YAYA TOURE was once again the scourge of Stoke City as his solitary strike earned Manchester City all three points at the Etihad Stadium.
The scorer of the winning goal in the 2011 FA Cup Final, Toure converted Aleksandar Kolarov’s left wing cross with twenty minutes to go to claim victory and end the Potters’ three game unbeaten run in the process.
Mark Hughes’ side will have been disappointed with the final outcome after being well in the game throughout and putting in the Club’s best league performance at the venue to date.
The game plan had made it hard for a Manchester City side that were looking to recover from their defeat to Barcelona in midweek, and the Potters had done well to restrict them to mainly long range attempts.
But Toure’s sixteenth of the season ended any hopes of a first point from Eastlands, whilst Edin Dzeko missed a glorious chance to make it two from close range shortly after.
Hughes had kept faith with the starting eleven that played in the draw against Swansea City at the Britannia Stadium last time out, and they started brightly and positively with Glenn Whelan firing in the first attempt of the game after four minutes.
A break down the left by Erik Pieters culminated in Marko Arnautovic squaring for Whelan, whose shot drew a save from England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
That provided the hosts with the wake-up call that they needed and Alvaro Negredo went inches away from connecting to Kolarov’s left wing cross shortly after, before Asmir Begovic was forced to tip a long range effort from Fernandinho over the bar.
Charlie Adam then latched on to a Jonathan Walters knock down to drag a shot just wide of the post at the other end, before seeing his dangerous free kick flicked on just beyond Hart’s post, as he continued to show his ability in the centre of midfield.
The Scot produced another save from Hart on 21 minutes when he connected to Marko Arnautovic’s lay off to fire a low strike at goal before his through ball then saw Fernandinho earn a yellow card for bringing down Peter Odemwingie on the edge of the area.
Adam could only hit the wall with his attempt on goal from the free kick, whilst the best the hosts could muster was long range attempts from Toure and Samir Nasri as frustration began to sink into their game the further the half went on.
Begovic saw compatriot Dzeko curl a strike wide of his left hand post as the first 45 drew to a close before saving a low Fernandinho effort right on half-time.
Signs that it wasn’t to be Dzeko’s day were creeping in after the restart as he fired well over the bar following a turn in the area, whilst jeers of frustration began to emanate from the home supporters on 67 minutes as Stevan Jovetic’s 30 yard strike was gathered at the second attempt by Begovic with no blue shirts gambling for a rebound.
Any Stoke hopes of taking advantage of a Manchester City off-day were ended moments later though when Toure, allowed to roam forward following Javier Garcia’s introduction for fellow substitute Jovetic, steered a low cross from the overlapping Kolarov into the back of the net on 70.
Dzeko’s chance to rubberstamp the victory then came and went as he miskicked a Jesus Navas cross from the right when unmarked two yards out moments later.
Garcia forced Begovic to push his 20-yard strike around the post on 77 minutes before Toure went in search of a second, only to see his strike superbly blocked by Erik Pieters.
Those defensive contributions may have been worth even more when Stephen Ireland popped up at the other end to strike at goal late on, but when Pieters’ deep cross from the left evaded the head of Peter Crouch to fall to the Irishman, he could only fire wide of the near post with his quick-fire attempt.