MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 12, (AFP): Teenage substitute Kelechi Iheanacho was attributed a freak stoppage-time winner as Manchester City beat managerless Swansea City 2-1 on Saturday to recapture the Premier League summit.
Yaya Toure’s shot deflected in off Iheanacho’s back, barely two minutes after Bafetimbi Gomis’s first goal since August looked to have earned the visitors a draw at a sodden Etihad Stadium.
Wilfried Bony had headed City in front against his former club in the first half and Manuel Pellegrini’s side came perilously close to throwing two points away before claiming victory amid a remarkable finish.
Swansea, who sacked Garry Monk on Wednesday, continue to slide towards trouble, having won just once in 12 league matches.
But they can take great heart from a display that troubled their opponents, and so nearly brought reward.
Caretaker manager Alan Curtis attempted to halt Swansea’s slide by picking a side without a recognised centre-forward, as Stoke City had when they beat City 2-0 seven days earlier.
Gylfi Sigurdsson played as a false nine, with Gomis dropped to the bench, and it was a ploy that created two good chances in the first 15 minutes.
Wayne Routledge was able to run onto Jack Cork’s through-ball inside the first five minutes and goalkeeper Joe Hart needed to position himself well as he advanced to block the shot with his legs.
Hart then demonstrated his alertness again, tipping over Sigurdsson’s shot after Routledge had got away down the right to cut the ball back.
City, though, soon asserted themselves, taking the lead as Bony escaped the attentions of his marker Ashley Williams to plant a free header into the net from Jesus Navas’s corner.
Pellegrini’s team were less than convincing with their own defending at set plays, almost conceding an immediate equaliser as Andre Ayew got in front of his marker to head over from Sigurdsson’s whipped free-kick.
Pellegrini brought on Fabian Delph for the ineffective Raheem Sterling at half-time in an attempt to push Swansea back.
As City looked to take control of the match, Toure went close twice in the opening minutes of the second half, first with a free-kick that Fabianski pushed aside and then with a surging run that ended with a shot flying over.
Not that the home side could afford to relax, with Sigurdsson almost working space for an equaliser after the ball broke back to him off a defender, Hart racing off his line quickly to block at the near post.
The England goalkeeper was in action once more on the hour mark, adjusting his footing to beat away a swerving Sigurdsson free kick, conceded after Bacary Sagna caught Routledge with a dangerous head-high challenge.
City survived a scare in the final few minutes when Sigurdsson lashed home after Gomis had collided with Hart, only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul on the home goalkeeper that was far from evident.
It looked as though the visitors had secured a point when Gomis burst into the penalty area beyond Eliaquim Mangala and belted in a shot that beat Hart at his near post.
City, though, kept their heads, and found time for a winner as Toure found the net with a shot that looped in off 19-year-old Nigerian starlet Iheanacho.