BATTLING Albion came off second best to Manchester City as they were forced to play for 88 minutes with only ten men on a controversial afternoon at the Etihad Stadium.
Boaz Myhill performed wonders in goal, denying Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Wilfried Bony and co time and time again on an afternoon when the title-chasing hosts enjoyed 43 shots and 78% possession.
The encounter’s talking point arrived with just two minutes on the clock as Gareth McAuley was wrongly sent off by referee Neil Swarbrick, after it was Craig Dawson who upended Bony when he found himself bearing down on goal following McAuley’s weak back pass.
City went on to dominate from thereafter. Bony broke the deadlock in the 27th minute before Fernando doubled the advantage just minutes before the interval following a defensive mix-up.
Yet it could have been much worse for the Baggies if not for a superb individual performance from Myhill on a tough afternoon in Manchester, Aguero and Bony hitting the woodwork after the break.
Albion did strike the crossbar themselves in the second period, Saido Berahino from close range following Craig Gardner’s flicked corner.
But David Silva finally broke Albion’s second-half resistance when he tapped home in the 77th minute.
The Throstles will now head into the international break looking to get back on track when matters resume with a home double-header against QPR and Leicester.
Albion made three changes for the encounter - Myhill, Chris Baird and Jonas Olsson coming in for injured duo Ben Foster and Brown Ideye as well as the suspended Chris Brunt.
There was immediate controversy after just two minutes.
McAuley’s short back pass allowed Bony to momentarily break clear before he was upended by the recovering Dawson.
But referee Swarbrick mistakenly sent off McAuley, who duly left the field to leave Albion down to ten men for the long haul.
Naturally, the visitors were left to soak up a host of pressure, Aguero and Frank Lampard both trying their luck soon after.
Myhill was quickly called upon to make a superb parried save to keep out Silva’s powerful effort from the edge of the penalty area.
And the hosts’ pressure finally told in the 27th minute as Fernando’s attempted shot broke kindly for Bony and he took a touch before finishing past a helpless Myhill from 10 yards.
Jesus Navas was next to force another great save from Myhill, who was beaten for a second time in the 40th minute.
Olsson mis-cued his attempted clearance from Navas’ corner, forcing Myhill and Baird to block the ball as it span backwards and Fernando was on hand to slam home the rebound.
There was still time before the break for Myhill to make another three fine stops, denying Aguero and compatriot Pablo Zabaleta in a double save before then keeping out Aguero yet again.
Myhill picked up where he left off the start of the second half, making a well-taken stop from Bony this time.
The former Wales international was there again to deny Aguero just minutes later before keeping out Silva soon after and then Aguero again.
Frank Lampard was next to be denied before Aguero hit a post and Bony struck the crossbar from the rebound.
Myhill continued to thwart the home side and it was Albion who almost got back in the game when Berahino headed against the bar as Olsson flicked on Gardner’s corner.
But Silva ensured there was to be no late drama as he tapped home sub Stevan Jovetic’s 77th-minute shot.
Albion: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Lescott, Baird, Morrison, Gardner, Fletcher, Sessegnon (Mulumbu 89'), Berahino (Anichebe 86’).
Subs: Rose, Wisdom, Davidson, Pocognoli, Nabi.
SENT OFF: McAuley (foul 2’)
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Clichy, Navas, Fernando, Lampard (Jovetic 65’), Silva (Milner 80’), Bony (Dzeko 77’), Aguero.
Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Demichelis, Fernandinho.
GOAL: Bony 27’, Fernando 40’, Silva 77’
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)
Albion star man: Boaz Myhill