Manchester City started the New Year in perfect fashion as they strolled past a resolute Stoke side with a comfortable 3-0 victory on Tuesday.
Pablo Zabaleta opened the scoring after Asmir Begovic cleared a low cross into his path with 43 minutes on the clock before Edin Dzeko doubled the home side’s lead at the start of the second half. The win was secured in the 74th minute as Sergio Aguero fired home a controversial penalty after David Silva had been tripped by Steven N’Zonzi.
Roberto Mancini gave Joleon Lescott his first start for a month alongside Vincent Kompany at the heart of the City defence and the Italian’s only other change saw James Milner replace the suspended Samir Nasri. Stoke made four changes to the side that drew with Southampton as Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam and Cameron Jerome were all recalled to the starting line-up with Matthew Upson, Ryan Shotton, Matthew Etherington and Michael Kightly all dropping to the bench.
The hosts dominated possession throughout the opening half and could have been further ahead than they were at the break after they wasted some excellent opportunities. The main culprit was Aguero, who had chances to score before the deadlock was finally broken in the 43rd minute.
The Argentine’s first sight of goal came from a beautiful chipped through ball from Gareth Barry, he controlled the ball well but lashed his shot over the bar much to the relief of Begovic. His other chance of the half came nine minutes later when he met a Barry cross at the front post but his header crashed against the post.
Coincidentally, it was another Argentine who got the goal City had been looking for in the closing minutes of the half, as Zabaleta grabbed his second goal of the season. The defender released Milner inside the penalty area, his low cross was pushed out by Begovic’s foot only as far as Zabaleta and he fired through a crowd to open the scoring.
The second half began in the same way the first had finished, with the hosts on top, and they did not have to wait long before their second goal as Dzeko applied the finishing touch following an Aguero shot. Yaya Toure released the Argentine inside the area, he fired low at Begovic but the keeper failed to hold onto the ball and saw his compatriot beat him from two yards.
The victory was secured in the 73rd minute as Silva was brought down by N’Zonzi on the edge of the penalty area, although it looked to be outside the box a penalty was awarded and Aguero made no mistake from the spot as he fired under the dive of Begovic.