Manchester City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion

Edin Dzeko

Edin Dzeko's first-half strike was enough to give Manchester City a hard-fought victory over West Brom.

The Baggies started well and Romelu Lukaku spurned three early chances.

City improved and, shortly after Carlos Tevez hit the bar, Dzeko volleyed home from 12 yards.

Markus Rosenberg hit the bar for West Brom in the second half, while Jack Rodwell went close for City who ensured Champions League qualification with the victory.

It was an accomplished performance from Roberto Mancini's men, who made eight changes with Saturday's FA Cup final in mind yet still created enough chances to have won more comfortably.

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Mancini on 'important' victory

Only Joe Hart, who is unlikely to play at Wembley, Samir Nasri and James Milner retained their places in the starting line-up as the Blues moved to within three points of clinching the Premier League runners-up spot ahead of Chelsea.

While Mancini may already know his first-choice side for City's second FA Cup final appearance in three years, Tevez and Rodwell will have given him plenty to ponder.

With the Baggies playing three central defenders, including Craig Dawson who is back from a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers, the recalled pair dropped into the space created in front of the static backline and caused plenty of problems.

All of City's best moves were orchestrated by Argentine striker Tevez, with Rodwell's late runs from deep lacking a finishing touch which would have added a more flattering look to the scoreline.

But it might have been different if Lukaku had converted one of three good, early chances.

The young Belgian striker capitalised on City's defensive reshuffle to twice shoot on goal from the edge of the box before he headed straight into Hart's grateful arms when unmarked eight yards out.

City were also lucky to keep their full quota on the pitch when Aleksandar Kolarov caught Gabriel Tamas with a high boot which briefly forced the Baggies defender off the pitch for treatment to a bloodied head.

Slowly, City's confidence began to grow and Milner shot wide from eight yards under pressure from Liam Ridgewell before Tevez rattled the bar from 25 yards out.

Their pressure finally brought reward when Nasri dispossessed Youssouf Mulumbu in his own half and the home side swept forward through Tevez on the right. He pulled the ball back to Dzeko, who volleyed home.

City continued to dominate, with Rodwell having an effort cleared off the line and then firing over the bar while Milner hit the post from long range.

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Baggies deserved a point - Clarke

West Brom regained their composure after the break and Rosenberg was denied by the woodwork from a 25-yard free-kick before Billy Jones's follow-up was saved down to his right by Hart.

James Morrison also had a shot tipped around the post by England's number one, but City remained a threat at the other end with Rodwell's shot from six yards being blocked by Tamas and the midfielder's angled shot being parried by Boaz Myhill.

West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie, who unsuccessfully tried to secure a move to QPR on transfer deadline day, made his first appearance since 30 March and was given a cool reception by the travelling fans.

The Baggies, who remain eighth, almost snatched a point when substitute Shane Long nipped in front of Joleon Lescott but the Irish striker fired into the side netting as City held on to go seven points clear in second.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini:

"Edin Dzeko has scored important goals this season. I think he can do better. For me he is a top striker but he could score more goals.

"It is clear he didn't play all the games. I think he is one of the best in Europe for me but he can do better than this year.

"With his goal we are in the Champions League and probably in second position."

West Brom boss Steve Clarke:

"The way the players applied themselves was excellent.

"We played well and were unlucky not to get something. We had chances, Joe Hart made his usual number of good saves.

"In the first half we had a spell where we lost our way a little bit, we lost momentum, made a few mistakes and encouraged them into the game.

"When you encourage a team like Manchester City into the game they will punish you, and that is what they did."

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