In the latest instalment of our 2017-18 season review we take an in-depth look at City’s run of games in March.
The month saw the Blues further strengthen our already vice-like grip at the top of the Premier League table with Pep Guardiola’s men securing a perfect return of 12 points from four league fixtures, including three tough assignments on the road.
The only blemish came in the second leg of our Champions League last-16 clash with Swiss champions FC Basel but that didn’t detract from what was a hugely impressive month. Here we review March game-by game...
March began with the arrival of the beast from the East but the onset of icy Siberian conditions failed to put City off their stride as, five days on from overpowering Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final, we delivered another master-class display against the Gunners, this time at the Emirates Stadium.
It was our biggest away victory at Arsenal since 1912 with City stunning the hosts by despatching three goals in 18-minutes in what was a devastating first-half display in frozen North London.
The opener came via a wonderful slalom run from Leroy Sane who glided past four defenders before the German winger found Bernardo Silva who curled a brilliant shot into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Just before the half hour mark, City had struck again. David Silva started and finished a wonderful move which also featured vital contributions from Sane and Sergio Aguero before El Mago administered a sublime finish past Petr Cech.
The Blues’ third goal arrived just five minutes later and was arguably the best of the lot. David Silva began the move on the halfway line, finding Aguero who, in turn, supplied Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian then threaded the ball to the overlapping Kyle Walker whose cross was bundled home by Sane.
Just three days later City were back in action, this time at the Etihad, where we played host to reigning champions Chelsea. Just as in our league clash at Stamford Bridge back in September, we secured a hard-fought but deserved 1-0 win.
The visitors made their intentions clear from the off, operating without a recognised striker as they looked to deny City both time and space on the ball.
For 45 minutes it looked as if Antonio Conte’s plan was working a treat, though Cesar Azpilicueta did need to produce a fine clearance off his line to keep out Leroy Sane’s shot.
However, just 35 seconds after the restart City made the all-important breakthrough. Capitalising on a mix-up in the Chelsea defence, Sergio Aguero found David Silva on the overlap and his brilliant cross was met by Bernardo Silva whose improvised finish ultimately proved decisive.
The one setback in March arrived three days later at the Etihad in the Champions League as City unexpectedly suffered a first home reverse of the season at the hands of FC Basel.
Holding a 4-0 advantage from the first leg, an early Gabriel Jesus strike – the young Brazilian’s first goal in four months - further extended City’s healthy overall advantage.
But, backed by a noisy travelling support, the Swiss visitors refused to buckle and on 17 minutes they drew level when Mohamed Elyounoussi’s crisp low shot evaded Claudio Bravo.
Chances then went begging at either end but it was FC Basel who claimed the all-important third goal. Eighteen minutes from time, Elyounoussi’s clever reverse pass was drilled home by Michael Lang, although the 2-1 loss on the night couldn’t prevent us reaching the Champions League quarter-finals with a 5-2 triumph on aggregate.
Our last encounter before a two-week international break was a testing Monday night assignment away against a Stoke City side fighting for their Premier League lives.
Once again however Pep Guardiola’s side proved that whatever the nature of the challenge, the players always found an answer with a two-goal salvo from an inspired David Silva rounding off what was yet another mesmerising display on the road.
With barely 10 minutes gone on the clock, City had stunned a noisy Bet365 Stadium crowd with yet another goal of the highest quality. A fine pass from Gabriel Jesus opened up space for Raheem Sterling and the England winger’s pin-point low cross was finished with aplomb by Silva.
And the Spaniard then deservedly struck again five minutes into the second half with another top-drawer strike. Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus combined before Jesus exchanged a delightful one-two with Silva who then volleyed home to secure the three points.
The last action of the month followed a 19-day break for international action and saw the Blues face another testing road trip, this time to Everton.
But any fears that we may have been affected by ring-rust were quickly demolished at Goodison Park in quite imperious fashion as City moved to within touching distance of the title.
The buoyant Blues raced into a two-goal lead within 12 minutes with first Leroy Sane’s wonderful volley and then a stunning header from Gabriel Jesus proving just reward for a superb opening period of play.
And a 13th league victory on the road was then secured eight minutes before the break when Raheem Sterling finished off David Silva’s pin-point cross to set the seal on another breathtaking all-round performance.
It meant the title was now tantalisingly within our grasp as we prepared for the final six weeks of the season.