Manchester - Manchester City will be top of the Premier League on Christmas Day for
the first time in 82 years after two goals from Sergio Aguero and
another from Adam Johnson allowed them to record a routine 3-0 victory
over Stoke and complete a remarkable 2011 at their home ground.
The Premier League leaders have won 17 and drawn one of their 18 league
games at Eastlands in the calendar year, a dominant record which Stoke
never looked capable of challenging.
With former England forward Peter Crouch missing from the Stoke line-up
after being sent to hospital on Tuesday for precautionary tests
following complaints of headaches and dizziness, the visitors faced an
uphill task and packed their midfield with five bodies.
It proved a futile gesture from Stoke manager Tony Pulis who swiftly saw
the game degenerate into a training ground exercise with City in
complete control and the visitors rarely breaking over the halfway line.
The only surprise was that City could not add to the two goals claimed
by Aguero, his 14th of the season, and Johnson, starting a league game
for the first time in over two months, in the first period.
In the 28th minute, the interminable City pressure culminated in David
Silva playing through an intricate pass which allowed Yaya Toure to
drill the ball low across the face of the six-yard area.
Defender Vincent Kompany almost made a telling near-post touch as Stoke
goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen parried the ball on the goal-line, presenting
Aguero with the simplest of tap-ins, albeit one from a suspiciously
There was no dispute over City's second goal, after 36 minutes, which owed much to Stoke's defensive incompetence.
Dean Whitehead stopped Silva in his tracks in the Stoke area but failed
to find Jonathan Walters with his clearance, Johnson collecting the
loose ball and depositing it into the bottom left-hand corner of the
goal from 20 yards.
The goals had been coming, from the 15th minute when Yaya Toure found
Johnson just inside the area and the England winger unleashed a superb
shot which deflected off Marc Wilson and struck the stanchion.
Three minutes later, Samir Nasri played a tidy one-two with Sergio
Aguero, darting into the area as he did so and placing a shot just wide.
And, before the halftime whistle, Johnson sent a long-range free-kick
around the wall of Stoke defenders, forcing Sorensen into conceding a
corner with a sharp dive low to the foot of his right-hand post.
Twice in the opening few minutes of the second half, Aguero threatened
with shots that were well handled by Sorensen, the latter after he cut
in impressively from the by-line.
But, after 54 minutes, the contest was well and truly over after Aguero
notched his second goal of the evening, one created after Yaya Toure
dispossessed Wilson Palacios in midfield.
Gareth Barry's accurate pass found Nasri inside the Stoke area and his
cross picked out Aguero who had another routine task in guiding the ball
into an empty net.
Aguero continued his one-man onslaught, forcing Sorensen into a save
from 18 yards and then missing a glorious opening, steering the ball
wide with just the goalkeeper to beat from a Yaya Toure through ball.
Wilson's tame 61st minute header forced City goalkeeper Joe Hart into
his first action of the evening, although the effort presented no real
danger, before an Aguero through ball found Gareth Barry for a near-post
shot which Sorensen blocked well.
City substitute James Milner had City's final chance, deep in
injury-time, with a curling shot which Sorensen dived well to smother
while Stoke, in complete contrast, had failed to register a single
attempt on target throughout the preceding 90 minutes.