x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mame Biram Diouf brings back bad memories for Manchester City in Stoke loss

While it was an individual effort, this was very much a team’s triumph. Stoke worked ferociously hard, defended with both commitment and discipline and counter-attacked quickly and intelligently.

Manchester City enjoyed 73 per cent possession despite their struggles but were undone by the counter attack from Mame Biram Diouf. Carl Court / AFP
Manchester City enjoyed 73 per cent possession despite their struggles but were undone by the counter attack from Mame Biram Diouf. Carl Court / AFP

Manchester City’s past is a tumultuous, odd affair and, for 90 minutes, they were transported back to it.

It was not just former manager Mark Hughes’s successful return to the Etihad Stadium that brought back memories of bygone days.

This was the sort of result that was once entirely typical of a pratfall-prone club. Now, it is a rarity when visitors triumph on their turf and rarer still when they are rank underdogs.

Yet, while manager Manuel Pellegrini’s team had 73 per cent of possession, Stoke City’s 1-0 victory was fully deserved. The Premier League champions were nowhere near their best. A wonderful win was sealed in glorious fashion by Mame Biram Diouf.

The former Manchester United man had not scored in his previous two games for Stoke. Nor, indeed, had the team found the net in their six league trips to the Etihad Stadium.

Both accounts were opened spectacularly as Diouf counter-attacked from a corner, holding off Aleksandar Kolarov, slipping the ball through Fernandinho’s legs and angling a shot past Joe Hart after an 80-yard run.

“An outstanding goal,” said Hughes, who signed the Senegalese from Hannover. “He gives us something we didn’t have last year, which is pace and power on the break.”

While it was an individual effort, this was very much a team’s triumph. Stoke worked ferociously hard, defended with both commitment and discipline and counter-attacked quickly and intelligently.

“I am just delighted for my team and my club,” said Hughes, rejecting talk of revenge. “They have enjoyed a fantastic goal and a great performance.”

Few at the Etihad Stadium wish the Welshman’s reign as coach, which concluded with his sacking in December 2009, was longer, but that should not preclude them from admiring his organisational prowess with this Stoke side.

Collectively, they were terrific, and individuals excelled. Peter Crouch led the line with a deft touch and a willing spirit.

The newcomer Victor Moses ran at defenders. Right-back Phil Bardsley proved both a supply line and a solid stopper. Captain Ryan Shawcross marshalled the back four.

They were aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty when Diouf was tripped by Kolarov on the edge of the box.

It meant City’s complaints, when Erik Pieters seemed to foul Yaya Toure in the 87th minute, should be put into context. There could have been a spot kick apiece.

“So we would have won anyway,” Hughes said, smiling.

Pellegrini was phlegmatic. “These games always happen once a year,” he said after his second league defeat at the Etihad Stadium. “It was too easy the way they scored the goal in a counter-attack, from a corner, he ran 70 metres to score. We didn’t play well in a creative way.”

Only one move showcased City at their finest, when the quicksilver Sergio Aguero veered into the Stoke box, the overlapping Kolarov missed and Toure lifted a shot against the bar. That incident apart, they lacked rhythm and potency.

This was a strangely insipid display, an unwanted echo of the anti-climaxes that pockmarked their past.

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