Silva brace sends City closer to title

Manchester City’s David Silva celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates during their Premier League match against Stoke City at Stoke-on-Trent Monday. — Reuters

STOKE-ON-TRENT, England — Manchester City’s David Silva underlined his importance to their impending title success with both goals in a comfortable 2-0 Premier League win at Stoke City Monday.

Pep Guardiola’s side could have won by a much clearer margin against Paul Lambert’s relegation-threatened Stoke but with the title in sight — City is 16 points clear of second-placed Manchester United — it will not agonize over wasted chances.

If City win its next league game at Everton on March 31 that will set up a Manchester derby at City’s Etihad Stadium where a win over its arch-rival would secure the title.

If that April 7 Manchester derby does indeed turn into a celebration party for City then Spanish midfielder Silva, whose invention and creativity have been fundamental to the side’s success, surely deserves his own moment of appreciation.

Silva, whose son was born prematurely in January, has been splitting his time between Manchester and Spain in order to be with his family yet there is no sign on the field of the difficulties in his personal life affecting his performance.

Silva put City ahead in the 10th minute, finishing off a move of stunning simplicity with a confident close-range strike from Raheem Sterling’s low cross after the England winger had been set clear by a clever pass from Gabriel Jesus.

The only real work City keeper Ederson had to do in the first half was to tip over a misplaced clearance from teammate Kyle Walker, although Badout Ndiaye had shot wide after a moment of incisive dribbling from Xherdan Shaqiri.

Stoke, second-bottom in the table, showed lots of endeavor but City was always in charge and Silva doubled the advantage five minutes after the break, putting a high bouncing ball past advancing keeper Jack Butland after a swift exchange with Jesus.

Silva’s impact on City, this season in particular, has not only been with his intelligent touches but also his work-rate and competitiveness — qualities he showed at Stoke.

Butland produced a fine save to keep out a fierce drive from Leroy Sane and City had several other chances but lacked its usual clinical touch in the final third.

Bremen beats Cologne

Werder Bremen defeated Cologne 3-1 at home to ease its relegation worries in the third of the Bundesliga’s unpopular Monday night games.

Maximilian Eggestein sealed the win in the last minute to lift Bremen five points clear of the relegation zone and leave Cologne on the bottom, eight points from safety with eight games to play.

The home side created more in the first half and Milos Veljkovic made the breakthrough after half an hour. Cologne players protested furiously after Thomas Delaney cleverly blocked Cologne defender Dominique Heintz from getting to a corner, but it was no foul, and Veljkovic was free to sweep the ball in.

Bremen scored a similar goal against Borussia Moenchengladbach in the previous round.

Cologne emerged with intent after the break and Claudio Pizarro set up Yuya Osako to equalize. The 39-year-old Pizarro was showing no sign of his age on his return to his former club.

But the excellent Milot Rashica restored Bremen’s lead five minutes later, flicking the ball past Timo Horn in the Cologne goal after a perfectly weighted pass from Florian Kainz.

Pizarro headed Cologne’s best chance of an equalizer just wide in a frenetic finale before Eggestein sealed it on a counterattack. — Agencies