It was almost the perfect afternoon for Pep Guardiola, until Claudio Bravo had yet another moment to forget.
The goalkeeper, recalled for his first Premier League appearance since January 21, allowed a late shot from Andrea Ranocchia to slip under his grasp, from what was Hull City’s only shot on target. It means that Bravo’s record of not having made a save in the league for more than three months stands. It was an uncomfortable moment in an otherwise comfortable home win.
For Manchester City’s manager, victory was a blessed relief to follow a turbulent few weeks. Elimination from the Champions League by Monaco at the last-16 stage was hard to stomach. A run of four league matches without a win had cast doubts over qualification for next season’s competition. Then came tales of stewards intervening to stop a row involving a member of Guardiola’s coaching team after Wednesday’s defeat at Chelsea.
Guardiola’s life in England to this point has been flecked with problems. He still faces the prospect of ending a campaign without a trophy for the first time in his managerial career. Hull City rarely looked like adding to his recent difficulties, though. Ahmed Elmohamady’s own goal gave the home side a half-time lead. Once Sergio Aguero had squeezed in a second, to put himself third outright on City’s all-time scoring list, the game was won. A rare goal on a rare start for Fabian Delph added the gloss. Bravo’s late error, however, removed a little of the sheen.
Until conceding what was only Hull’s eighth away league goal of the season, the goalkeeper had been untroubled, although City’s defence were not entirely comfortable in front of him.
Kamil Grosicki’s runs down the left gave unlikely right-back Jesus Navas a few nervous moments, and Oumar Niasse should certainly have converted the visitors’ best chance of the opening 45 minutes.
As it was, a Hull player did score the only goal of the half – but at the wrong end. Ahmed Elmohamady, attempting to put Navas’ cross on the run out for a corner as it cleared Sergio Aguero’s head, instead turned it past his own goalkeeper.
That moment of misfortune undid all of Hull’s solid work of the opening half-an-hour, when they had largely restricted their opponents to long-range efforts.
Eldin Jakupovic had made a good early double save from David Silva and Leroy Sane, and also tipped over a free-kick from Yaya Toure free-kick, but was otherwise able to watch on as a series of hopeful shots whizzed by.
Having gone behind, Hull should have drawn level immediately, but Niasse appeared to have been fitted with a faulty compass, skewing a shot sideways from seven yards as Grosicki’s pull back was steered towards goal by Evandro.
But the home side did extend their lead three minutes after the interval, as Sterling darted down the right and cut across goal for Aguero to control and squeeze a shot past Jakupovic, Elmohamady and Michael Dawson as they tried to block. It was the Argentina international’s 118th goal for City, putting him third outright on the club’s all-time list of goalscorers.
Sane almost added a third instantly, but fired Sterling’s cross on the run straight at the goalkeeper.
That third goal arrived just beyond the hour mark, as Sterling raced on to Toure’s pass to lead another counter attack, and then rolled a pass left for Delph to thump in his first Premier League goal in more than a year.
That would have made it a perfect afternoon for Guardiola, but it was spoiled late on as Shaun Maloney cut the ball back for Ranocchia, on loan from Inter Milan, to steer Shaun Maloney’s cut-back under Bravo’s dive with the visitors’ only shot on target.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Navas, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy; Toure (Fernando 74), Delph; Sterling, Silva (Iheahacho 72), Sane (Nolito 66); Aguero 7.
Substitutes: Caballero, Kompany, Zabaleta, De Bruyne.
Hull (4-1-4-1): Jakupovic; Elmohamady, Dawson , Ranocchia, Robertson; N’Diaye; Markovic, Evandro (Hernandez 58), Clucas (Henriksen 58), Grosicki; Niasse (Maloney 83).
Substitutes: Marshall, Davies, Meyler, Diomande.
Referee: Jonathan Moss (West Yorkshire)