Manchester City maintained their slim Premier League title hopes with a 3-1 victory at home to West Bromwich Albion on Monday evening at the Etihad Stadium.
City led, 2-0, after 10 minutes via early goals from Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Aguero. West Brom pulled one back with a quick counter in the 16th minute, finished superbly by Graham Dorrans, but Martin Demichelis restored City's two-goal lead nine minutes before half-time.
It wasn't all good news for City, however, as influential playmaker David Silva left the pitch on a stretcher in the second half.
As Squawka tweeted during the match, the injury could be damaging to City if it proves serious.
Man City have picked up on average 1.8 points per game in the EPL this season when David Silva hasn't played, compared to 2.43 when he has.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 21, 2014
The win took City onto 74 points, six behind leaders Liverpool and one behind second-placed Chelsea, though Manuel Pellegrini's side have one match in hand. West Brom are 16th with 33 points, three clear of the relegation places with four matches remaining.
Despite their deficit in the table, City still have a chance to catch Liverpool. The Reds are set to host Chelsea at Anfield this Sunday, and a Chelsea win would throw the title race back into doubt.
Such a result would see Liverpool and Chelsea separated by just two points with two matches remaining. Provided they defeat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park the same day, City would then trail Liverpool by only three points with the extra match still in hand.
Needing points to keep their title challenge alive, City started brightly and went ahead with barely more than two minutes on the clock.
Samir Nasri started the move, crossing from the right in the third minute. West Brom's Liam Ridgewell headed the ball away, but only as far as Aguero, who settled on the right side of the box and volleyed on target. Ben Foster parried, but Zabaleta was on hand to direct the rebound into the net with a diving header to give City a quick 1-0 advantage.
Perhaps sensing a chance to kill off West Brom early in the match, City pressed for a second goal immediately. Silva had a shot blocked in the fifth minute and Aguero shot narrowly off target moments later.
West Brom put the ball in the net in the sixth minute—Matej Vydra sweeping in Billy Jones' cross—but the goal was ruled out for offside in the buildup.
Instead, City made it 2-0 in the 10th minute through Aguero, who beat Foster with a bouncing shot into the far corner.
Sergio Agüero ends a five-game scoring drought with Man City, his longest goalless streak with the club.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) April 21, 2014
Leading by two goals, City were clearly brimming with confidence. However, the home side displayed perhaps too much self-assurance in the 16th minute, when West Brom found a way back into the match with a goal against the run of play.
City won a free-kick in West Brom's half but lost possession quickly after taking it short, allowing West Brom to break forward at pace.
Along the edge of the box, Vydra slipped the ball to Dorrans. SB Nation shows that he then lifted the ball into the air and beat his defender with a pair of brilliant flicks before firing past Joe Hart to make it 2-1.
Suddenly City were not quite as fluent in the attack. West Brom, meanwhile, looked dangerous going forward, with Chris Brunt forcing Hart into a save in the 23rd minute.
But in the 36th minute, City scored again, this time converting from a set piece.
Nasri curled in a corner from the right, and Vincent Kompany headed the ball on toward the back post. From there, an unmarked Demichelis swept in with his first touch to restore City's two-goal lead at 3-1.
West Brom weren't finished, however, and just before half-time the visitors nearly had a second goal. Jones crossed from the right, picking out Stephane Sessegnon, whose shot from close range was blocked by Kompany.
The pace dropped in the second half with chances becoming more scarce, though Silva, Nasri and Zabaleta combined impressively to create danger in West Brom's end in the 58th minute.
Aguero then made way for Stevan Jovetic in the 64th minute after the Argentine seemed to pick up a knock early in the second half.
If Aguero's substitution merited concern, City had cause for alarm moments later. Silva went to ground after an innocuous challenge with Jones in the 67th minute, but the Spaniard remained on the pitch and had to be stretchered off three minutes later. He was replaced by James Milner.
Silva's departure seemed to affect City negatively and West Brom seized the initiative, with Sessegnon shooting off target and Morgan Amalfitano forcing Hart to save a low shot in the 71st minute.
Two minutes later, Jovetic fired wide at the other end following Edin Dzeko's headed pass.
Nasri and Jovetic combined well to create a chance for Dzeko in the 84th minute, but he curled his shot off target. The Bosnian striker had another opportunity in the 87th minute, but Jonas Olsson made a well-timed tackle to block the shot.
It was the final involvement for Dzeko, who made way for substitute Aleksandar Kolarov in the 89th minute as City coasted to victory.
|Stevan Jovetic (for Aguero, 64')||N/A||6|
|James Milner (for Silva, 70')||N/A||7|
|Aleksandar Kolarov (for Dzeko, 89')||N/A||No rating|
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said that David Silva suffered an ankle injury, but did not indicate how much time Silva might miss, according to the Premier League on Twitter:
Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini on David Silva's injury: "[He] has a problem with his ankle, we'll see [on Tuesday] how it is." #MCIWBA— Premier League (@premierleague) April 21, 2014
Speaking to MCFC.co.uk, Pellegrini said his view of the title race hasn't changed and added praise for his team's performance:
I see the title race as the same this week as I did last week. We know that at the moment we had two or three games postponed so it was difficult to be at the top of the table in that situation.
We lost the game against Liverpool and we know we lost the chance to control our destiny but we have a duty to win the rest of our games and then see where that leaves us.
In the first half we played very well, that was the team we’ve seen in the whole season at the Etihad. Maybe the goal they scored made us more nervous in the second half as we didn’t play as well but we didn’t concede a goal and that’s important.
Manchester City play at Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday.
West Brom host West Ham United on Saturday.