It took nearly 70 minutes for Manchester City to break down Stoke on Saturday, but when they did the sense of relief around the Etihad Stadium was evident.
Yaya Toure crashed into the penalty box and finished expertly with 20 minutes to go as City’s pressure, and most importantly their patience, paid off.
Stoke set up to defend and weren’t bothered about winning the game and after a draining 2-0 defeat to FC Barcelona in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, City looked to have run out of ideas and steam for most of the second half.
But the Citizens kept chugging away and eventually sealed a vital three points to keep them within touching distance of Chelsea in top spot. City manager Pellegrini was pleased his side stuck to the task.
“Three points, three very important points. We had the application to continue attacking and we had the concentration. They [Stoke] were defending with 10 players in their box,” Pellegrini said. “It was very important to be concentrated for counter-attacks and set pieces. Both things were important, to keep a clean sheet and to be patient. I thought we controlled the game and it was a matter of time before we scored.”
I’m not sure if every Man City fan inside the stadium shared Pellegrini’s optimism, as City looked labored with Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic all leading the line but they all looked out of ideas as Stoke’s two banks of five shut down every avenue. Almost.
Add in the fact that City have failed to score in the past two PL games, a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea and a 0-0 draw with Norwich, the pressure was on late in the game for Pellegrini’s men. The last time City had failed to score in three-straight PL games came six years ago, and stats like those were swirling around before this game as City’s prolific offense has suddenly dried up. But then big Yaya turned up to grab the points.
Patience will play a big part in their Premier League title race. City proved they’re up to the challenge as they ground out a win, kept their cool and seem to have navigated a sticky patch.
Can they keep it up?