Silva double earns title-chasing Man City 2-0 win at Stoke
STOKE, England (AP) — For Manchester City, a record-setting season in the English Premier League could yet have the perfect ending.
Beating Stoke 2-0 on Monday restored City’s 16-point lead and increased the possibility that Pep Guardiola’s side could clinch the title by beating fierce rival Manchester United at home in the derby on April 7.
“Everybody in the blue side of Manchester knows it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” City captain Vincent Kompany said, with a smile.
David Silva inspired the latest win for the runaway leaders, scoring in each half by finishing off sumptuous team moves that have been the hallmark of City’s season.
Silva side-footed home a cross from fit-again winger Raheem Sterling to give City a 10th-minute lead against a Stoke team that is next to last in the standings.
City dominated thereafter and Sterling won back possession on halfway to start the move that led to the second goal, a hooked finish by Silva following a pass across the box from Gabriel Jesus.
Silva took his tally of league goals to eight in a season that has been disrupted for the playmaker while he makes regular trips back to his native Spain because his prematurely born son is receiving medical attention.
He was there for much of last week, with Guardiola allowing Silva to miss the second leg of its Champions League last-16 matchup against Basel.
“When I play football, I forget. I forget everything. So it’s good for me to play,” Silva said. “I know in my private life it’s a very hard moment, but my son is fighting. I am very happy because he’s getting stronger and fighting.”
Silva was the star player in another stroll for City against a team it beat 7-2 in October.
“He controlled the tempo perfect,” Guardiola said. “Normally people say he has skills, technical ability, and after that he cannot be an aggressive competitor. But he has both. In the bad moments, he’s there, always controlling the game.”
Sterling was influential on his return to the team after missing five games because of injury, and he should have capped his display with a goal of his own.
Running clean through in the 80th minute, Sterling delayed his attempt to round Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland. He finally did so, but Stoke’s defense recovered by then and managed to dispossess Sterling.
Stoke didn’t threaten City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes once and will resume its bid to escape relegation with a home game against Everton on Saturday.
“It was a free hit,” Butland said, ”... but they had too much for us today.”
City is off for some warm-weather training in Abu Dhabi amid a three-week break that arose from its unexpected loss to Wigan in the FA Cup last month.
On its return, City has to beat Everton at Goodison Park to set the stage for a title-clinching derby victory.
“I understand that it is important to our fans to win it against United,” Guardiola said, “but the target is the next game at Everton. After that, if we play like today, sooner or later we will be champions.”