Manchester City vs West Bromwich Albion: Match Report

Another abject display by Manchester City saw them somehow drop yet more points at home, this time to a West Brom side which failed to have a shot on target after the ninth minute of the match.

The same attacking issues seem to haunt City in every Premier League fixture, but this is a game for which there can be no excuses for not winning.

Pre-match, you would have imagined the Baggies would need to take all chances that fell their way to get something from the game.

So when a lucky ricochet off the leg of Joao Cancelo found Karlan Grant in on goal in just the ninth minute, the striker’s poor attempt- which saw Ederson make a comfortable save- seemed like it could prove costly.

On the half hour mark, that fear seemed to be proved correct.

A quick pass down the right side of the defence by Rodri found Raheem Sterling in space for the first time. Showcasing his excellent balance, the winger cut the ball back from the touchline and found the unmarked Ilkay Gundogan to power home.

Virtually from the restart, Conor Gallagher curled a long range effort just wide. From there, however, City seemed to start finding the going easier. Cancelo had two attempts- one well struck from range but straight down Sam Johnstone’s throat, and then a volley from a clever Kevin de Bruyne corner which he shinned wide.

A West Brom equaliser seemed unlikely. Just as with their early chance though, West Brom were to benefit from a serious stroke of luck right before halftime.

A debatable freekick for a tackle on Grady Diangana by Cancelo was swung in and half cleared by the City defence. After several deflections, the ball found Semi Ajayi on the edge of the box. Nathan Ake allowed the centre back to swivel and shoot, but the shot was heading well wide. However, that was before the ball struck the unfortunate Ruben Dias to completely wrongfoot Ederson, and nestle in the back of the net.

Improbably, the scores were level at the break.

Half time: Manchester City 1-1 West Brom

The second half quickly became a clear affair. City would have all of the ball, West Brom would simply put everyone behind said ball and slowly sink deeper in their defensive shape.

In the past, City would have had no problem. The probing passing would unlock seemingly resolute defences, and in the end most teams would do well not to receive a hiding.

With the exception of Burnley, this is no longer the case.

From minutes 45 to 80, Sam Johnstone had almost nothing to do. Aside from blocking attempts by Sterling and de Bruyne from almost the touchline, he just did not have a save to make.

When a de Bruyne freekick was easily pushed away in the 85th minute, it was the first time City even came close to scoring. But five minutes later, as the fourth official held up four minutes to be added on, City came to life.

A Kevin de Bruyne cross first found Gundogan unmarked at the back post, but his header was straight at the boot of Johnstone when either side would have resulted in a goal. A minute later, Sterling was clumsily tripped by Romaine Sawyers on the edge of the box. Gundogan stepped up.

It looked in. In fact, it had hit the side netting with Johnstone about as close to saving it as manager Slaven Bilic was on the touchline. It felt like the last chance, with time slowly running out for City to snatch a winner.

But then, with just 30 seconds to play, West Brom were somehow allowed to retain their point.

De Bruyne- who else? – was the architect. The cross he delivered from closer to the halfway line than the edge of the box was just incredible.

Raheem Sterling. Eight yards out. Completely unmarked. Heads it straight into Johnstone in the West Brom goal.

It was a sitter. If you saw someone in that position on a school playground, you would be amazed if they missed. In a game that had suddenly come alive, it was an unforgivable, costly miss for a City team that desperately needs positive league results.

You can look at the table and say that City are still only four points from the top. That would do disservice to how bad this scoreline was. City had to win this game. The failure to do so, once again, is indicative of the major problems at the club this season, and Pep Guardiola does not seem to currently have the answers.

Full time: Manchester City 1-1 West Brom

Man of the Match: Semi Ajayi

Not for his shot that led to the goal, but for the fact that the man was a wall for the entire game. Every time the ball was in his zone, he cleared it. Every time there was a run, he marked it. Excellent from start to finish.

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