Hull City vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
Manchester City lost captain Vincent Kompany to a harsh but fair red card in the 10th minute. Suddenly, the Sky Blues faced at least 80 minutes in hostile territory short-handed.
With 11 more league matches to play after this one, it is an overstatement to say that Manchester City's Premier League hopes hung precariously in the balance. But only barely.
Similarly, it might be a cliche to say that this is the sort of match that championship-caliber sides win. That does not make the statement any less true.
Here are six takeaways from a memorable, galvanizing victory for Manchester City.
Another Day, Another Power Play for the Opposition
Any observer who only recently began supporting Manchester City would fairly wonder why the Sky Blues so often end matches with fewer players than they start with.
Both ends of Manchester City's Champions League tie with Barcelona saw Manuel Pellegrini's side finish with 10 men.
The first red card was the result of a grievous defensive error by Martin Demichelis. The second came from a petulant loss of composure by Pablo Zabaleta. Both instances were regrettable.
Against Hull City, though, Manchester City lost a man for a far more defensible reason.
Captain Vincent Kompany was the last man back when he misplayed a good back-pass from Javi Garcia and invited Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic to pounce. Jelavic might have fouled Kompany, but Kompany's response was overaggressive with Jelavic a half a step past him and the red card that followed was just.
Kompany was livid, as he felt that his foul would never have happened had the Jelavic infraction been properly called.
Still, Kompany did the right thing even in getting sent off. Manchester City could ill afford to concede the opening goal so early in the match given their fragile road form.
Kompany surely did not process all of the variables in the moment, but given the gap in quality between the sides, Kompany was ultimately correct to trust that 10 of his men could handle 11 of Hull City's without him.
David Silva Is Criminally Underrated
After Vincent Kompany's early shower, the Hull City partisans were in full voice. A match that seemed an even proposition before it started suddenly seemed set up for a Hull City result.
Manchester City were in urgent need of a savior. Several candidates were on the pitch, such as Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri.
But it was the slightest Sky Blue who turned the match on its head.
David Silva's strike in the 14th minute was so fierce in its quality and so unexpected that, if you did not know he hit it, you would have to think that a professional goalscorer like Robin van Persie or Luis Suarez had.
Silva was the runaway man of the match, as he created an unbelievable chance for Fernandinho in the 72nd minute and assisted Edin Dzeko's insurance goal in the dying moments of the match.
Football fans throw the term "hero" around too loosely, but Silva was Manchester City's hero against Hull City.
Lee Mason Missed an Obvious Hard Red Card After Calling a Soft One
One of the dozens of reasons why world football has not taken off in America the way many think it should (your humble correspondent included) is the way matches are officiated.
Vincent Kompany was sent off in the 10th minute for denying Nikica Jelavic a clear scoring chance as the last man back on defense. Kompany did not make violent contact with Jelavic, though the clutching and grabbing Kompany was guilty of constituted a foul under the rules. That is fine.
But then Ahmed Elmohamady came straight down on David Silva's leg in the 34th minute in the center of the pitch, with referee Lee Mason looking directly at the play.
Mason, so quick to brandish red for a ticky-tack foul from Kompany, let Elmohamady off with a yellow card for a foul that NBC Sports Network commenter Robbie Earle rightly branded "a leg-breaker."
It was not a poor performance from Mason overall, as he had control of the contest and in the main got the necessary decisions right. But Mason flat-out whiffed on the Elmohamady challenge. That was rightly a straight red.
And it is hard for uninitiated fans to really grasp why a violent play is punished with a warning while a nonviolent play leads to one side playing down a man for almost an hour-and-a-half.
Manchester City's Maligned Squad Depth Paid Huge Dividends
Manchester City have recently been branded a club with a vast gap between the talent at the top of the roster and the talent at the bottom.
On the "Men In Blazers" XM radio show, pundit Roger Bennett recently observed that Manchester City have a myriad striking options and a handful of midfield stars.
But once you get past their big names (Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and the like), Bennett observed, you see a lot of non-contributing squad players and a defense bereft of sufficient help for Vincent Kompany.
Ironically, Kompany was the man sent off against Hull City and many of those squad players and lesser lights saved Manchester City's day in his absence. And they did so with Aguero out injured, which is no small thing.
Martin Demichelis has been abused in the press for some high-profile defensive errors, but he was beyond solid against Hull City. Javi Garcia played the full 90 minutes and was in the right place all day. Joleon Lescott came on for Toure with the match still in the balance for the final 20 minutes and did his job.
And Edin Dzeko's goal in the 90th minute sealed the victory.
Every Manchester City player covered himself in some glory with a well-earned result, doing the work of 11 with only 10 for so much of the day.
Hull City Really Bottled It
Taking nothing away from Manchester City's laudable effort, Hull City took a gift-wrapped chance for a result and completely mucked it up.
Steve Bruce's charges had an 80-minute man advantage, at home, against a Manchester City side riding a two-match losing streak and with a notorious tendency to struggle away from the Etihad.
Manchester City lost their captain 10 minutes into the match and were playing without star striker Sergio Aguero. The Sky Blues were beyond vulnerable.
"Never say never" is generally good advice, but it must be said that Hull City will probably never again have such a glorious opportunity to take Manchester City down.
Instead, Hull City rarely threatened and, save for a spell after the break, never really controlled play despite having an extra man for such an extended period of time.
Hull City appear to be safe from relegation based on the way the Premier League table stands. But if Hull City later find themselves threatened, they will look back on this match with sharp regret as a sweet opportunity lost.
Manchester City Retain Control of Their Own Fate
As Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is so fond of saying these days, Manchester City will win the league if both Manchester City and Chelsea win out.
The odds against either team winning all of their remaining league matches is remote. Maybe what Mourinho should be saying is that, if Manchester City matches results with Chelsea (while staving off Arsenal and Liverpool), they will be champions.
With so many matches left on the schedule for all four contending sides, the result of one match on the Ides of March is not really that significant.
Except that, as long as Manchester City keep winning, the spectre of the Sky Blues possibly putting all their rivals behind them lingers and haunts their challengers.
So these were only three points for Manchester City. But they were three points that kept the figurative reins in their hands.
Mourinho clearly feels there is psychological value in that. He may yet be proven right.