare attacking foray. He played in Craig Noone and the Liverpudlian smartly wrongfooted Vincent Kompany before cutting inside and dispatching a fine finish past Joe Hart.
Within four minutes, though, the home side had officially confirmed their superiority once again. Toure bounced off a challenge from Aron Gunnarsson, the Ivorian bulldozing his way forward as the Cardiff man was left winded on the turf.
Toure then delivered a lovely pass to Dzeko, whose wild swipe — intended as a shot — squirted into the path of Navas, who scored. Silva almost added a third, shooting wide after a flowing five-man move. Sergio Aguero then came on for Alvaro Negredo, but it was Cardiff who nearly scored next, Hart keeping his side ahead by pushing Noone’s shot around the post.
Lead extended: Yaya Toure converts Man City’s third as Kevin Theophile-Catherine attempts to block the shot
Job done: Substitute Sergio Aguero shoots past Steven Caulker and David Marshall to make sure of the win
Craig Bellamy’s arrival on the pitch for Cardiff was warmly applauded by the Etihad fans, who remember his past efforts for Manchester City during a spell between 2009-11. But it was one of Bellamy’s former team-mates, Toure, who made the game safe with a barnstorming run from the halfway line. He exchanged passes with Aguero before shooting home, then looking absolutely exhausted with the effort.
Aguero, who returned only in midweek for the FA Cup win against Blackburn after missing eight games with a calf injury, made it four.
Surrounded by a couple of Cardiff defenders, there was a sense of inevitability as the Argentine weaved one way and then the other before firing into the roof of the net.
Back of the net: Frontman Fraizer Campbell scored a late consolation for Cardiff during injury time
‘Other players would find it difficult to play well straight away after injury, but for Kun (Aguero), it is easy,’ beamed Pellegrini.
‘It’s not easy to change so many things from the way the team played last season. We are improving and we must continue.’
At the other end, Campbell volleyed in from a corner to make it 4-2 but his manager, fellow Manchester United old boy Solskjaer, knows he faces a fight to keep Cardiff in the top flight.
That is 103 goals this season now for City, 63 of them in the league. The Premier League goals record is 103 by Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea in 2009-10. Aguero and company will fancy taking it on.
Source : Daily Mail