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Manchester City racked up 100 goals for the season as they overwhelmed Cardiff City 4-2 in a pulsating contest.
Edin Dzeko's 14th-minute opener ensured City reached their century in 34 matches across all competitions – quicker than any team in the Barclays Premier League era. But Cardiff refused to lie down, with Craig Noone a constant menace and unfortunate not to add to his 29th-minute equaliser. Jesus Navas quickly restored the home side’s advantage before Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero added a late gloss to the scoreline. The away side grabbed a second in injury-time as Fraizer Campbell scored from a corner, as he had done twice against Manuel Pellegrini’s side in August's reverse meeting.
Aguero started on the bench after his goalscoring return from a calf injury against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup in midweek, while Aron Gunnarsson, a goalscorer in Cardiff’s 3-2 win over Pellegrini's men earlier in the season, was included in one of four changes made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The hosts might have brought their century up within the first minute when Kevin McNaughton bundled through Dzeko as the Bosnia striker looked to convert David Silva’s left-wing cross. Navas prodded the loose ball wide. Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall appeared primed for a busy afternoon as he beat a Dzeko shot away before reacting well as recalled centre-back Ben Turner almost put Navas's centre through his own net.
Given the swashbuckling nature of City's attacking play this season, it was perhaps inevitable their 100th goal would arrive in scruffy fashion. Silva controlled Aleksandar Kolarov's throw-in and spun his way into the Cardiff box to tee up Dzeko, whose scuffed effort crept inside the far post. McNaughton hacked clear but the Goal Decision System confirmed City had taken the lead.
With Pellegrini's side having clicked into gear, Cardiff stunned the Etihad Stadium crowd with a superb 29th-minute equaliser. Gunnarsson deftly touched Kevin Theophile-Catherine's pass into the path of Noone, who skipped beyond Vincent Kompany to produce an assured low finish.
The Welsh side enjoyed parity for little more than three minutes as Dzeko collected Toure's through-ball and evaded the attentions of Turner and Steven Caulker for the onrushing Navas to side-foot home.
Joe Hart was forced to beat away a deflected 50th-minute drive from Jordon Mutch and Cardiff’s enterprising start to the second half continued as Pablo Zabaleta was forced into a last-ditch header to deny Campbell. Silva could have extended the home team’s lead following an exquisite one-touch layoff from Dzeko, but Pellegrini had seen enough with an hour played to bring Aguero on for Alvaro Negredo.
Still Cardiff pressed, and Noone again left Kompany in his wake to draw a fingertip save from Hart. Aguero's introduction was ultimately decisive as he exchanged passes with Toure, who smashed in left-footed to conclude a trademark storming run from deep, and the roles were reversed for the striker to put his 22nd goal of the campaign into the top corner. Campbell's late strike proved nothing more than a consolation.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "Maybe I am not 100% happy because we conceded the second goal in the last minute but we scored four and missed five or six clear chances so if we continue to play like we are, we are always going to score more than we concede.
"We are playing fantastic football at the moment. We play with fantastic intensity and that is how we must continue. The best way to play is the way we are playing now. I know it is easier to go back with 10 players in our box and try and have a couple of counter-attacks, but that is not my way, it is not the style I think this club wants.
"It is impossible for me to have a headache when you have three strikers (Aguero, Negredo and Dzeko) playing at the level they are at the moment."
Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "We did feel that after about 60 minutes we were in the game. The crowd was maybe turning a little against them and you start wondering if we could get something from the game, but obviously they have quality players who scored their extra two goals.
"They have been dominant, our gameplan was to start on the front foot, be aggressive but we played against a very good team. When you are in the run of form like they are, they just go into the next game expecting to win, so good luck to them.
"We can stay up, no doubt about that. The league got tighter today - from bottom to 10th it is five points. We will look to improve. Parts of all the performances have been very good - for half an hour we did very well today but for two or three minutes they blitzed us.
"You have to enjoy life, these kind of performances won't make me look older because at times we looked like a proper team."
|29 Jan 2014||v Spurs (A)|
|03 Feb 2014||v Chelsea (H)|
|08 Feb 2014||v Norwich (A)|
|22 Feb 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|15 Mar 2014||v Hull (A)|
|22 Mar 2014||v Fulham (H)|