The Etihad Stadium has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Manchester City this season so it was little surprise to see Pep Guardiola give his full backing this week to a new strategy aimed at reinforcing home advantage.
In a bid to replicate the influence of the likes of the Kop at Anfield or Stretford End at Old Trafford, City now kick towards the singing section in the south stand in the second half of matches whenever they win the toss, rather than allow away teams to play towards their own supporters as previously happened. If the outcome of this game is a sign of things to come, the club will consider it a move well worth making.
The second half was only three minutes old when Sergio Aguero completed a stunning team move to welcome roars of approval, and while not all opposition will be as accommodating as this travel sick Hull City side, it offered a swift endorsement of the change and put Guardiola’s team firmly on course for their first league victory for five weeks.
The only fly in the ointment on an otherwise straight-forward afternoon came five minutes from time when Claudio Bravo again provided another grim reminder of Guardiola’s pressing need to find a new first-choice goalkeeper this summer.
Given his first start in the Premier League since Jan 21, when he conceded twice in a 2-2 draw at home to Spurs, Bravo was redundant until Shaun Maloney, a Hull substitute, pulled the ball back for his centre-half Ranocchia, whose weak shot somehow squirmed straight past the left hand of the hapless Chilean.
It was the sort of save teenage goalkeepers across the country would make on a weekend. It was also Hull’s only shot on target in the game and means Bravo has now conceded seven goals from the past seven shots he has faced in the top flight once the Tottenham match and the 4-0 capitulation at Everton are factored in.
Guardiola can praise Bravo’s use of his feet all he wants but that is an extraordinary reflection of his fragility, one that underlines just why he has been jettisoned for Willy Caballero in recent months and why City are keen to bring in Benfica’s Ederson Moraes or Gianluigi Donnrumma from AC Milan.
Guardiola, though, preferred to focus on Bravo’s contribution in the build-up to City’s sumptuous second goal - a sweeping 20-pass move involving all 11 City players - than the goalkeeper’s late blunder, which he mainly blamed on the defending that preceded it.
“It is frustrating not to get a clean sheet but we defended poorly at set-pieces,” Guardiola said. “But it was important for us to win after many days without a win. It [the fight for the top four] will definitely go to the last day.
“I decide that [to bring Bravo back], no reason, he was training good. I will decide game by game. Claudio is the best goalkeeper in the world with [Marc-Andre] Ter Stegen and Manuel Neuer in the build-up and he helped us a lot to create our build-up and possession in the middle.
“Maybe the second goal is a big example of what we’d like to be as a team. But the defending for Hull’s goal was an example of what has happened this season in our box. It’s not about quality, it’s about the mentality to defend and we were not good.”
After successive games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, which yielded only two points, this was just what City needed – a home match against opponents whose sole away victory in the league came in the opening week of the season.
Marco Silva has done wonders for Hull’s home form but the Portuguese’s only point on the road was against compatriot Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. For this to prove another worthwhile visit to Manchester, Hull were going to have to defend diligently and wisely pick their moments to hit on the counter-attack.
They managed a couple of decent breakaways in the first half, with Evandro stabbing a shot towards goal, but once City took the lead the writing was on the wall for Hull.
David Silva, impressing again on his 300th appearance for City, played the ball out to Jesus Navas, whose cross narrowly eluded Aguero before bouncing off Elmohamady’s shin and past Eldin Jakupovic.
The Hull goalkeeper had been hard to beat until that point, making an excellent double save to deny Silva and then the equally lively Leroy Sane on the rebound, even if both should have scored. A free-kick from Yaya Toure was also tipped over.
The best move of the match yielded City’s second goal. It started at the back, and yes, it involved Bravo. In fact, it involved every City player on the pitch. When the ball eventually arrived at Toure's feet, he picked out Silva who, in turn, found Raheem Sterling. The England forward zipped past Andrew Robertson and then Ranocchia far too easily, before crossing for Aguero, whose shot went in off Jakupovic and two defenders on the line.
It was the Argentinian’s 10th goal in as many games, although, strangely, he did not celebrate. If anything, he looked glum, but amid doubts about his long-term future, Guardiola insisted he was delighted with the strides Aguero is making.
“I’m proud of Sergio, he was so happy, believe me,” Guardiola said. “He has made an amazing step forward in the past two months.”
Fabian Delph claimed the third with his first goal in the league since January last year. A cracker it was, too, the midfielder lashing home on the edge of the penalty area from Sterling’s pull-back.
“Our home form has been amazing but we need to change our results and behaviour away,” Silva said.
Delph’s goal should have been it. But then Bravo blotted the copybook. There are some things no amount of singing can help.