Edin Dzeko’s fine volley saw Manchester City beat West Brom 1-0 at home to confirm a minimum of third place in the Premier League.
On 35 minutes Bosnian striker Dzeko met a fine cross from Carlos Tevez with a perfectly-executed volley that bounced past Boaz Myhill into the net.
City had dominated the first half, but the second was all West Brom as they bombarded the hosts’ goal. But Roberto Mancini’s side held on for a morale-boosting win that confirms at least third place – and an automatic Champions League group slot – ahead of the FA Cup final against Wigan at the weekend.
With that game in mind, City made eight changes from the goalless draw at Swansea, as Micah Richards returned after nearly seven months out injured.
But for a match of relatively little consequence, it was pretty entertaining.
The first half was choc-full of opportunity as West Brom started brightly before City took complete control, going ahead and somehow failing to add to their lead before the break.
The second saw the Baggies fight back, hitting the bar and forcing Joe Hart into a number of saves, but they could not break the hosts down.
Early in the match Romelu Lukaku hammered a long-range drive just wide and headed straight at Joe Hart when he should have scored as the Baggies threatened an upset.
Aleksandar Kolarov was fortunate to stay on the pitch after a high boot into the head of Gabriel Tamas, who suffered a nasty gash but continued after treatment.
City soon passed their way into the mix as Dzeko, Tevez, Rodwell and Milner all went close, with the latter firing wide from close range and forcing keeper Boaz Myhill into a smart save.
Then Tevez rattled the crossbar with a fantastic swerving shot so it was no surprise when City took the lead 10 minutes before the break.
It was a fine goal too, the counter attack starting with an excellent tackle from Samir Nasri on Youssouf Mulumbu and culminating with a superb Dzeko volley off Tevez’s inch-perfect cross.
Rodwell spurned a couple more opportunities while Milner hit the post, but while it looked as if City would get a second it was West Brom who almost drew level just before half-time but for Hart’s excellent rush at the feet of Lukaku.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first, as Lukaku almost sent Markus Rosenberg clean through, with the Sweden striker then hitting the bar with a free-kick, Hart saving well from Billy Jones on the follow-up.
Hart made another fine stop as James Morrison rifled a low drive to the bottom left, while West Brom won – but failed to adequately deliver – a succession of corners.
The pendulum had swung and City were hanging on. They almost added a second against the run of play though, Gabriel Tamas blocking a Rodwell finish, with the former Everton midfielder denied by Myhill on the follow-up.
West Brom were throwing everything at City, including using Billy Jones as an auxiliary strike before Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long were sent on.
Jones should have scored when picked out by Mulumbu but fired straight at an opponent, while Long could have equalised with his first touch, which was to slice his finish wide after Lukaku’s flick sent him scuttling away.
There was a late revival for City as Dzeko and Gareth Barry both forced saves from Myhill, but they were on the counter as the Baggies tried in vain for an equaliser.
City lie second, seven points clear of Chelsea and crucially eight ahead of fourth-placed Arsenal with two games left. West Brom, meanwhile, stay a respectable eighth.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City) – At his typical buzzing best, selfless in support of Dzeko and weighing in with a fantastic assist.
CITY: Hart 7, Richards 7, Kolo Toure 7, Lescott 7, Kolarov 6, Garcia 6, Rodwell 6, Milner 7, Tevez 8, Nasri 7, Dzeko 7; Subs: Barry 6, Maicon 6, Razak NA
WBA: Myhill 6, Tamas 7, Dawson 6, Olsson 7, Jones 6, Mulumbu 6, Morrison 6, Yacob 6, Ridgewell 6, Rosenberg 6, Lukaku 7; Subs: Dorrans 6, Odemwingie 6, Long NA