Verdict: Manchester City 3 Hull City 1
Ahmed Elmohamady 31′ (og) Andrea Ranocchia 85′
Sergio Agüero 48′
Fabian Delph 64′
Manchester City’s third game in six days was a home tie against a Hull and there were a couple of surprises in the starting eleven, most notably Claudio Bravo returned in goal. Not a particularly popular choice, as Willy Caballero has won the favour of the City supporters in recent months. Fabian Delph deservedly retained his place after his impressive display against Chelsea. The return of Aleks Kolarov to the centre of defence was a surprise, but only because of the absence of Otamendi in recent weeks, and the fact that, Gael Clichy – who’s not been in great form recently- was playing his third game in 6 days, you’d have thought if Kolarov was to start, then it’d be at left back. Jesus Navas retained his spot at rightback, which you could argue signals the end of Pablo Zabaleta’s time at city – very sad to see as Zaba has firmly made himself a hero amongst City fans. Kevin de Bruyne was an unused substitute, and if you’ve been keeping up today with my previous posts, you’ll know that I felt his being dropped from the starting XI is long over due.
The game started well for City, in the sense that Hull allowed them plenty of time on the ball. There was little pressing from the Tigers for the most part of the 90 minutes if I’m honest. Once again, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling’s pace looked very dangerous. Sergio Agüero was having a rough time though, being out-muscled a fair bit by the Hull defenders and they were doing well so keep him mostly quiet.
Hull didn’t really trouble City in the first half and Claudio Bravo had little to do. There were a couple of minor scares, but nothing major or particularly noteworthy. The breakthrough came for City just before the half hour mark; a delightful cross coming in from Jesus Navas at rightback glancing over Agüero and being bundled into the back of the hull net by Ahmed Elmohamady.
Despite creating a a significant number of chances, City went into the half time break leading just 1-0, and that was courtesy of an own goal. City had finished the first half comfortably in control of the game in terms of possession, play and confidence on the ball.
The blues started the second half in the same manner that they’d finished the first, and it wasn’t long until their lead was doubled; in the 48th minute, Sergio Agüero scored his 10th goal in 10 games for City in all competitions. That stat alone further supporting evidence (to those who still need convincing) that Kun is fitting into this team, and despite what some areas of the press might say, it’s been clear in recent games that he is buying into Guardiola’s philosophy. The goal was also City’s 100th goal of the season. Much has been said via the various forms of media about the manner in which the goal was scored; all eleven players were involved in the build up and it consisted of over 20 passes. It was a great bit of build up play, the finish from Agüero wasn’t his finest which accounted for a rather subdued celebration from Kun. The passing and patience shown in the build up were exactly the sort of thing Pep has been aiming for with City.
City continued to push for more goals and a fair few chances were spurned. Guardiola was urging the team forward; understandably so, as he’d been critical of the performance against Arsenal, exclaiming that the team had ‘forgot to play’ and weren’t ruthless enough when holding a lead in games. City did get their third goal on 64 minutes, through an unlikely source – Fabian Delph scoring his first goal in 448 days. It was deserved too, his performance against Chelsea on Wednesday was superb and he followed this up well against Hull too. His reaction to scoring was to gesture to the crowd, as the atmosphere had (and has on many occasions this season) fallen flat. City have recently decided to switch ends for kick offs, meaning that the preference is to attack the South Stand in the second half of home games now. The decision was made after consultation between the club and the 1894 Group. The 1894 Group do a good job to try an improve the atmosphere at home games, their displays are impressive and welcome. However, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that improving the atmosphere at home games is going to take a lot more changing ends for kick off, but that’s an issue for another day…
Hull did get a goal back in the 85th minute via Andrea Ranocchia. The goal came following a combination of tiredness settling in and City just plain switching off. I’ll cut to the point, the goal awful to concede and does nothing but enrage those who are already in the anti-Bravo camp. The shot was tame and seemed to go straight through the City keeper. You could argue that the keeper’s view may have been partially blocked, but regardless, it was a poor goal to concede and Bravo should’ve saved it.
Before the ball had even fully trickled over the line, there was an audible jeer from the crowd behind the City goal; fans letting their opinions known about the City keeper in no uncertain terms. This is unfortunately becoming a more frequent occurrence and although I appreciate that Bravo might be the only goalkeeper in the world to “make a better window than a door”, contrary to the usual expression, I can’t abide by fans jeering or booing their own players. Likewise, also not for the first time in recent weeks, Bravo reacted by gesticulating to the crowd. Now I’m not saying a player should standby and take abuse from his own fans, but I don’t think Bravo is going to improve the situation by reacting like that – of course not, but it’s also incredibly unprofessional. In fact, I think the fact that his attention is so quickly drawn to the fans reaction, shows that he’s perhaps not got his mind fully on the game; equally, the way in which he has a tendency to concede such tame efforts, further exemplifies his poor concentration skills. Aleks Kolarov saw what was going on, and took it upon himself to yell back at various sections of the ground, wave his arms about in the moments that followed the goal, he also carried this on at full time too.
By the time Hull scored, the game had almost reached the procession stage and the crowd had reverted back to relative silence in the minutes before. In fact I’d go as to far as to say that about 10% of the crowd had left at that point. On this one occasion, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the majority of those who’d left by that point, had done so because of the nice wonderful bit of sunshine that we had. However, there’s been an issue with people leaving on or around the 80 minutes mark for years now. Why do it? If you’re paying all that money to come to a game, why leave early? What’s so important that you can stay til the end of a match? I don’t get it and probably never will.
Full time score: City 3 Hull 1.
City were never really tested. The blues enjoyed 67% possession and finished the game with 90% pass accuracy, 23 shots in total (but only 7 on target) and 644 passes to Hull’s 257. If I’m honest, the neutral and Hull fans should be disappointed that Hull didn’t put up more of a fight, they didn’t look like they were up for it and there was nothing in their performance that made me think they’ve got what it takes to stay up. Of course, they could’ve been saving themselves for next week’s game, away to an out of form Stoke side. Or maybe they were still tired from their 4-2 victory over Middlesbrough during the week.
Man of the match for me was Fabian Delph, he was also announced as the official man of the match at the stadium too. I thought he carried on where he left off against Chelsea, he passed the ball well, worked hard on and off the ball. His goal was deserved and his efforts to get the crowd capped off a strong display.
A special mention has to go to David Silva too. He was captain again, for what was his 300th appearance for City. El Mago, Merlin, whatever you wanna call him; he was purring again today. A joy to watch. His passing was a class above. He’s got eyes in the back of his head and he’s the best player to ever wear the shirt in my opinion. It’s a privilege to watch him week in week out.
City face Southampton away next and they’ll need to be more clinical if they’re to come away from St Mary’s with 3 points. The Saints will put up a bigger fight than Hull.