STOKE-ON-TRENT, England (Reuters) - STOKE CITY 0 MANCHESTER CITY 2
Manchester City’s David Silva underlined his importance to their impending title success with both goals in a comfortable 2-0 Premier League win at Stoke City on Monday.
Pep Guardiola’s side could have won by a much clearer margin against Paul Lambert’s relegation-threatened Stoke but with the title in sight — City are 16 points clear of second-placed Manchester United — they will not agonise over wasted chances.
If City win their next league game at Everton on March 31 that will set up a Manchester derby at City’s Etihad Stadium where a win over their arch-rivals would secure the title.
“Everybody in the blue side of Manchester knows it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity but steady, it won’t be handed to us,” said City skipper Vincent Kompany.
If that April 7 Manchester derby does indeed turn into a celebration party for City then Spanish midfielder Silva, whose invention and creativity have been fundamental to the side’s success, surely deserves his own moment of appreciation.
Silva, whose son was born prematurely in January, has been splitting his time between Manchester and Spain in order to be with his family yet there is no sign on the field of the difficulties in his personal life affecting his performance.
“When I play football I forget about everything else, it is good for me to play,” Silva said after the game. “My private life is very hard for me but my son is fighting and getting better.”
Silva put City ahead in the 10th minute, finishing off a move of stunning simplicity with a confident close-range strike from Raheem Sterling’s low cross after the England winger had been set clear by a clever pass from Gabriel Jesus.
The only real work City keeper Ederson had to do in the first half was to tip over a misplaced clearance from team mate Kyle Walker, although Badout Ndiaye had shot wide after a moment of incisive dribbling from Xherdan Shaqiri.
Stoke, second-bottom in the table, showed lots of endeavour but City were always in charge and Silva doubled the advantage five minutes after the break, putting a high bouncing ball past advancing keeper Jack Butland after a swift exchange with Jesus.
Silva’s impact on City, this season in particular, has not only been with his intelligent touches but also his work-rate and competitiveness - qualities he showed at Stoke.
“David Silva controls the tempo. He has the skills no doubt about that, but in the bad moments he is there to control the game and he is an aggressive competitor,” said Guardiola.
Butland produced a fine save to keep out a fierce drive from Leroy Sane and City had several other chances but lacked their usual clinical touch in the final third.
At the whistle, while City fans celebrated, Guardiola was deep in conversation with Sane, explaining some technical points to the Germany winger.
The learning never stops with the Spanish coach, whose team now head of for a break in Abu Dhabi, with their fans looking forward to the mouthwatering prospect of clinching the league title in a match against their local rivals.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar