Manchester City's Barclays Premier League title hopes were given a boost with a 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion.
Having been beaten by Liverpool last weekend before dropping points at home to Sunderland in a surprise 2-2 draw in midweek, City could ill-afford another slip-up at the Etihad Stadium.
While Manuel Pellegrini's men were not always at their fluent best, goals from the Argentinian trio of Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and Martin Demichelis secured a welcome victory, leaving City a point adrift of second-placed Chelsea and six behind leaders Liverpool, with a match in hand on both.
David Silva's late withdrawal on a stretcher provided the only concern for City, who made a strong start and took the lead three minutes in when Zabaleta's flying header evaded the attempted clearance of Craig Dawson. The City right-back was quick to react after Ben Foster had parried a shot from Aguero and the City striker added a second goal seven minutes later.
Graham Dorrans produced a stunning half-volley to keep the visitors in the game during a frantic opening, but Demichelis restored his side's two-goal lead before the interval.
The win keeps City in with a fighting chance of claiming the title, while West Brom remain two places and three points above the relegation zone having played one match fewer than the three sides immediately beneath them.
City, who brought Silva, Gael Clichy and Edin Dzeko into their starting XI, made an ideal start when Zabaleta followed up Aguero's saved effort to head home and settle any nerves at the Etihad. Aguero spooned another effort over the bar on only his second start after returning from injury, but soon shook off any rustiness to score his first goal since January, a low shot from outside the area, beating Foster as the goalkeeper dived to his left.
West Brom came close through Stephane Sessegnon's powerful drive before City gave their visitors the opportunity to pull a goal back. A poorly executed free-kick routine led to City conceding possession and, when West Brom broke, Matej Vydra slipped in Dorrans, who juggled the ball superbly past Clichy and half-volleyed home.
Despite struggling to find the fluency they had demonstrated early on, City scored again nine minutes before the break. Demichelis joined countrymen Zabaleta and Aguero in getting on the scoresheet, finding the net from close range after Vincent Kompany had flicked a corner into his path.
Kompany made a fine block to deny Sessegnon before half-time, but the second period provided fewer chances. In stark contrast to Wednesday's draw with Sunderland, there was little late drama for City, who appeared comfortable as the game moved towards a conclusion.
However, their evening was soured when Silva was taken off injured with his right lower leg in a brace following a challenge with Billy Jones.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "We played a very good first 45 minutes. Maybe the goal they scored made us a bit nervous and in the second half we were not so clear with the ball. We keep the result and that is the most important thing.
If Liverpool win 14 games in a row they deserve to be champions but our duty is to obligate them to win all their games. We'll see what they do but our duty is to win all our games. In the second half we tried to keep the result but the team played the way we have the whole year.
"[David Silva] was playing the games before with the problem in his ankle and that's why he couldn't play against Sunderland but we'll see on Tuesday with the doctor what injury he has."
West Brom head coach Pepe Mel: "We were against the best squad in the Premier League and going behind in the third minute made it difficult but we went on to have a good 70 minutes
"[The next match v West Ham] is a cup final for us, the game of the year. What we've got to do is focus on beating West Ham, if not it will be much more difficult. We've been playing under pressure all year and we're getting towards the end and we're going to achieve our objective."
|03 May 2014||v Everton (A)|
|27 Apr 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|11 May 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|07 May 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|26 Dec 2014||v West Brom (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Man City (H)|