STOKE 0 CITY 2
David Silva scored a goal in each half as City beat Stoke 2-0 to edge ever closer to the Premier League title.
The Blues dominated from start to finish and could have had three or four more on another night as the 16-point lead at the top of the table was restored.
After a stirring pre-match rendition of Tom Jones’ ‘Delilah’, the home crowd were clearly in the mood to be the Potters’ twelfth man, but there have been plenty of times when a twelfth, thirteenth or even fourteenth man wouldn’t have beaten this City team.
And it took less than 10 minutes for the Blues to demonstrate why they are poised to seal the Premier League title with a sumptuous passing move and finish.
Fernandinho played a ball to Gabriel Jesus’ feet and the Brazilian striker spotted Raheem Sterling’s movement, fed him the ball and Sterling’s low cross was stroked home with power by David Silva who had timed his run to perfection.
It was masterful stuff and with Stoke barely getting out of their own half, almost inevitable.
It was the 20th-minute before the hosts finally posed a genuine threat. Xherdan Shaqiri picked up the ball on the right flank near the corner flag, nutmegged Oleksandr Zinchenko and then teed up Badou Ndiaye and his low shot deflected a foot wide.
The Blues came close to increasing the lead twice in a couple of minutes as first Kevin De Bruyne very nearly latched on to a poor Kurt Zouma back pass – and then the Belgian whipped in a superb free-kick that Gabriel Jesus and Nicolas Otamendi were a whisker away from converting.
As the home support became increasingly frustrated, they began jeering City’s every touch and Fernandinho came close to compounding their misery with a low drive that Jack Butland pushed around the post five minutes before the break.
Stoke were noticeably starting to play route one football, aiming several long balls down the middle towards the end of the half, but the City defenders never looked unduly ruffled by the tactic and Ederson was always on hand to calmly mop up if ever the occasion demanded.
City doubled the lead within five minutes of the restart with another sublime goal that again involved Fernandinho and Jesus with the latter playing n improvised one-two with the majestic Silva who scored his second of the night as he expertly volleyed home as Butland and a defender closed in.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Stoke and Fernandinho, Sterling and Leroy Sane all came close to adding further goals before the hour-mark.
The Potters had the chance to reduce the arrears on 64 minutes when a free-kick resulted in a six-yard box scramble that was eventually hooked over by Bruno Martins Indi.
On the rare occasions the hosts threatened, City responded by slipping through the gears to create chance after chance with Sane seeing a shot beaten away and Kyle Walker – yet to score for score for the Blues – sliced a chance wide with only Butland to beat.
Then Sterling looked certain to make it three after winning possession from a drop-ball but as he rounded Butland, Ndiaye forced the ball wide.
That was the last real opportunity of the game for either side as Pep Guardiola’s side take another huge step towards the title.
City Matchday App Star Man: David Silva
Not much we can say about El Mago that hasn’t been said before. Superb.
What it means…
The Blues are once again 16 points clear of Manchester United with just eight games remaining.
Three more wins guarantees City the title on a day when Chelsea officially cannot retain their title.
No game now until 31 March when the Blues to travel to Everton.
The team now flies out for a five-day warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi.