STOKE CITY’s wait for a first league double of the season goes on after Manchester City avenged their 1-0 reverse at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the season in stunning style on Wednesday evening.
Mame Diouf's sensational effort in Manchester claimed maximum spoils for the Potters, and had the hosts been able to capitalise on an incredibly dominant opening 30 minutes at the Britannia Stadium then the outcome of this game could have been identical.
As it was Mark Hughes’ side will feel aggrieved not to have established a one goal, or even two goal cushion at the half-time interval, prior to the Citizens late show of dominance.
Opportunities came and went for the home side during the initial exchanges with Steven Nzonzi and Victor Moses both going close, whilst James Milner appeared to have handled Peter Crouch’s goal-bound header on the line.
Crouch then had an effort chalked off for offside, moments before Sergio Aguero emphatically put the visitors ahead from an acute angle.
Crouch, who netted against Newcastle United three days earlier, levelled matters with a sublime header following Marko Arnautovic’s stunning centre, and there was no disputing his effort this time round having clearly met the ball in an onside position.
Pablo Zabaleta should have put his side ahead at the break after being picked out unmarked inside the 6-yard box, but he somehow managed to drag his effort wide of the post with Asmir Begovic helpless.
The start of the second half kicked-off in pretty much the same vein as the first, with the hosts seeking an avenue through the Citizens rear-guard in a bid to further dent their title aspirations.
Unfortunately, once Manuel Pellegrini’s side had taken the lead for a second time in the evening, there was never really an avenue back into the clash for the home side.
Milner could have seen his evening ended prematurely had referee Lee Mason adjudged him to have handled Crouch’s effort earlier in the evening, but it was he who did the damage ten minutes after the restart with a classy header to round off a superb passage of play.
Geoff Cameron, one of three changes to the starting eleven along with Crouch and Arnautovic, brought down Samir Nasri inside the 18-yard box shortly after leaving the official with no option but to hand the title-chasers a penalty.
Aguero, who had another goal of his own chalked off moments before the interval for handball, stood up and coolly dispatched his effort into the bottom right had corner of the net for his second of the night.
It was Nasri who added a fourth with a superb individual effort from 20-yards 15 minutes from time, yet there was even time for more drama as Mame Diouf was brought down inside the box en-route to netting for his side, although the referee opted to wave play on.
Substitute Steve Sidwell lashed a late effort wide, whilst Begovic came out on top of his close friend Edin Dzeko in a late one-on-one.
Right at the death, there was a moment to savour for youngster Oliver Shenton, who stepped off the bench to make his Premier League debut - replacing Nzonzi.