Premier League: Man City 1 West Brom 0
Edin Dzeko's first-half strike helped Manchester City to an unconvincing 1-0 Premier League win over West Brom on Tuesday.
Barring a 25-minute spell before the break in which they were in complete control, City barely got going and they were thankful for West Brom's profligacy, which allowed them to take all three points from this contest at the Etihad Stadium.
Dzeko – who came off the bench to score twice in the last 10 minutes of the reverse fixture in October, which City won 2-1 – netted after 35 minutes, calmly converting a volley to give his side, who are second, a seven-point gap on the third-placed Chelsea.
With Saturday's FA Cup final against Wigan on his mind, City manager Roberto Mancini made eight changes as Sergio Aguero and David Silva dropped to the bench, while Yaya Toure was left of the squad altogether.
West Brom also shuffled their pack, with goalkeeper Boaz Myhill and defender Gabriel Tamas headlining their four inclusions, while striker Shane Long started as a substitute.
The visitors were toying with a three-man defence in a bid to give them extra bodies in midfield, and they started superbly, with Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku having three efforts on goal in the first six minutes. His pace and power looked like causing big problems in front of a subdued Etihad Stadium crowd, who had precious little to get excited about in the first 20 minutes. That changed quickly though, with Carlos Tevez and James Milner narrowly missing the target, while Jack Rodwell missed an open goal. Tevez then thrashed an effort into the crossbar from 20 yards before City's goal finally came, with Bosnian Dzeko the scorer.
Tevez was the provider, latching onto a through-ball down the right before lifting a terrific cross into the box that Dzeko slotted into the right-hand corner, via Myhill's right hand. The chances kept coming for City as Rodwell went close on two occasions, while Milner saw a superb 25-yard effort swerve into the post and bounce away to safety, with Mancini's men unlucky not to lead by more than one after recovering from a slow start to dominate the opening half.
Just like they did in the first half, West Brom came out firing, with Swede Markus Rosenberg's free-kick thudding into the crossbar from 25 yards moments after play had resumed. The rebound from Rosenberg's effort was nodded down by Billy Jones and City goalkeeper Joe Hart had to be alert to claw the header away. James Morrison had a good strike from distance turned behind by Hart, before City had a golden opportunity to kill the game off. Samir Nasri's surging run into the penalty area ended in a clip across the face of goal, with Rodwell seeing his effort blocked before Jones intervened to deny Tevez. The ball was still live in West Brom's penalty area and Myhill did well to deny a rasping drive from Aleksandar Kolarov. Rosenberg had a pair of decent shots on goal but it was not his night, while Milner's left-foot shot was straight at Myhill at the other end.
City were not at the races in the second half and Jones went close again, only for Kolo Toure to deny him with an important block, while substitutes Long and Peter Odemwingie fired wide.
But in the end it was the failure of Steve Clarke's side to convert one of their many chances that saw City claim their 14th home league win of the season.