Manchester City are the Christmas number one!
For the first time in 82 years the Blues lead the top flight pack heading into the Yuletide festivities.
Roberto Mancini can legitimately claim to be the Gareth Malone of the Barclays Premier League waving his conductor’s baton like a magic wand over a side that has now gone a year and a day without a home defeat.
The Etihad Stadium is simply the last place any team wants to visit and the manager’s team selection uncanny
...City 3 Stoke 0
Since taking over the reins a little more than two years ago, the wily Italian boss has cleverly and successfully chartered a course in between practicality and the totally abstract. Orchestrated yet off the cuff the Blues are a conundrum for opponents.
There are rules but there is also a refreshing freedom to this City creation and both sides of their character were on display again in this one-sided contest against Stoke.
They had to be because the confident Potters arrived on the back of a four game winning streak determined to make life hard for Manchester.
In many ways Stoke are still embattled in a campaign to exorcise the ghosts of seasons past
...City 3 Stoke 0
For all their more than decent showings in recent years including reaching the FA Cup final where they lost to the Blues last season and qualifying for Europe, Stoke remains a club eager to escape the Premier League pigeon hole into which they have been unceremoniously thrust.
They are more than just big team (though they are physically imposing) that relies on set plays and long throws. They can also play some football too though they were not allowed to show much of it in this ninety minutes.
The shortest day of our year must have seemed like one of the longest ever nights for visiting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen and his back four/five/six/seven!
Stoke were under siege from the first whistle and cracked in the 28th minute. Yaya Toure’s low cross was deflected towards goal by Vincent Kompany and Sorensen could only palm the ball into the path of the lurking Sergio Aguero who proved deadly from two feet out.
The goal cheered Mancini who had made three changes from the side that dented Arsenal’s hopes of the title and lifted Blue back above Red in Manchester’s private battle to lead England’s top league into 2012.
Having fired a dextrous verbal warning shot across the bows of Mario Balotelli in his pre-match joust with journalists, Mancini made a more tangible gesture by leaving the talented Italian on the bench.
It was the recalled Johnson who almost broke the deadlock in the 14th minute when, after a welter of possession, he fired in a deflected shot that looped menacingly before thumping against the bar.
It turned out to be a mere range finder because ten minutes before the interval Johnson unleashed a 25-yard effort that Sorensen didn’t even see before it buckled the moorings of the goal in front of the Stoke fans. Game over.
The rest of the match was mere decoration on another stunning home display. Aguero scored his second of the game and the 20,001st goal in Premier League history.
Nasri’s cross was too clever for the visiting defence and this time the Argentine made no mistake from half a dozen yards.
Sorensen denied Barry and Johnson from close range as the Blues sought to further strengthen a wonderful goal difference that is worth another point on their rivals and Stoke survived a penalty shout for handball before the referee's whistle put them out of their agony.