MANCHESTER - Manchester City narrowed the gap to Premier League leaders Liverpool to six points with a comfortable 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Eastlands on Monday. Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and Martin Demichelis all scored for City as three different Argentinian players netted in a Premier League match for the first time.
West Brom showed brief moments of skills and had pulled the score back to 2-1 through Graham Dorrans, but ultimately City had too much quality. City will close further on Liverpool should they win their game in hand, although they still need the Merseyside club to drop points in their remaining three games if they are to take the title themselves. "Job done and we had some very good starts in the game, so we'll take the positives out of it and take it with us into the next four games," City captain Vincent Kompany told Sky Sports.
And the Belgian defender said City had it in them to repeat their form of two seasons ago, when they won the title in the closing minutes of the season. "I'm as motivated as anyone," he said. We can still remember what happened for us two years ago, so it's kind of something where we take motivation out of it."
Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, responded to his side's 2-2 draw with Sunderland with three changes as Gael Clichy, David Silva and Edin Dzeko came in for Aleksandar Kolarov, James Milner and Alvaro Negredo respectively. The hosts were also still without influential midfielder Yaya Toure, who is recovering from a groin injury, while West Brom recalled Craig Dawson and Billy Jones to their defence.
But it did not take a much more fluid City side long to assert their authority in the game and they took the lead in the third minute with a header from right-back Zabaleta. A weak header from West Brom defender Liam Ridgewell fell to Aguero who struck a powerful first-time volley which was parried by Ben Foster, but Zabaleta anticipated the rebound to head into the vacant net.
Aguero lifted a shot over the crossbar moments later when he got on the end of a cross from Samir Nasri, but it was not long until the Argentina striker got his name on the scoresheet. West Brom's defence backed off Aguero in the 10th minute and were punished as he arrowed a low shot into the corner of the net from just outside the penalty area. The visitors pulled a goal back six minutes later through Dorrans with a brilliant goal on the counter-attack after a breakdown in communication between Fernandinho and Silva at a free-kick in West Brom's half.
Dorrans received the ball on the edge of the box from Matej Vydra and expertly lifted it over City left-back Clichy with his right foot before he spectacularly volleyed past goalkeeper Joe Hart with his left. City always looked more likely to add a third goal before the interval and it duly arrived from a Nasri corner flicked on by Vincent Kompany into the path of Demichelis who escaped Jonas Olsson at the back post and guided the ball home.
The second half was decidedly more subdued, although City fans will nervously await updates on Spain playmaker Silva who was taken off on a stretcher with an ankle injury after an awkward tangle with Morgan Amalfitano in the 70th minute. West Brom seemed determined to make a fist of it in the remainder of the contest and Amalfitano forced Hart to scurry across goal to keep out a fierce drive.
The Baggies, still just three points above the relegation zone, threw on Saido Berahino in an attempt to inject some energy in their play and the promising youngster gave City fans a scare when he got a toe on a curling effort from outside the area which Hart almost diverted into his own net. James Milner had an opportunity to add a fourth for City in injury time but Foster did well to block at his near post.