Manchester City 3
Y Toure 30, 71, Balotelli (pen) 45+3
El Madrigal, Villarreal
Manchester City rose to second place in Champions League Group A as they cruised past a depleted and deflated Villarreal side. A brace from Yaya Toure and a disputed penalty from the enigmatic Mario Balotelli were just rewards for Roberto Mancini’s men in a game in which they were rarely troubled.
The ease of City’s victory made a mockery of the Yellow Submarine’s impressive six-match unbeaten record against English opposition at their intimate El Madrigal home. They looked a shadow of the side that pushed City all the way at the Etihad Stadium two weeks ago thanks in no small part to the fact they were bereft of some of their biggest stars. Cani, Christian Zapata, Bruno, Nilmar and most notably Guiseppe Rossi missed the game through injury and their decimated side never looked like competing against their illustrious visitors.
The game was a slow starter as City tentatively edged their way into the action knowing a defeat could very much leave their qualification hopes in the balance. Villarreal began with 20-year-old Joselu as a lone front-man and failed to offer any potent threat going forward throughout. By the time Jonathan de Guzman had blazed over their only meaningful chance on the brink of half-time the game had almost slipped through their grasp as Toure netted for the first time since his goal in the FA Cup final.
Originally playing in a deeper midfield position alongside Nigel de Jong, Toure was afforded far too much space going forward by their all too generous hosts and after receiving a pass from the magical David Silva he produced a sublime side-footed finish from the edge of the area that Diego Lopez had no chance of saving.
It was the first time in four Champions League outings where City had scored the first goal and just after de Guzman’s aforementioned wayward effort they were to double their tally. With time ticking away in the first period Balotelli tumbled under a very soft push from Mateo Musacchio and a spot-kick was swiftly awarded. A volatile crowd that were already incandescent with their side’s performance were given extra reason to rage at the decision but were silenced when the Italian sent Lopez the wrong way with the calmest of penalties.
The second-half was merely a precession. Toure danced through Villarreal’s timid defence with 20 minutes remaining to grab his second of the match with the hosts constantly kept at arms’ length by a City side clearly brimming with confidence. Mancini introduced Adam Johnson and Sergio Aguero as he trawled through the riches of his talented squad to control a game that was slowly fizzling out.
The only sour note was when Silva was removed from the fray due to what seemed a back injury with the Citizens’ fans surely grimacing along with the talented Spaniard, who left the field of play in a significant amount of pain.
However it could not ruin City’s night as they sealed a win that’s ease was beyond their wildest dreams. A win away at Napoli on matchday five will seal their progress to the knockout stages with early talk of a possible quadruple beginning to surface.
Villarreal CF (4-2-3-1) Lopez; Mario, Gonzalo, Musacchio, Catala; Marchena, de Guzman (Angel 76) ; Valero, Wakaso (Bordas 76), Perez (Oriol 84); Joselu
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Savic, Clichy; de Jong, Y Toure (Aguero 74); Milner, Silva (Johnson 65), Nasri; Balotelli (Kolarov 82)
Did you know… Villarreal’s 18-man match-day squad boasted just three first-team goals between them.
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