Manchester City FC v West Bromwich Albion in the Barclays Premier League on Tuesday 7 May 2013 - Manchester City FC

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    City  1

    Dzeko 34mins

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  • 07 May 2013 21:45
  • Posted by @markbooth_mcfc

As they did in 2011, City signed off for their FA Cup final with a narrow 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

Edin Dzeko scored his third goal against West Brom this season to secure victory in the Blues' final engagement before Wembley.

The Bosnian’s gorgeous strike after 34 minutes was enough to seal a fifth successive home win and to put his side within touching distance of a second place finish.

If the goalless draw at Swansea was the result of two teams lacking an immediate and obvious challenge at the end a long Premier League season, there was far more for supporters to get their teeth into in this rearranged clash with Steve Clarke's talented outfit.

With more than half an eye on Saturday’s trip to Wembley, Roberto Mancini shuffled his pack and gave some of the fringe players an opportunity to force their way into his thoughts ahead of the showdown with Wigan.

With second place and automatic entry into the Champions League group stages not yet assured, it was still an experienced line-up, with Micah Richards captaining a side which included Aleksandar KolarovJavi GarciaJack RodwellKolo Toure and Joleon Lescott.

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Only Joe HartJames Milner and Samir Nasri were retained from Saturday’s goalless draw at Swansea, meaning that Carlos Tevez returned to partner Dzeko up front.

A strong bench featured Sergio AgueroDavid Silva and Matija Nastasic, while Pablo ZabaletaYaya Toure and Vincent Kompany were all given the night off.

In the opposition dugout, Clarke shared some of his counterpart’s taste for experimentation, making four changes from the side that lost dramatically to relegation-battling Wigan on Saturday.

When City beat the visitors at the Hawthorns back in October, they got off to a horrendous start when Milner was shown a straight red in the first-half and Romelu Lukaku almost made it another miserable opening for the Blues with a couple of good chances to open the scoring in the first five minutes.

Hart was down quickly to save a powerful drive after a minute and was grateful to see the Belgian’s second shot miss his far post by half a yard moments later.

There was more bite and fizz in the opening 15 minutes than in the entire 90 turgid minutes in South Wales at the weekend, with Rodwell flying into challenges, Nasri flitting mischievously between the lines and Tevez his usual fiery bundle of energy.

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West Brom’s menace on the counter prompted Mancini to change things around after little more than 20 minutes, switching to his oft-debated 3-5-2 system, with Richards slotting in alongside Toure and Lescott at the heart of defence.

It was a decision that altered the game almost immediately, with City’s attacks taking on a fluency previously missing, overloading the Baggies defence, causing the influence of a certain Argentine forward to increase with each passing minute.

Tevez has scored three goals in his last four games at the Etihad Stadium and it was so nearly four in five when the 29-year old dipped inside compatriot Claudio Yacob and unleashed a ferocious 25-yard effort which rattled off the crossbar.

City were pinning West Brom into their own third for the first time and it was no surprise that when the goal came, it was Carlos at the heart of the move.

His pinpoint cross from the right was steered invitingly into the path of Dzeko who met it first time on his in-step with an instinctive side-foot thrust which was too hot for Myhill.

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Once that first had gone in, opportunities for City to double their advantage came thick and fast before the break.

Milner found the outside of the post with a drilled effort from the edge of the box, Rodwell had a volley blocked on the line and blazed another good chance over from close range.

However, it was Lukaku who reminded City of the narrowness of their lead when he burst clear in first-half injury time and only the quick thinking of the onrushing Hart prevented an equaliser.

You could copy and paste Mancini’s quotes on the importance of taking chances when on top from numerous post-match interviews this season and he would have spent the half-time break reinforcing this point again to his players.

Marcus Rosenberg re-emphasised this message four minutes into the second half when he thumped a free-kick against the crossbar and a minute later, James Morrison brought the very best out of England’s no.1 with a shot that looked destined for the bottom corner until Hart’s fingertips intervened.

Despite being under pressure for long stretches of the second half, City had chances of their own to kill the game – most notably when Rodwell drew a wonderful point-blank save from Myhill on the hour.

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In the face of the away side’s ongoing menace, Mancini reverted back to four in defence with 15 minutes to go, withdrawing man-of-the-match Rodwell for Maicon and bringing Barry into midfield in place of Nasri.

With nothing to lose, Clarke gambled by throwing Shane Long on alongside Lukaku after 80 minutes and the former Reading man nearly scored with his first touch, blasting into the side-netting from the edge of the box.

That was to be the last threatening moment from the visitors and, if anything, City could have extended their lead through Dzeko and Barry in the dying minutes but ultimately they had to be content with the one-goal winning margin.

City now need one more win to confirm second place.

Wembley is calling.

Match details

Tuesday 07 May 2013, 7:45PM

Etihad Stadium Att:46,158
Barclays Premier League

Referee:
Phil Dowd

Teams

Manchester City:

Hart, Richards (c), Kolo Toure, Lescott, Kolarov, Garcia, Rodwell (Maicon 75mins), Milner, Tevez (Razak 90mins), Nasri (Barry 73mins), Dzeko

Unused subs:
Pantilimon, Nastasic, Silva, Aguero

Bookings:
Kolarov 24mins, Nasri 65mins

West Brom:

Myhill; Tamas (Long 80mins), Dawson, Olsson; Jones, Mulumbu, Morrison, Yacob (Dorrans 70mins), Ridgewell; Rosenberg (Odemwingie 75mins), Lukaku.

Unused subs:
Foster, Popov, Reid, McAuley

Bookings:
Yacob 65mins

All times are taken from a live feed and are approximate at time of publishing.

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