To say City went into the 2011/12 campaign on something of a high was a massive understatement.
It had been barely three months since the Club had ended a 35-year wait for a major trophy as Yaya Toure’s goal beat Stoke 1-0 in the FA Cup final, and four days prior to that, Roberto Mancini’s side had beaten Spurs at the Etihad to secure Champions League football for the first time.
There was the epic FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester United still sending shivers down the spines of City fans and Mancini had added Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri to a squad already bursting with quality during the summer as thoughts turned to ending a 44-year wait for the top flight title.
It was heady, exciting times.
Swansea and Bolton Wanderers were both dispatched as the new season began and there was genuine belief that this City team could achieve anything it wanted.
In many ways, Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur were the perfect benchmark for Mancini’s talented side. Just 12 months before, Spurs had given City something of a battering, with only the brilliance of Joe Hart somehow earing City a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane.
Spurs came into the game on the back of a stunning 3-0 opening day win away to Manchester United, and would clearly be challenging for silverware again. All of the early season optimism could easily be dowsed by the North Londoners if City weren’t at the top of their game.
Played against the backdrop of the riots that had been occurring in the capital, City travelled to Tottenham with the ink on Samir Nasri’s contract still wet, and Mancini handed his new £24m signing an immediate starting berth.
It was a starting XI that oozed quality and attacking flair:
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Lescott, Barry, Y Toure, Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko
Spurs had Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon, Peter Crouch and Nico Kranjcar among their starting line-up and as the game kicked-off in brilliant, late summer sunshine, the scene was set for an unforgettable Premier League clash.
Leading the line for City was Edin Dzeko, a January capture from Wolfsburg who had taken time to bed in.
His six goals in 21 matches were a reasonable return, but the Bosnian arrived with a reputation of a prolific goal-scorer and he was well aware he was expected to deliver.
Dzeko had scored in both City’s opening games and with Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, and record signing Aguero all vying for the two striking berths, he knew he’d have to keep scoring, too.
“I remember we had a good start into the season and everyone was much more than just enthusiastic for the new season, especially after winning FA Cup,” recalled Dzeko.
"So after good start we’d made, we wanted to continue winning games and see where it took us – and we did that, much more easily than we’d expected, but we knew Tottenham was top team. "
“We bought Samir right before game and everyone knew about his quality and what he could bring to this team, and he did exactly that.”
Both teams started brightly with Van der Vaart twice forcing fine saves from Hart and Nasri and Silva both going close at the other end. But gradually, City started to carve open the hosts’ midfield and on 34 minutes, Aguero found Nasri who sent a cross into the six-yard box that Dzeko volleyed game with his right-foot.
NASRI'S DREAM START
Seven minutes later, Nasri’s excellent debut got even better as he sent in a cross from the left that Dzeko superbly headed past Brad Friedel with a nonchalant almost backwards flick. It was a fantastic finish that gave City fans a glimpse of why Dzeko was idolised in his homeland where he was known as the ‘Bosnian Diamond.
“Samir brought a lot of quality to our team, and I was obviously more than happy that in his first game he made me two fantastic assists,” recalled Dzeko, whose afternoon was soon to get even better.
“My third goal was very easy seeing that Yaya did almost everything!” he smiled. “To be fair, I was happy but didn't think much about hat-trick or even trying to score fourth, I was just happy that it looked like helping us win that game.”
Dzeko’s left-foot tap home on 55 minutes meant he’d not only completed the ‘perfect’ hat-trick of right foot, left foot and headed goals, he’d done it in just 21 minutes.
And neither he nor City were finished.
Just five minutes later and Aguero was in on the act, racing down the left before dropping his shoulder in the box and thumping a shot high across Brad Friedel and into the top right corner to put Mancini’s side 4-0 up.
City were purring and the balance throughout the team was close to perfection with Hart in goal, Kompany’s commanding presence at the back, the power and energy of Yaya Toure plus the industry and vision of Silva and Nasri – that plus two world class strikers up front.
Younis Kaboul powered home a consolation on 68 minutes, but fittingly, it was the excellent Dzeko who would have the final say with the best goal of the game.
With the referee getting ready to end the contest, Dzeko eyed one last opportunity…
“Sergio got a goal which he more than deserved and then, after a one two with Gaz (Barry), I scored my fourth and at that time it looked unreal, but I was happy and that game I will remember forever, because probably it was one of my greatest games ever, looking at the goals and team we faced.
“And the fourth goal was probably one of my best goals for City.”
Dzeko’s fourth was sublime as was his finishing in this game. It capped a wonderful victory and the 5-1 scoreline was full deserved.
It gave Mancini’s men that belief that winning the Premier League was more than just a possibility… anyone who witnessed this game knew it was more of a probability…