x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Goals continue to be a staple of Manchester City's diet

Roberto Mancini's men extended their prolific start to the season by scoring five goals, taking their overall tally to 48 in 14 league games. Their relish for goals is undiminished even when the game is won, with late strikes by Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson turning it into a rout.

Even with what seems like the entire Norwich City defence around him, Sergio Aguero, centre, could not be stopped.
Even with what seems like the entire Norwich City defence around him, Sergio Aguero, centre, could not be stopped.

MANCHESTER // When a fixture list reads Liverpool, Arsenal, Norwich City, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Arsenal again, one match stands out in a perverse fashion. Lacking the glamour of the other games, Manchester City nonetheless turned the visit of Norwich City into a highlight in its own right.

Roberto Mancini's men extended their prolific start to the season by scoring five goals, taking their overall tally to 48 in 14 league games.

Their relish for goals is undiminished even when the game is won, late strikes by Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson turning it into a rout. If the eventual score line was harsh on Norwich, there was no doubt the result was right.

"They're a top, top side," said the beaten manager, Paul Lambert. "Their movement is first class."

He may have had the three kindred spirits in mind, the short, sharp trio of Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and David Silva, each capable of interchanging positions in and around the penalty area.

The Argentine and the Frenchman scored the crucial goals and Yaya Toure the third before the final flourish.

And yet, for half an hour, the league leaders were smothered by Norwich's blanket defence.

"It was always going to take a little bit of brilliance in a tight area to open the game up," said David Platt, the City coach. "We know we've got that type of player out there."

That was illustrated quite beautifully by Aguero. The ability to excel despite close attention is one hallmark of a world-class striker. Another is the calmness to take his time in a crowded penalty area. Aguero demonstrated both when Micah Richards picked him out.

With Leon Barnett at his back, with others joining the hulking central defender, the diminutive Argentine spun sharply, glimpsed half a chance to shoot and poked the ball into the opposite corner of the goal.

Individual inspiration from Aguero but, Lambert argued, unconvincing defending from his side.

He was critical of their efforts for the first two goals.

"The first one was poor and the second one should never have gone the distance it did," he said.

Indeed, it was not even a shot.

Nasri has been more supplier than scorer in his City career, a trend he intended to continue when he did score.

Yet when no one applied a touch to his free kick - bewilderingly, in the case of defender Marc Tierney - goalkeeper John Ruddy ended up palming it into the net.

That was his third of the season.

Toure's fourth followed, the Ivorian meeting Silva's pass with a precise finish.

Throughout their rise from League One, late goals have been a sign of Norwich's spirit.

Another followed when Steve Morison headed in Grant Holt's cross. Yet the striker had spurned a more meaningful chance 10 minutes in and, as City reeled off a 12th straight home league win, his belated strike led to reprisals.

Two substitutes scored; indeed, two combined for the fourth goal, Johnson setting up Balotelli, whose initial effort was pushed up in the air by Ruddy.

The defiantly different Italian shouldered the ball over the line.

"A terrific goal," said Platt, referring more to the build-up of the ever excellent Silva and Gael Clichy. With a whip of his left foot, Johnson made it five.

What could have been a mundane match became another memorable afternoon.

 

sports@thenational.ae.