WEST BROMWICH, December 26 -Manchester City kept the pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea with a convincing 3-1 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Friday.
Fernando, Yaya Toure and David Silva were on the scoresheet as Manuel Pellegrini’s second-placed side provided an emphatic response to Chelsea’s win against West Ham earlier in the day.
It was a seventh successive win for the champions as they continued their excellent recent form and provided further evidence they remain firmly in the title race with just three points separating them from Chelsea.
They will have few easier games this campaign, however, after being gifted the initiative early on by a poor Baggies side and, such was City’s dominance, they already had the game won by the time heavy snow started to make playing conditions difficult in the second half.
Alan Irvine’s side, who scored a late consolation via Brown Ideye with his first Premier League goal, have now won just one of their last eight games and that sequence combined with their disappointing level of display, leaves the head coach’s position under increasing pressure.
Midfielder James Milner again led City’s attack for the Boxing Day trip in the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, with the fit-again Stevan Jovetic only ready to be named among the substitutes.
It made no difference, however, as Pellegrini’s side raced into a two-goal lead within the opening 13 minutes.
Yet the Baggies had only themselves to blame after a pair of costly errors from two of their most experienced campaigners.
First, Ben Foster had a moment to forget in the eighth minute as he dropped what a appeared a routine Jesus Navas cross – gifting Fernando the simplest of finishes into the empty net.
Then five minutes later, Joleon Lescott – in his first appearance against the side he left for the Hawthorns in pre-season – mis-timed a challenge on Silva to hand the champions a penalty.
Toure made no mistake with the resulting spot-kick and, although Foster guessed the right way, the Ivory Coast midfielder’s shot was precisely dispatched inside the left post to leave the goalkeeper with no chance.
– Rampant –
So poor were their opponents, City looked capable of scoring every time they ventured forward and it was no surprise to see them add a third before the interval.
Fernando drove forward unopposed before slipping the ball out wide to Jesus Navas, he laid off neatly to Silva, on his inside, and the unmarked Spaniard curled expertly inside the far upright.
It was so straightforward for City that they were twice guilty of complacency moments later as Albion were gifted two gilt-edged opportunities.
First, a Toure challenge on Stephane Sessegnon inadvertently handed Craig Gardner a strike at goal only for the midfielder to fire straight at Joe Hart.
Then, just seconds later, James Morrison’s slide-rule pass sent Saido Berahino through from the left channel yet he fired disappointingly wide.
City were capable of carving their opponents open at will and they came agonisingly close to a fourth when, after more slick combination play, Samir Nasri’s shot deflected agonisingly wide.
With their next game against Burnley just 48 hours away, Pellegrini even had the luxury of being able to replace Silva just after the hour mark.
Lescott, who has admitted to disappointment at the way his five years at City ended despite winning the double with them last season, spurned a good chance when he headed over the crossbar.
Yet the home side pulled one back in scrappy circumstances with three minutes remaining when Hart flapped at a Baggies corner before the ball was inadvertently diverted goalwards by club-record signing Brown after a deflection off the back of Bacary Sagna’s head.