Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats; manager reaction below.
After relinquishing their Barclays Premier League crown to cross-city rivals Manchester United earlier in the week, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure lifted mood at Manchester City with a couple of outstanding goals to defeat West Ham United 2-1.
With thoughts now turning to potential summer signings, the City players made it clear to manager Roberto Mancini that he clearly has plenty of quality at his disposal already, and the delightful efforts Aguero and Toure contribution to the entertainment underlined the fact they remain a force.
There was an unexpected post-script to the day though, with Joe Hart’s mistake allowing Andy Carroll to net an injury-time consolation amid fears the England keeper had suffered an injury himself.
Mancini implored his players not to feel sorry for themselves in his programme notes; the loss of their title five games before the end of the season has to motivate the team next season.
Few teams are capable of the move that brought Aguero their opener.
Yaya Toure first exchanged passes with Samir Nasri before the France midfielder played a sublime one-two with David Silva inside the Hammers box.
Nasri crossed low to the near post, where Aguero turned home his 15th goal of the season.
It was brilliant stuff, if simple in its execution.
But where was this form at Southampton, Sunderland, QPR or any of the other venues where the Blues have inexplicably dropped precious points?
They nearly made it two almost immediately as Jussi Jaaskelainen failed to hold Nasri’s 20-yard strike and Pablo Zabaleta closed in.
Jaaskelainen redeemed himself though, turning away Zabaleta’s shot from point blank range.
Other than that, the first-half was a tight affair, with both sides struggling to get the ball out of midfield.
Half way through the first half applause for Marc-Vivien Foe, who died 10 years ago, filled the Etihad as two of the midfielder’s former clubs remembered the Cameroonian international.
Returning after three matches out with a hamstring injury, Silva did his best to prompt City into life, setting Aguero up with a chance he would normally have buried but instead scuffed into the ground and onto a post.
For their part, West Ham played like a side whose return to the top flight has been consolidated by a secure mid-table finish.
Sam Allardyce was desperately trying to encourage players to drive forward and though they did return from the halt-time break with a renewed sense of purpose, it was City who almost extended their lead at the start of the second period as Carlos Tevez’s shot was blocked by Winston Reid.
Sergio Aguero set up compatriot Tevez with an astute cut-back, only for Joey O’Brien’s last-ditch tackle to deny the hosts.
Tevez turned provider for Nasri shortly afterwards, but with the goal gaping the man who left Arsenal two years ago and won a title at the first time of asking attempted to prod home with his right foot and missed the ball altogether.
On the touchline, Mancini’s face was a picture as he slumped into his seat.
Frustration turned to elation 10 minutes from time as Toure provided another moment of magic, creating space for himself on the edge of the area before smacking a clinical effort into the top corner.
In its own way, it was as wonderful as City’s opener.
And the outgoing champions nearly added further gloss to their day when Aguero was inches away after turning home the loose ball after Jaaskelainen had parried Zabaleta’s shot.
The last action involved Hart though, who had gone down with an injury a couple of minutes earlier and still seemed to be bothered by it as he inexplicably allowed Carroll’s shot to roll through his legs.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: I'm happy for this performance. I'm unhappy for the goals we missed as we could have scored more goals but this has been our problem this season. I'm also happy we remembered Marc-Vivien Foe, who was a great player for Manchester City.
"West Ham is a good team and have had a good season but today we deserved to score four, five or six goals. Now it is important to finish well in this championship. We want to win the next game and keep hold of the second position and try to win the FA [Cup] final."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: "I was just concerned about the players over respecting the opposition in the first half and having plenty of possession but just giving it straight back and sitting in. We had to improve on that from the very start of that second half and we got in their final third and we persisted to do that throughout the whole of the game. But as our problem has been all season, as we know, is creating chances and not enough goals scored. We have the lowest record of goalscoring in the Premier League. I know Andy has got one near the end which has got one on his tally which is great but that perhaps should have come a little sooner."
"We always stayed in the game and our second-half performance was pleasing by the fact that this is a top quality team that has had millions and millions of pounds spent on it and we've managed to get to their level on occasion in the second half and cause them a few problems. The second-half performance was more like us and, in the end, it was a stunning goal from Yaya Toure which secured the game for them. Our goals away have been poor this year and we must improve on that next season. We'll hopefully address that in the summer but before that we have got three important games and we will try to keep improving our performances."
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|22 Mar 2014||v Man City (H)|