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Manchester City 4-0 Stoke City: Iheanacho at the double in comfortable victory

Goal.com logo Goal.com 23-04-2016
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Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice as Manchester City prepared for its Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid with a straightforward 4-0 Premier League victory over Stoke City on Saturday.

With City's top-four status not yet secure, manager Manuel Pellegrini faces a difficult balancing act as he tries to juggle domestic and continental priorities.

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While he opted not to make wholesale changes to his starting XI for the visit of Mark Hughes’ men, the Chilean rested Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne with one eye on Tuesday's first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

City did not miss the Belgian duo as they moved into a 2-0 halftime lead thanks to a 35th-minute Fernando header and a Sergio Aguero penalty, awarded following a Ryan Shawcross challenge on Iheanacho.

Stoke rallied after the break as it threatened to reduce the deficit, but Iheanacho put the match to bed when he buried a cut-back from Pablo Zabaleta, who was making his 300th City appearance, and added further gloss to the scoreline with a fourth.

The result moves City third ahead of Arsenal's clash with Sunderland on Sunday, while local rival Manchester United - not in league action this weekend - is now five points back in fifth.

Stoke was dealt a huge blow in the build-up with the news that Ibrahim Afellay would miss several months due to a knee ligament injury, and it was the home side which posed the early threat through Iheanacho.

Aguero wriggled out of a tight spot on the right wing before feeding Iheanacho, who directed his low strike just wide of the left-hand upright.

Shay Given gratefully collected the ball when it deflected kindly into his grasp off Nicolas Otamendi from a Jesus Navas free kick, but despite its dominance of possession, City initially struggled to truly test their former keeper.

However, after Joselu proved unable to direct his headed effort goalwards from an inviting Marko Arnautovic cross, the deadlock was finally broken when Navas' corner was glanced beyond Given by Fernando.

Yaya Toure looked to have squandered a chance to double the lead when he opted against shooting from close range eight minutes later, but Iheanacho was ultimately pulled down by Shawcross as part of the same move, winning a penalty.

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Aguero stepped up to confidently net his seventh goal in five Premier League matches from the spot.

A groin injury forced Stoke to replace Given with Jakob Haugaard at halftime, before Joselu failed to convert another Arnautovic ball into the box.

Mame Biram Diouf headed just wide as Stoke enjoyed a period of pressure, but the hosts' threat remained and Toure's sidefooted effort was kept out by Haugaard.

Arnautovic, seemingly frustrated at his teammates' inability to convert his deliveries, decided to go it alone when he forced Hart into a save after drifting in from the right, but Iheanacho ultimately put the result beyond doubt.

After firing home unmarked from the center of the box following good work by Zabaleta, the 19-year-old rounded Haugaard having been played in by Wilfried Bony – his 10th and 11th goals for the club.

City's joy at the result was tempered somewhat by an injury picked up by Toure in the closing stages. The midfielder soldiered on to the final whistle, but there will be concerns over his fitness ahead of the Madrid doubleheader.

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