City in control as Potters ship four once more
Manchester City's aims of finishing the 2015/16 campaign strongly were given a welcome boost after their surprising away draw with Rafa Benitez' Newcastle side in midweek - as they comprehensively saw off the challenge of Stoke City at home in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off at the Ethiad.
Interesting changes made by Pellegrini beforehand
Manuel Pellegrini made three changes to the starting XI, with Nicolas Otámendi partnering Eliaquim Mangala at centre-back, whilst midfield maestro David Silva was welcomed back into the team in place of Fabian Delph and Kelechi Iheanacho was given a rare start alongside Sergio Agüero - fresh after his 100th Premier League goal at St. James' Park. Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Wilfried Bony were amongst the substitutes on a strong-looking bench for the hosts, in a game they knew they had to win to keep Arsenal on their toes in the race for a top-three finish.
Two goals in quick succession haunt Stoke before interval
The deadlock was broken emphatically after 34 minutes, courtesy of a Jesús Navas' corner-kick delivery. Fernando evaded the attentions of his marker at the front post, and headed home powerfully into the bottom corner, leaving Shay Given and the Stoke backline seemingly stunned.
It was soon two though, and more bad news for the visitors. Ryan Shawcross was penalized after a deliberate pull-back on Iheanacho following a neat one-two between himself and Yaya Touré, with the Englishman's challenge leaving the referee no choice but to point to the spot. Agüero stepped up to the plate and despite Given's best efforts, the experienced goalkeeper was unable to divert the Argentine's effort anywhere but the bottom corner.
As the second-half began, Stoke's main weapon - as punctuated by their success in the previous meeting between the two - was the speed of their counter-attack. It could've been a different story in terms of the scoreline, and eventually, the game itself but Joselu managed to steer his close-range strike wide after an excellent delivery into the box by Marko Arnautovic, with the goal seemingly gaping.
Kelechi impresses in rare start
It was soon three-nil though, and Kelechi got his name on the scoresheet with a seemingly simple tap-in finish after good work by fullback Pablo Zabaleta down the right-hand side. His incisive pass fell to the talented Nigerian, and given his excellent form, he was never going to miss.
His brace was complete ten minutes afterwards, after bursting clear of the Stoke backline before weaving past substitute goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard in the area to slot home.
Contrasting stories at the Ethiad
The home supporters erupted with delight as one of their young players was quite evidently coming to the fore, and you can definitely expect to see Kelechi in the plans of incoming manager Pep Guardiola this summer. City closed out the match with ease, but it was another forgettable performance from a Stoke perspective. They've only kept two clean sheets in 2016, against Arsenal and Newcastle - both at the Britannia, and they've now also conceded 15 goals in five games including twelve in their last three: all by four-goal scorelines.