Edin Dzeko hits two late goals after coming off the bench to seal the points for City.
The headlines may state that City rescued the points yesterday at The Hawthorns but this was no smash and grab performance. In fact, out to one side when the goals were scored and the narrative of the game was very much City being in the ascendancy, the more threatening of the two sides over the ninety minutes - even after being reduced to ten men midway through the first half.
"It was a strange game but we don't feel as though we pinched the result", said David Platt post game, Roberto Mancini apparently unavailable after losing his voice. "A few things went against us in the match - going a man down and conceding a silly goal - but we stayed in control and I felt we deserved to win."
There as no question that it was a deserved red, James Milner paying the price for a last ditch tackle on the edge of the box when trying to clean up the folly of Vincent Kompany's decision to play at being Franz Beckenbauer on the halfway line, but the man disadvantage did not alter the pattern of the game. West Brom have a clear blueprint for winning at home this season: restrict the opposition shots on goal and convert their own scoring chances, and they rarely strayed from this ethos. Unfortunately for West Brom, unlike previous games this season they were unable to stop the City attack, the result being that City had more shots on target than the previous four visitors to The Hawthorns had managed combined.
The result was that City had more possession, created more (and better) chances and looked the side most likely to get the goal with both Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez constant threats to the West Brom back line. Balotelli in particular having one of those afternoons where he seems to cram in a seasons worth of action (good and bad) into a single game.
The introduction of Peter Odemwingie sparked West Brom though and his speculative shot fell perfectly into the path of Shane Long to stab past Joe Hart with their first scoring chance of the game. 1-0 and it looked as though the blueprint would once again prove successful.
Roberto Mancini responded, throwing on the trio of Sergio Aguero, Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov as West Brom once gain reverted to type. Not only does the Italian have the luxury of being able to turn to quality from his bench but he has a side that has instilled within it the spirit and belief that no position is seemingly out of reach. You can lavish money on a squad but certain traits remain priceless and whilst City have been sketchy in their start to retain the title they have taken 18 points from eight games, coming way with late wins at Fulham and now West Brom where they fared less well last season. May sides would have settled for a point following the late equaliser but City's threat meant they turned a West Brom attack into the winner in the blink of an eye.
Eight of City's 17 goals this season have been scored in the final five minutes, with five of these netted in the final five minutes. Nine of Dzeko's last 11 goals have been to earn a draw or get the win and City have recouped eleven points from losing positions, second only to United with Chelsea in third with nine points and it is a sign of all three sides character that they all won after falling behind on Saturday. Of course, this shouldn't mask the problems that see them fall behind so often, but it is a wonderful ability to have where no cause is seemingly lost.
Dzeko's goals will undoubtedly reignite the debate over whether the coming on from the bench is the best one for him. He bristled at the suggestion in his post-game interviews but he does clearly benefit from coming on against defences that have had to deal with Aguero, Tevez and Balotelli; the more direct and threatening presence of Dzeko unsettling defences when the play becomes stretched. The winner was a perfect example of this: a sweeping ball from Kolarov played supinely in from Aguero for Dzeko to despatch the ball in stride first time past Ben Foster.
He may not relish his role as super-sub designate but at the very least he is making sure he is becoming an indispensable part of this City squad.