Manchester City 3 - West Bromwich Albion 1
This was always going to be a tough game but on seeing the teamsheet I thought the result was a formality. How we were never going to get out with no pace out wide and a midfield 3 who struggle to make a forward pass to a blue and white shirt between them.
And so it proved.
Rondon was isolated and Chadli didn't really get any quality into his feet - it was all most hit and hope stuff. Chadli needs pace and movement around him to create space but when he or Rondon did get the ball they were totally outnumbered and there was no movement or pace from anyone else to support them.
First half it could have been a cricket score - Fozzy made some great stops, we were lucky on some penalty decisions I think, didn't really trouble them, couldn't put 4 passes together and the goals were inevitable. You might say we could have done better in defending them - I would counter that it was just a matter or time.
I've got to say again that I don't know how Fletcher or Livermore stayed in the team. Would Morrison and/or Brunt in one of the central roles with McClean out wide really have weakened us defensively? They can at least keep the ball and we might have got up the pitch.
I agree with anyone who thinks that Mozza's best days are probably behind him and we need to be looking to buy a top quality replacement in the summer but if anyone still thinks Livermore or Fletcher are a better option I would point you to our results at the start of the season with him injured, a best run coinciding with his return and our terrible dropping off after getting 40 points running alongside a period where Pulis has gone back to picking 3 defensive midfielders most of the time.
It was much of the same in the 2nd half - the 3rd goal a very basic stroll through our centre midfield.
At least with the changes we were a bit more positive and from the introduction of Morrison we won the game 1-0 although I accept that it was a friendly for Man City at this point.
The goal from open play at least showed that if you pass the ball a few times, get your fullback up the pitch and get numbers into the box you can actually score goals.
I dont think anyone would ever give us much hope away at Man City but I dont accept that we should just turn up with a view to losing by as few goals as possible we might as well have tried playing two up top and lumping it at them over the retreat and surrender approach we tried (AGAIN!) here.
It wouldn't be terrible if the team that ended the 90 started at Swansea - perhaps allowing for GMac and (possibly) Phillips and Rondon to come back in to the attacking roles.
Roll up, bowl a ball, a penny a pitch: step right up and take your best shot
(With apologies to "Fred Heatherton")
Pulis has a lovely bunch of centre-backs
Pulis has a lovely bunch of centre-backs
Tony Mowbray made no changes from the previous game against Portsmouth for the visit to Man City ... oops, ... sorry, that was the much more entertaining pre-game highlights match from a 4-2 loss from the 2008/9 season, although a left-footed Brunt could be observed out on the right flank in that one too. albeit to the right of a midfield containing a decent amount of attacking intent with Koren, Dorrans, Greening and Morrison, of which the latter was to be found on the bench in the 2016/7 version of this fixture.
Of that 2008/9 fixture by the way, Dave Watkin's then regular report, noted:
"A brave effort by Albion against Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium might, on another day, have earned three rare away points. The Baggies matched their millionaire rivals for much of the game but after fighting back to draw level, conceded another goal and, despite frantic attempts, couldn't quite grab a late equaliser or more."
but, back to the present.
Pulis, under huge pressure to find defensive cover for McAuley at such a late and critical stage in the season, moved Dawson to the centre, Nyom to the right and brought loanee Marc Wilson in on the left, whilst in mid-field, Sam Field made way for Yacob, with Chadli coming in for McClean. Kane Wilson would, once again, have the carrot of history dangled in front of him by virtue of being on the bench and so in a position, yet again, to be the first player born in the 21st century to feature in the top flight, should he get on.
Albion's back six prevented Foster needing to make a save until the 13th minute, when our player of the season dived away to his left to ensure that a Kolarov free-kick did go wide, with Chadli's free-kick on 25 mins registering one of only two shots on target but merely requiring the keeper to catch a ball that was hit straight at him.
One minute later, right on cue, with the commentary team pointing out that Man City had done little with the 70% posession that Pulis's game plan had allowed them to build up, and Aguero's flick past Dawson gave de Bruyne a chance to run between his midfield marker, Fletcher, and Nyon in the back line, to the bye-line from where his cross took a touch off Evans across to the middle of the goal where Jesus had got ahead, and goalside, of Wilson for a tap-in from two yards.
From the resulting kick-off, it took Albion a mere 17 seconds to give up posession - although an isolated Rondon may have had a case for a foul as he tired to control Dawson's punt out from the back - and City just double that time to score their second, after they had worked a 4-on-7 in our box, and the ball fell to a fifth player, de Bruyne, on the edge of it, from where he calmly side-footed the ball through all twelve players in front of him, and past Foster.
From their second kick-off in as many minutes, Albion actually passed the ball along the ground and gave Rondon an opportunity to run into the City back-line but Kompany just snuffed him out as he reached the edge of the box.
The second half followed a plot that appeared to give a nod in the direction of Casablanca: "the opposition have had enough shots: warm up the usual suspects", although in between the "starting left-back gets taken off for McClean and Brunt moves to left-back", on 51 minutes, and the "sacrifice" of a defensive midfielder for Morrison, on 64, Toure would find himself free to run in between Fletcher and Yacob and slot past Foster from the edge of the box for three-nil, though of course it wouldn't be Pulis's Albion without a like-for-like swap of HRK for Rondon with 20 minutes or so to go.
Foster, the man who literally has saved our season, would be asked to pull off a fine double-save with fifteen remaining, City breaking away after being gifted posession deep inside their half but, within a minute, Albion produced something for their "long diagonal balls to the edge of the box and feed of the scraps" book, as Nyom's cross from behind the right of the City defence saw HRK stealing a march on a standing Stones and converting from just outside the six-yard-box to give the travelling supporters something to remember this one by.
Pulis's Albion, of course, remain in eight place... no, no, hang on, they actually drop to 9th, below a club, Southampton who, despite our season-long attempts to keep things tight, have conceded two fewer than us whilst scoring just one goal less. Maybe we could have tried something different: maybe we were never destined to find out?
I guess we'll never know.
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated