Premier League - Tevez stars as City move third

Tue, 17 May 21:36:00 2011

Carlos Tevez proved the difference as Manchester City eased into third place in the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Stoke City at Eastlands.

Match Highlights:

The Argentine forward gave City a stark reminder of his importance to the club with a sublime brace either side of a headed Joleon Lescott effort as the FA Cup winners registered their second win over the Potters in four days that followed their Wembley triumph at the weekend.

With one game remaining this season, City now have a hold on third place - and automatic qualification for the Champions League.

Roberto Mancini's side travel to Bolton on the final day of the season knowing that if they at least match what fourth-placed Arsenal do at Fulham, they will avoid the potentially hazardous qualifying round of Europe's elite club competition.

To do so would cap a fine season for the blue half of Manchester and provide a great platform from which to build a genuine title challenge next time out. Off the back of tonight's performance, it has become even clearer that keeping Tevez at the club is integral to achieving those aspirations.

City started brightly, as expected considering the relative home and away form of the two sides: City had won eight of their last nine games at Eastlands, while Stoke had taken just two points from their last nine games on the road.

With the Potters set up with five across midfield, it was left to Mancini's men to figure out a way through the stubborn resistance they met. Until Tevez swooped with his first, they had failed to really test Thomas Sorensen.

There was nothing the keeper could do when Tevez broke the deadlock on 14 minutes though, such was the brilliance of his strike. Having played a one-two with James Milner, he jinked first past Ryan Shawcross and then Andy Wilkinson before slamming a shot past the despairing Sorensen and into the top corner.

The goal smacked of class, the likes of which City will sorely miss next season should Tevez decide to quit Eastlands. A recent interview did nothing to dispel rumours he could be packing his bags sooner rather than later, although Mancini said after the match that the player had told him he wants to stay.

Tevez could have added to that effort - his 19th goal of the season - but a first-time shot with the outside of his boot landed straight in Sorensen's arms.

Lescott added a second to effectively put the game beyond Stoke eight minutes after the break, the defender rising to meet a free-kick ahead of Sorensen and plant a header into the back of the net.

Tevez soon netted his 20th of the season to draw level with Dimitar Berbatov at the top of the scoring charts with a wonderful free-kick that curled into the top corner from a starting point well wide of the post.

That would set Tevez up for a possible hat-trick and he thought he had been given the perfect chance to register another treble with 10 minutes remaining when Milner was sent crashing to the turf and referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot.

James Collins had made initial contact with the England midfielder outside the box though, and once corrected by his assistance Mr Probert correctly awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the area. Tevez dinked the ball over the bar this time.

He was withdrawn with two minutes left on the clock and his wave to all four corners of the ground was met with a standing ovation as City fans were left to wonder if his gesture was a permanent goodbye.

City could easily have won by a bigger margin, substitute Edin Dzeko particularly guilty of profligacy when he failed to beat Sorensen when one-on-one with the keeper on 58 minutes.

The Bosnian then hit the outside of a post from a narrow angle before heading over the bar from a corner as time ran out, and a fourth goal remained elusive. Not that City will mind; FA Cup winners and now a likely top-three finish constitutes a successful season as the club finally threatens to make good on the huge investment in their team.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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