STOKE CITY threatened a second-half comeback against Manchester City on Saturday afternoon but unfortunately fell short as the Citizens maintained their 100 percent winning start to the campaign.
Sergio Aguero’s controversial penalty put Pep Guardiola’s side ahead midway through the first-half before the Argentinean doubled their advantage soon after with his eighth goal in seven fixtures between the two sides.
Referee Mike Dean, who adjudged Ryan Shawcross to have manhandled Nicolas Otamendi in the build-up to Aguero’s spot kick, was in the thick of the action once more shortly after the interval.
The official evened things up by awarding the home side a penalty of their own for an almost identical incident involving England international Raheem Sterling and, ironically, the Potters skipper.
Spanish forward Bojan displayed absolutely no nerves as he dispatched his effort to Willy Caballero’s right, leaving the newly-installed Citizens number one helpless.
All of a sudden the game was back on a knife-edge and the hosts sniffed blood, although unfortunately a second goal proved elusive despite the best attempts of Marko Arnautovic and the impressive home debutant Joe Allen.
Both managers mate changes as the second-half wore on in a bid to affect the game in their side’s favour, and sadly it was Guardiola’s introduction of Nolito and Kelechi Iheanacho that had the biggest factor on the outcome of the game.
The pair added pace and flair to the Blues frontline and linked-up to devastating affect to all but put the game to bed with four minutes remaining - Nolito tapping home from close-range following good work from Iheanacho.
The Spanish forward, who arrived at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the summer, notched his second of the afternoon and third of the campaign deep into stoppage time, after being teed up by Sterling.
Mark Hughes will be left to reflect on a frustrating defeat for his side, but will be hoping to have the likes of Jack Butland, Glen Johnson and Sheridan Shaqiri - all of whom were missing through injury - available for next weekend’s trip to Everton.
JUSTICE OR INJUSTICE?
Controversy rained at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon as Mike Dean set an almighty precedent for the campaign in awarding two dubious penalties either side of the half-time interval.
Firstly, the official pointed to the spot midway through the opening period when Ryan Shawcross had his hands on Nicolas Otamendi - an almost identical incident to what the skipper was punished for a couple of years earlier against Swansea City.
He then evened things up almost immediately after the restart, but only after opting not to point to the spot right on the stroke of half-time following a clumsy challenge from Aleksander Kolarov on Joe Allen inside the 18-yard-box.
This time it was Raheem Sterling who was accused of pulling the shirt of Shawcross - leaving the referee with no option but to award the penalty having already set his stall out earlier in the afternoon.
It remains to be seen whether officials around the country are as consistent with their decision-making, because if they are then penalties could become a far more regular occurrence throughout the 2016/17 campaign.
ALLEN’S IMPRESSIVE HOME DEBUT...
Joe Allen was handed his maiden Premier League start for the Club following his £13M summer switch from Liverpool, and he gave supporters plenty of encouragement with an impressive showing in the heart of midfield.
The Welsh international shone for his country during this summer’s European Championships with his tenacity and quick-closing down of opponents key to their sensational run to the Semi-Finals.
Those traits were evident for the Potters at the bet365 Stadium as the man-of-the-match wasted no time in pressurising the visitors two attacking midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
He won a number of key duals in his side’s own half, especially during the early exchanges as Pep Guardiola’s men looked to assert themselves on the hosts.
In fact, no player on the pitch attempted more tackles or made more interceptions than the former Liverpool ace, whilst his 72 touches of the ball was bettered only by Erik Pieters in the Potters starting eleven.
Whilst the result of the game was disappointing the performance of Allen was undoubtedly one of the brightest parts of the day for Mark Hughes and the home supporters.
Egyptian protege Ramadan was given his first taste of English football as Mark Hughes introduced him from the bench late on in the match.
The summer recruit from Al Ahly looked comfortable on his Premier League bow, and appeared to have several tricks up his sleeve out on the left hand side of midfield.
His pace and ability on the ball was evident - proven by the fact that he completed his one and only dribble attempt against experienced full-back Pablo Zabaleta.
The 19-year-old could well be given his first start for the Potters in Tuesday evening’s EFL Cup Second round fixture against Stevenage Borough.