Marko Arnautovic blows Manchester City away as Stoke sizzle
Pellegrini’s men are stunned in a 2-0 loss at a wind-swept Britannia Stadium, with Potters’ Marko Arnautovic scoring a first-half double against the outclassed Premier League leaders
Two goals from Marko Arnautovic condemned Manchester City to a 2-0 defeat on Saturday as their Premier League title hopes suffered a serious blow at Stoke City.
The Austrian forward netted twice in the first half and missed several chances for a hat-trick as a dominant Stoke side claimed a well deserved win at a windswept Britannia Stadium.
Xherdan Shaqiri, their £12 million (HK$140.6 million) record signing, was at the heart of the success with assists for both goals and a wonderful all-round display.
Stoke could have won the game more comfortably, with Arnautovic squandering several chances to complete his hat-trick, and produced some scintillating football despite the swirling wind at the Britannia Stadium.
Mark Hughes’s men have now beaten Chelsea and City in successive home games and Shaqiri believes there is more to come.
“It is important that we play how the coach wants and today we see that from the first minute we want to win the game. The two goals were very nice,” said the Switzerland winger.
“We have a very good team. We can win against every team in the Premier League. This year the league is weird – every team can lose.
“We must work hard together and that is the key for the season. We have a lot of potential.”
Despite leading the table at the start of the day, Manchester City now have just one win from their last four league games and are experiencing their toughest spell of the season.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart said that fatigue was no excuse. “It was a disappointing start and we could not recover from it,” Hart said.
“We didn’t play well today. A few of the lads are feeling it from the games we are playing, but that is not an excuse. We need to put in at least a 7/10 performance every game and we are not doing that.”
City have struggled during the absence of injured captain Vincent Kompany, but Hart said that there was enough depth in their squad to compensate.
“Vincent Kompany is a massively important part of our squad, but we have a good squad here,” said the England international.
“After a 2-0 loss it is easy to say, but we will stick together as a squad. Conditions were tough, but that’s English football.
“Nobody was able to walk off the pitch with an excuse. Both teams played on it and Stoke deserved to beat us today. We can’t accept how we played.”
Manuel Pellegrini's side improved slightly after half-time, but rarely threatened a fightback after a dreadful defensive display in the first period.
Stoke made a dream start as Arnautovic gave them a seventh-minute lead following fine work from Shaqiri on the right.
The Switzerland international showed fine balance to get the better of Fernando on the touchline before crossing for Arnautovic, who darted between two defenders to finish.
Kevin De Bruyne had a chance to level for the visitors after skipping from midfield to the edge of the area, but his tame shot on 14 minutes was well saved by goalkeeper Jack Butland.
A minute later Stoke doubled their lead as Shaqiri and Arnautovic combined again.
There was more brilliance from Shaqiri, whose superb turn outfoxed Fernando before his fabulous pass gave Arnautovic the chance to produce a cool, low finish for 2-0.
After a quiet spell, Bojan threatened to score a bizarre third goal for Stoke when he made the most of several ricochets to ride three challenges before eventually being crowded out 10 yards from goal.
Then Stoke had a glorious chance to add to their tally when a back-heel from Ibrahim Afellay released Glenn Whelan on the left and the midfielder's cross was headed wide at the near post by Arnautovic.
Arnautovic missed an even better chance to put the game beyond City just before the interval when he was released by another fine Shaqiri pass, only to see his shot bounce back off the right-hand post.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart had to make a smart save early in the second half to block a shot from Bojan after another weaving run from the Barcelona striker. The rebound fell to Arnautovic, who fired just wide.
Then the Austrian went close again when he collected a wonderful flick from Bojan and closed in on goal before sending a firm cross-shot just wide of the far post.
Bojan was the next to go close for the hosts when he collected a clever pass by Shaqiri and beat Hart to the ball before having his run checked by the visiting goalkeeper.
The afternoon got worse for Pellegrini when Fernando was forced to limp off on 73 minutes, reducing his side to 10 men, with three substitutes already used.
City applied some pressure in the second half, but Butland, Hart's deputy with England, was rarely called into action as Mark Hughes's men dug in for a resonant victory.