Carlos Tevez celebrated his 27th birthday in style with a first-half hat-trick against a beleaguered West Bromwich Albion.
The City skipper took just 22 minutes to complete his first treble of the campaign as the Blues returned to winning ways and consolidated third spot in the Premier League ahead of next weekend’s Manchester derby.
It was a sopping wet City of Manchester Stadium that greeted the two teams and conditions similar to last season’s 6-1 win at Burnley came to mind – though thankfully that was due only to the incessant rain rather than the skid pan of a Turf Moor pitch!
If the Blues really do enjoy wet conditions and you believe in the old theory of ‘horses for courses’, then the pre-match thinking had to be that Roberto Mancini’s side were expected to romp home by several lengths.
As for the starting XI, neither Nigel de Jong or Micah Richards had recovered from the latter’s impression of a human cannonball at Birmingham in midweek, and there was no place for new signing Edin Dzeko, who was relegated to the bench.
That meant a reshuffle of the available pack on the park with Aleksandar Kolarov employed as a left winger for the afternoon.
With a minute’s applause from the sell-out crowd still ringing around the stadium as the match began, City set about giving club legend Neil Young a fitting epitaph.
Nothing less than a win was needed against struggling West Brom with the Blues losing vital ground in the last two games against Aston Villa and Birmingham – and Tevez almost gave his side a dream start when he guided Kolarov’s cross against the post after five minutes.
Twelve minutes later, both players were responsible for City taking a deserved lead when Kolarov was brought down in the box by a clumsy Steven Reid challenge and Tevez, who’d missed his previous two penalties, dispatched his 18th of the season with consummate ease.
And the Argentine crowd idol didn’t have to wait long for his 19th either, playing a neat one-two with David Silva before evading a last-ditch challenge and planting the ball firmly past Boaz Myhill to put the Blues 2-0 up.
City were cutting through the Baggies’ defence at will, but Kolarov elected to by-pass the formalities when he cracked a 35-yard howitzer that Myhill brilliantly tipped over the bar
...City stroll to victory
The coupe de grace of a hugely enjoyable first half was still to come, however, with Tevez completing his hat-trick on 39 minutes– again from the penalty spot – following a needless handball by Jerome Thomas in the box.
It was also 49th goal for the Blues in just 66 starts – a phenomenal return by a phenomenal player and all this on his 27th birthday!
There was no further scoring after the break with the Blues easing up and rarely threatening to add to their tally and Albion testing Joe Hart on several occasions.
All in all, a good day’s work!