Manchester City made the most of a case of mistaken identity and kept alive their faint title hopes thanks to a much-needed 3-0 victory over 10-man West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.
Much-maligned after their Champions League exit in Barcelona on Wednesday, City needed three points against West Brom to keep leaders Chelsea in their sights and the teams chasing a top-four finish off their tail.
City were handed a boost after 90 seconds at the Etihad when West Brom defender Gareth McAuley was sent off when referee Neil Swarbrick failed to spot that Craig Dawson had been the culprit in hauling down Wilfried Bony when he was through on goal.
Bony then put City ahead after 27 minutes before Fernando added a second just before the break and David Silva scored after halftime to hand City boss Manuel Pellegrini victory in his 100th game in charge.
City have 61 points from 30 matches, three behind leaders Chelsea, who have a game in hand over their title rivals and play Hull City on Sunday.
Pellegrini’s side now have a five-point advantage over fourth-placed Manchester United who travel to Liverpool on Sunday.
“I was too far to see the red card incident,” City captain Vincent Kompany told BT Sport. “It is the referee’s decision.
“There was nothing for us but to win today, we just had to do a good job and we didn’t fail. We need to focus on the next eight games.”
West Brom faced an uphill battle from the start at the Etihad after being reduced to 10-men and Ivorian striker Bony made them pay with his first goal for City when he showed neat close control in the box and fired a shot past Boaz Myhill.
Brazilian midfielder Fernando capitalised on some slack West Brom defending from a corner to prod the ball home just before the break and Silva added a third when the Spaniard turned in Stevan Jovetic’s shot from the edge of the box.
Third-placed Arsenal travel to Newcastle United later on Saturday, Tottenham Hotspur, hoping to close the gap on the top four, host bottom side Leicester City and new Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat takes his struggling side to West Ham United.