Manchester City v Stoke

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Sergio Aguero
Aguero tucks in his 14th of the season with Stoke appealing for offside

Two goals from Sergio Aguero helped Manchester City to a comfortable win over Stoke and ensured they will be top of the Premier League at Christmas.

The Argentine scored at the back post, after Vincent Kompany's saved shot, and converted Samir Nasri's cross either side of Adam Johnson's 25-yard effort.

Stoke offered little, with Marc Wilson going closest but his effort went wide.

Manchester City remain two points clear, and will be Christmas leaders for the first time since 1929.

The result marks a fitting two-year anniversary since Roberto Mancini took the manager's post.

Mancini sets 90-point target

And it also ensures that Manchester City stay unbeaten at home in 2011, having won all but two of 29 games.

This encounter was a far cry from the host's last game against Arsenal on Sunday when they earned a thrilling 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

However, with another three points in the bag, Mancini will care little as his side retained their advantage over Manchester United, who won at Fulham.

Stoke came into the game on the back of a four-match winning streak in the league, yet from the outset they were set up to contain the home side.

It had little effect and, with the Blues dominating possession and Stoke seemingly content to retreat to their final third, the atmosphere inside the Etihad Stadium was flat to begin with.

Johnson woke the crowd when he cut in from the right and unleashed a left-footed shot that was deflected onto the bar by Wilson.

With Peter Crouch absent ill, Stoke named what appeared to be an attacking side with three strikers among their ranks, but they lined up in a defensive 4-5-1 formation with Cameron Jerome deployed on the left and Jonathan Walters behind lone frontman Kenwyne Jones.

On a rare counter attack, Walters failed to get on top of a header when well-placed, but as Mancini's men began to probe further, Stoke had to work harder and harder to win the ball back.

The hosts were not exactly fluent, yet they took the lead from a short corner when Yaya Toure's cross was clipped goalwards by Kompany and, despite Thomas Sorensen's save, Aguero was on hand to tuck in at the back post.

There was a suggestion of offside to the strike, but there was no doubt about the second.

Stoke's chasing was beginning to take its toll, as illustrated by some wayward passing, and Johnson took advantage of a loose ball on the edge of the box to rifle past Sorensen.

He could have doubled his tally when his curling free-kick was diverted away by the Stoke keeper.

But any chances of Stoke getting a foothold in the contest were dismissed soon after the break when they again lost the ball in a dangerous area.

Man City were better than us - Pulis

It was swept out to Samir Nasri on the right, and the Frenchman's cross found Aguero, who converted from eight yards for his 15th of the season.

Manchester City's leading scorer had opportunities to wrap up his second hat-trick of the season, with Johnson also going close late on.

The only real worry for Mancini's side was Micah Richards, who limped off just before the hour. Having suffered with a sore hamstring against Arsenal, it will be hoped that it is not too serious.

And with Stoke dealt with, the league leaders can now concentrate on trips to West Brom and Sunderland before hosting Liverpool on 3 January.

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis: "Manchester City are better than us, we'll take that one on the chin.

"It's one of best years from January to January in the club's history. We are striving to get better but it will take us longer than Manchester City because we haven't got £230m or £240m to spend."

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