Hull vs Manchester City match report: Three second-half goals keep Mike Phelan’s battling Tigers bottomBet365
Yaya Toure’s renaissance under Pep Guardiola continued as he scored the opening goal in an important and hard-earned Manchester City victory that saw them hold the advantage of leaders Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.
A rash and unnecessary trip by Andy Robertson on Raheem Sterling after 72 minutes presented Toure, who was once considered surplus to requirements after a highly-publicised falling with his manager, with the chance to convert the resulting penalty.
And with the last kick of the game, Sterling’s run into the area ended with a cross which Curtis Davies turned into his own goal.
There was less good news concerning England defender John Stones, however, as his return from two matches of exile lasted less than 20 minutes before he was forced out with a leg injury and replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov.
It was a change that seemed to unsettle City somewhat, after Guardiola’s team had got to grips with Hull’s high-energy, pressing game and were beginning to exert some control.
Within minutes of Stones hobbling off the field, Ahmed Elmohamady crossed from the right and Jake Livermore headed just over before, seconds later, the same Hull midfielder found space on the corner of the penalty area and attempted a shot which Claudio Bravo saved, comfortably enough, at the second attempt.
Still, even by then the game appeared likely to boil down to an issue of whether Hull could maintain their terrific work-rate and whether the visitors could conjure up the necessary quality in and around the home side’s area.
After promising initial signs, City lacked that quality in the first half. On six minutes, Michael Dawson upended Kevin De Bruyne, allowing Yaya Toure a 25-yard free-kick which was destined for the top corner until David Marshall tipped it over.
De Bruyne’s excellent pull back, from the latest in a long line of City counter-attacks, picked out David Silva whose strike was blocked by Harry Maguire. And as City turned the screw, Toure pushed the ball forward for Silva and his low, 20-yard blast was well held by the diving Hull keeper.
As the half progressed, Hull’s belief grew and City’s composure in the Hull area decreased accordingly.
Raheem Sterling failed to control Gael Clichy’s cross inside the six-yard box, Nolito played a tidy one-two with the England forward but his shot lacked any real power and the first period conceded with Sterling and Nolito both trying wayward efforts from outside the area.
Hull’s supporters applauded their players off at the interval although it soon became obvious that they would face a long second half as Sterling opened second half proceedings with a darting run to the by-line and a cross which Marshall palmed to safety from inside the six-yard area.
But, as had been the case in the first half, Hull responded and refused to allow City to settle.
First, Maguire’s cross reached Sam Clucas at the far post and his shot was bravely, and painfully, charged down by Bacary Sagna and then a well-worked Huddlestone free-kick was met by centre-half Maguire on the volley with his shot flying over from eight yards.
The game was beginning to open up and both teams came close to an opening goal before the hour.
First, De Bruyne showed great footwork on the edge of the area to make room for himself and strike a shot against the foot of the left-hand post and then, at the other end, a spell of Hull pressure ended with City failing to clear a corner and Sagna being forced to head Dawson’s goalbound header off the line.
De Bruyne and Iheanacho threatened with half chances before Sterling was awarded the penalty and Toure convincingly buried his shot to the goalkeeper’s right.
Guardiola conceded that, following Chelsea’s victory earlier in the day that opened up a 10-ppoint advantage over City, that his players now effectively face a cup final in every game this season.
“Sometimes you play before, sometimes you play later,” said Guardiola. “But it doesn’t matter whether you are seven points or 10 points behind when one team has won 12 in a row.
“It’s like a final for us if you want to be there until the end of the season. We have one game to finish the first half of the season and then the second starts.
“Liverpool went so close one year because they had one game a week and last year Leicester it happened the same. This time Chelsea and Liverpool are the ones. We have played seven more games than them and important ones like the Champs League which is why it will be tough.
“But football is unpredictable. It will be tough, it will be hard, but we have to do absolutely everything to be there. Sometimes you believe something is done and it isn’t.”
Guardiola had further good news when you learned that his England defender John Stones will not face a long spell on the sidelines following injury.
“He had a huge kick on his knee and couldn’t run,” explained his manager. “When you look at his knee, it is badly swollen but it is just a kick, not something serious like ligaments.”