Manchester City closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to three points with a 3-0 victory over West Bromich Albion which controversially had to play with ten-men for 88-minutes after another case of mistaken identity by EPL officials.
Wilfried Bony, Fernando and David Silva were City’s scorers but the match swung convincingly in the home side’s favour when referee Neil Swarbrick sent off Gareth McAuley after just two minutes of play.
Another West Brom defender, Craig Dawson, seemed to have fouled Bony outside the box before the Ivorian striker rose to his feet and continued into the penalty area where he then tangled with McAuley.
Swarbrick blew his whistle and awarded the free-kick outside the box rather than a penalty.
He then duly sent McAuley off despite the defender proclaiming his innocence.
If McAuley had committed the foul it would have seemed only appropriate that decision given be a penalty and not a free-kick which seemed to be awarded for the initial tackle by Dawson.
The incident marked the second time in less than a month that a Premier League official has dismissed the wrong player after Sunderland defender Wes Brown was red carded for a foul by team-mate John O’Shea in a match against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
A similar incident last season saw Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs mistakenly sent off when teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deliberately handled on the line in the Gunners 6-0 defeat by Chelsea.
West Brom manager Tony Pulis later expressed his bemusement at McAuley’s dismissal. “How he (the referee) gets the lad wrong is just absolutely amazing to me,” he said in quotes carried by the AFP news agency.
A visibly frustrated Pulis also called for match officials to be able to make use of video technology during Premier League matches.
“I would definitely call now for managers to have two calls each and every game, where there are 30 seconds and they can have a video link-up with people upstairs who can watch it on video,” he said.
Despite their numerical advantage, City still had to wait until the 27th minute to break the deadlock when $37 million signing Bony claimed his first goal for the club since joining from Swansea in January.
Fernando doubled City’s advantage just before half time and although both teams struck the woodwork in the second period, David Silva added gloss the scoreline by claiming a third on 77 minutes.
After being dismantled by Barcelona in the Champions league on Wednesday, City manager Manuel Pelligrini was happy to return to winning ways.
“It’s one thing to play with one player more and another to play well,” Pelligrini told BT Sport. “I think today we were very concentrated defensively … (and after that) we created a lot of chances.”
The result means City close to within three points of league leaders Chelsea who have two games in hand, the first of which is against Hull City Sunday.
Elsewhere in England Saturday, Olivier Giroud continued his goal-scoring hot-streak by notching twice to help the Gunners to a 2-1 victory at Newcastle United.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane celebrated his first England call-up, earned earlier in the week, by claiming a hat-trick as Spurs ran out 4-3 winners at home to relegation threatened Leicester City.
Meanwhile, Southampton picked up a valuable 2-0 home victory over Burnley, Swansea won 1-0 at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace claimed a valuable 2-1 victory away Stoke City.