August - September 2010 - Reports
Return to Main Page           Home Page

QUICK NAVIGATION

Manchester City 1 Juventus 1     City Do Just Enough To Draw
Thursday 30th September 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD

It is probably a measure of how far Manchester City have come, and the new sense of ambition that comes from being bankrolled by some of the wealthiest men on earth, that they should regard a draw against Juventus, one of the great names in European football, as cause for disappointment.

The modern-day City are no longer fazed by the presence of authentic greats such as Alessandro Del Piero and they will regret the fact they did not have the ingenuity in attack to create more problems for a resolute Juventus defence once they had recovered from the early setback of Vincenzo Iaquinta's goal.

As it was, they had to make do with Adam Johnson's equaliser, after the England international was set up exquisitely by Yaya Touré after 37 minutes. The home side were marginally the more incisive thereafter but it was a second half of few chances, with City lacking penetration and Juventus demonstrating their experience and knowhow when it comes to grinding out hard-earned results in European competitions.

"We started the game slowly," Roberto Mancini, the City manager, said. "We can do better than that, although afterwards we did play some good football. I think it was a fair result in the end. We have to get better when it comes to creating chances, but at the same time we must also say that Juventus had a lot of players in defence."

Juve were always going to provide the most difficult assignments in Group A, but Mancini was entitled to be disappointed that his side had started so slowly. The Italian team looked a cut above in the early part of the match, playing with poise and purpose and thoroughly deserving their 10th-minute lead courtesy of a goal that had Mancini dragging his fingers down his face in frustration.

This was Jérôme Boateng's first start since signing from Hamburg for £10.5m in the summer and his was the first mistake, the Germany international standing off Iaquinta when the striker gathered the ball on the inside-left channel.

Iaquinta took a touch to move the ball inside and improve the angle for shooting, aiming a diagonal, right-foot effort towards the bottom left-hand corner of Joe Hart's goal. The shot was dipping and awkward but Hart really ought to have done better, diving late and allowing the ball to go beneath his left arm, as though it had caught him by surprise. It was a poor moment for the England goalkeeper, exacerbated by the presence of the England manager Fabio Capello in the stand.

Buoyed by the early breakthrough, Juventus resorted to ploys of containment, defending in numbers and with organisation, but City finally worked up a head of steam towards the end of the first half. The first moment of genuine vulnerability came after 33 minutes, when Gareth Barry applied a deft touch to Carlos Tevez's cross to flick the ball on to a post. Johnson could not turn the rebound beyond the goalkeeper, Alex Manninger, but the pressure was building and within four minutes the winger had brought the game level.

It was a goal that owed everything to the beauty of the through ball, Yaya Touré having the vision and technique to play a wonderfully measured pass between the two centre-halves to leave Johnson running into the penalty area. The pass was so good it would have been almost impudent to pass up the chance, and Johnson duly prodded his shot past Manninger.

The impetus was with City for much of the second half, without them particularly getting anywhere. Tevez, playing on the left to accommodate the return of Emmanuel Adebayor, was prominently involved. Barry continued his recent form and Johnson was also impressive, but it was a frustrating evening for Adebayor, replaced eventually by David Silva.

City lost Pablo Zabaleta to a hamstring strain at the interval which will keep him out of their game against Newcastle on Sunday, with Boateng switching to left-back for the second half. The other disappointment for Mancini after the interval was that his side were unable to create a single clear opportunity, despite long spells of possessions inside the opposition half.

Juventus seldom ventured forward in great numbers, though Del Piero's long-range shooting was a constant threat and the 35-year-old nearly won the game five minutes from the end with a thunderous free-kick that flew past Hart only to ricochet off the underside of the crossbar, on to the goal-line and out.

Teams:

Man City Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta (Boyata 46), Adebayor (Silva 73), Adam Johnson, Boateng (Milner 84), Barry, Vieira, Toure, Tevez, Toure Yaya.

Subs Not Used: Given, Lescott, Jo, De Jong.

Booked: Barry.

Goals: Adam Johnson 37.

Juventus Manninger, Chiellini, Sissoko, Marchisio, Iaquinta, Del Piero, Bonucci, Grygera, Martinez (Pepe 54), Krasic (Felipe Melo 75), De Ceglie (Motta 72).

Subs Not Used: Storari, Lanzafame, Legrottaglie, Giannetti.

Booked: Krasic, Grygera.

Goals: Iaquinta 10.

Att: 35,212

Ref: Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez (Spain).

Manchester City 1 Chelsea 0      The Real Blues Stand Up
Saturday 25th September 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD

After handing Chelsea the title the day before, Roberto Mancini watched his Manchester City side promptly snatch it away again as Carlos Tevez's second-half strike ended the champions' 100% record. In a tactical battle with defences largely on top throughout, Tevez's moment of inspiration just before the hour proved to be decisive. Chelsea were unable to halt the South American's burst from halfway and he found the perfect finish too, through Ashley Cole's legs and in off the post.

Carlo Ancelotti's men battled hard to force an equaliser, but, just as they had done for most of the contest, they failed to open up a disciplined City defence and came no nearer than the header Branislav Ivanovic struck the bar with before half-time. It rather showed up the opinion Mancini offered that Chelsea would win the title easily, and signalled City can join Manchester United and Arsenal in harbouring genuine hopes of glory next May as well. It was slightly strange that the build up to a game between the Premier League's biggest spenders should be centred around respective injury problems. Yet that is exactly how it turned out, Ancelotti claiming he had just 12 fit players, which was one more than Mancini.

Defensively, City are struggling with neither Joleon Lescott nor Jerome Boateng - who did make his debut as a late substitute - considered fit enough to start. And once Wayne Bridge had failed a pre-match fitness test on a thigh injury it was anticipated would keep him out for another fortnight anyway, Mancini went for 19-year-old Belgian Dedryck Boyata, normally a centre-half, to make only his fourth league appearance.

Boyata rewarded his manager with a solid contribution to an obdurate defensive performance from City. Only once were the Blues opened up properly, and that had nothing to do with the teenager. In fact it was Tevez who drifted away from Florent Malouda as he anticipated a return pass to Didier Drogba, who had just taken a corner on the Chelsea left. Tevez's movement gave Malouda the space to curl a deep cross to the far post, where Alex nodded it back to Ivanovic. The Serbian had two goes at putting Chelsea in front. The first came bouncing back off the bar, giving him a second header to go for, this time Joe Hart making a comfortable save. Apart from that, both goalmouths were largely underused.

Knowing this was their biggest test of the season so far and without Frank Lampard to drive them forward from midfield, Chelsea were content to play within themselves, keep a fairly rigid shape and let City expend their energy trying to break them down. For their part, the home side failed to get sufficient support to Tevez, who worked incredibly hard up front on his own but was limited to speculative long-range efforts. Under such circumstances, it was hardly a surprise it began to get a bit tetchy and Pablo Zabaleta's booking for a reckless sliding tackle on Ivanovic gave way to a period of play scarred by physical confrontation.

The first two minutes of the second period produced as much intense action as there had been in the whole of the first. After Hart had pushed a curling Nicolas Anelka shot away from danger, Michael Essien should have done far better with the near-post corner than send his header sailing over the bar after being picked out completely unmarked.

City responded with their first meaningful assault on the Chelsea goal, which forced Cech to make a decent low save to deny Silva. It proved to be the prelude to the deadlock being broken. Yaya Toure and the nippy Silva deserve mentions for their short pass and running off the ball respectively after Ramires had conceded possession just inside the City half. The rest of it was all the South American's own work as he ran ferociously at the visitors' defence, jinked to his right, then blasted a shot through Cole's legs and into the net off the inside of Cech's right-hand post.

Twice Essien tried to level from long-range. Twice his radar was way off and the ball sailed over. Alex glanced a header wide after Boyata had marred his effective performance by getting booked for chopping down YuZhirkov,ry Zhrikov, but with Cole also belting a shot into the side-netting, Chelsea ran out of ideas.

After beating the Chelsea twice last season as well, City are rather getting to like this and so is GYKO - Bring on Juve

Teams

Man City Hart, Boyata (Boateng 88), Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta, Silva (Adam Johnson 77), De Jong, Toure Yaya, Barry, Milner, Tevez (Adebayor 86).

Subs Not Used: Given, Lescott, Vieira, Jo.

Booked: Zabaleta, Boyata.

Goals: Tevez 59.

Chelsea Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Essien, Mikel (Zhirkov 68), Ramires (McEachran 80), Anelka, Drogba (Sturridge 75), Malouda.

Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Van Aanholt, Kakuta.

Booked: Mikel, Anelka, Alex.

Att: 47,203

Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
 

West Bromwich Albion 2 Manchester City 1   City Bombed Out of the League Cup
Wednesday 22nd September 2010 : Terry O'Conner for GYKO at the

Sheikh Mansour's £1billion investment in Manchester City was unable to save the Blues from an embarrassing Carling Cup defeat to West Brom's second string at the Hawthorns. Even with an estimated £100million of talent on the pitch at the final whistle as Roberto Mancini threw on James Milner and David Silva, City were unable to force an equaliser. Milner came closest in stoppage time when Boaz Myhill made a flying save to ensure a West Brom side showing 10 changes from the team which beat Birmingham on Saturday preserved a lead Gianni Zuiverloon and Simon Cox had given them in a two-minute second-half spell.

It was a dismal result for Mancini, who must now try to avoid defeat to Chelsea at Eastlands on Saturday to stop questions being asked about his admittedly short Blues reign. In fact, as they contemplated their fate on the journey back up the M6, probably the only man who could look back on the contest with any satisfaction was goalkeeper Shay Given. At the weekend Given admitted his plight at Eastlands was not an attractive one but the Irishman turned in an excellent display, with two saves in particular standing out. The first, to deny Graham Dorrans needed agility after the midfielder had let fly from 20 yards with a shot heading for the bottom corner. Then it was strength, speed and dexterity as Given turned away Giles Barnes' header, then got across his goal quickly enough to repel Somen Tchoyi. Even as he reflected on those efforts at half-time, Given must have known his involvement against Chelsea on Saturday would come from the bench given Mancini's line-up, containing three new faces and three teenagers, had both eyes on the visit of Carlo Ancelotti's men.

In the final analysis, it may be pointed out to Mancini that his purposes might have been better served had this been the game when he selected all his stars. After all, unless the Italian is harbouring serious ambitions of winning the title, even though City are already seven points adrift of the leaders, a home game against Chelsea is probably not going to make or break their top four aspirations in the same way this defeat ended their hopes of winning a trophy before May. But at half-time Mancini must have been fairly pleased with himself after Jo had once again rewarded his manager's faith and patience. The £17million Brazilian scored his first City goal in almost two years in Salzburg last week.

Rather like London buses, once one arrives, another follows shortly afterwards. Given West Brom controlled so much of the contest, it should be no surprise City pounced on the counter-attack with one of the debutants, John Guidetti, playing a key role before Jo calmly stroked the ball home.

When Given stood tall to beat away a Barnes effort after the midfielder had been sent racing beyond the City defence, it appeared the script for the evening had been written. Faced with such adversity, West Brom's mood was impressively defiant. And although Ben Mee was fuming at being on the wrong end of an apparent push in the build-up, there was no doubting the touch of class from Zuiverloon as he belted his side level from 20 yards.

Within a couple of minutes, the Baggies were celebrating again as Cox found the same bottom corner after finding himself some space on the edge of the City box. The swift reversal in fortune was no more than West Brom deserved and triggered the introduction of Milner in a clear effort to try to salvage the contest.

Silva soon followed but it was all to no avail as the Baggies celebrated a famous win.

Teams

West Brom Myhill, Zuiverloon, Meite, Pablo, Shorey (Jara 67),Tchoyi, Reid, Dorrans, Barnes, Bednar (Fortune 82), Cox.

Subs Not Used: Carson, Olsson, Brunt, Odemwingie, Scharner.

Goals: Zuiverloon 55, Cox 57.

Man City Given, Vidal (Zabaleta 54), Boyata, Mee, Cunningham,Adam Johnson, Vieira, Ibrahim (Milner 71), Jo,Santa Cruz (Silva 80), Guidetti.

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Kompany, Kay, Veseli.

Booked: Vidal.

Goals: Jo 19.

Att: 10,418

Ref: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).
 

Wigan Athletic 0 Manchester City 2      Wigan Bogey blown away....
Sunday 19th September 2010 : Jim Morton for GYKO at the DW Stadium

Carlos Tevez inspired Manchester City to shrug off their sluggish start to the season as Roberto Mancini's men were helped on their way by a pair of glaring defensive errors. Superb Tevez struck City's opener out of nothing in the 43rd minute after Latics defender Mohamed Diame back-headed a long goal kick from Joe Hart into his path. And he set up Yaya Toure's first City goal after 73 minutes when he seized on a weak defensive header by Maynor Figueroa to cross for the Ivory Coast star to prod home.

Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi had been a virtual spectator until Tevez hit his opener and the result was hard on Roberto Martinez's men who matched their opponents for long periods. While their own chances were few and far between the same could be said for City who - Tevez apart - carried precious little threat in the final third of the field.

City had started with plenty of purpose, with Richards lucky to escape a caution for a careless challenge on Figueroa, then Tevez ruled just offside after being set through by Milner. When a Richards cross was half-cleared the ball fell to Tevez who scooped high and wide on a slippery surface which made conditions difficult for both teams. Tevez came close to giving the visitors a 14th-minute lead when he ran at the Wigan defence before hitting a low shot from long range which flashed just wide of Al Habsi's right-hand post.

Wigan almost fashioned a chance after 23 minutes when Nigel de Jong gave the ball away to Figueroa who blazed down the right only to see his attempted cross cut out by Vincent Kompany. With City struggling to fire, Wigan began to enjoy more possession and had their first shot on target on the half-hour, when Di Santo skidded a low shot from the left into Joe Hart's arms.

Pablo Zabaleta fired over from 20 yards for City who were often being made to look second-best in midfield by a home side who harried for every ball. City's opener had a great deal of fortune about it as Hart's deep goal-kick struck Diame and Tevez nipped in to loft the opener gently over the advancing Al Habsi. And City came close to extending their lead in the first minute of the second half when David Silva made space on the right and crossed for Tevez, who mis-kicked in front of goal.

City certainly seemed to have much more purpose about them and that was underlined by a jinking run by Tevez which was finally brought to an end in the six-yard box by Steve Gohouri. Zabaleta hit a shot from a tight angle straight at Al Habsi in what was the Wigan keeper's first save of the match, before Gohouri was cautioned for a late challenge on Tevez.

There were warning signs for Wigan in the 68th minute when Gohouri's slack ball at the back let in Tevez, who rammed his shot straight at Al Habsi. And it did undo them in the 70th minute when Figueroa failed to head clear allowing Tevez to nip in and loft the ball across the face of goal for Yaya Toure to stab home at the far post. With the fight suddenly drifting out of the home side Tevez almost added his second in the 74th minute with a left-foot effort that flashed across the face of goal. And substitute Adam Johnson almost added a third in injury time when his rising shot from the left deflected off Ronnie Stam and hit the bar.

Teams:

Wigan Al Habsi, Boyce (Stam 65), Gohouri, Alcaraz, Figueroa, N'Zogbia (Moses 86), Thomas, McCarthy, Diame (Watson 86),Rodallega, Di Santo.

Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Boselli, Steven Caldwell, Gomez.

Booked: Gohouri.

Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Toure, Zabaleta, De Jong, Toure Yaya (Jo 74), Barry, Silva (Adam Johnson 72), Milner,Tevez (Wright-Phillips 88).

Subs Not Used: Given, Santa Cruz, Vieira, Boyata.

Booked: De Jong, Toure Yaya.

Goals: Tevez 43, Toure Yaya 70.

Att: 15,525

Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).
 

Salzburg 0 Manchester City 2        The Hills are alive with the sound of Blue Moon
Thursday 16th September 2010 : John Harrop for GYKO in Salzburg

David Silva and Jo performed an unlikely double act as Manchester City got their Europa League campaign off to a flying start. Silva has endured a stop-start first few weeks since his arrival from Valencia and has even been linked with a swift move back to Spain. But the World Cup star provided City with their early lead before Jo, who was the longest-serving outfield player in the City starting line-up despite spending the past 18 months away on loan, drilled home the second from the angle.

It was a fully merited triumph for a team that at times showed the form that brought them that encouraging early-season triumph over Liverpool, and gave Roberto Mancini an indication that after recent Premier League setbacks against Sunderland and Blackburn, his team are moving in the right direction. When Silva's £24million capture was announced right in the middle of the World Cup, it created a ripple of excitement to match any at City throughout another breathless summer.

Although not in the class of his Barcelona-bound former Valencia colleague David Villa, Silva had been attracting admiring glances across Europe for quite a while. That City should be able to attract such a player, at a time when the general trend has been for big names to decamp to La Liga, emphasised both their financial muscle and the new eyes with which the Eastlands outfit are now being viewed.

As it turned out, Silva still had 11 days of what, for him, was a largely inactive World Cup to go, the consequent celebrations and late return for pre-season training playing havoc with the settling-in process. That the two recent international breaks have taken Spain to Mexico and Argentina have hardly helped either, so suddenly, Silva was a man with something to prove. Deep down, he must have retained plenty of confidence though. The assured manner with which he took the seventh-minute opportunity presented to him by Jo did not appear that of a man wracked by self-doubt.

By half-time, Silva would be reflecting he should have had a second too. Gareth Barry's fine pass to Carlos Tevez created that opportunity, the South American's square ball inviting Silva to shoot, only for Gerhard Tremmel to make a fine save after the 24-year-old had checked back onto his left foot. That Wayne Bridge and Jo played a part in City's opener would have given both men cause for satisfaction. Bridge's first appearance of the season has been delayed because of an ankle operation and could not have been better timed considering Joleon Lescott is expected to be out for a fortnight with a groin strain.

For Jo (pictued above right) it was a reminder that he still exists. It was the Brazilian's first start since December 2008, six months after his arrival from CSKA Moscow in a £17million deal which seemed certain to be consigned to the ill-fated variety. Expected to move on this summer after loan spells with Everton and Galatasaray, the 23-year-old stuck around and was rewarded with a place in both Mancini's Premier League and European squads. Then, as injuries claimed Emmanuel Adebayor and Mario Balotelli, Jo was suddenly shunted to the forefront of Mancini's plans. It must be said, he did not look particularly threatening, even though he stuck stretch out a leg to tee up Silva from Bridge's low cross. But the City boss stuck with him and when Tevez's shot was parried by Gerhard Tremmel, Jo kept his composure to tuck home from an acute angle.

The goal came at a time when a watchable game had hit a flat spot, Salzburg hitting a brick wall in their attempts to come any closer than the free-kick Nikola Pokrivac flashed wide right after the break. Mancini took it as the sign to start making changes, with Dedryck Boyata, Patrick Vieira and Shaun Wright-Phillips all given a run out. After the recent setbacks against Sunderland and Blackburn it was just what Mancini would have wanted and leaves City fans in optimistic mood ahead of their second European adventure, the visit of Italian giants Juventus to Eastlands in a fortnight.

Teams

SV Red Bull Salzburg Tremmel, Schwegler, Afolabi, Sekagya, Svento, Schiemer, Mendes Da Silva (Augustinussen 74), Zarate, Leitgeb, Pokrivac (Jantscher 54), Boghossian (Wallner 54).

Subs Not Used: Walke, Dudic, Hierlander, Alan.

Booked: Wallner.

Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Toure, Bridge (Boyata 68), Silva (Wright-Phillips 83), Toure Yaya, De Jong, Barry,Tevez (Vieira 79), Jo.

Subs Not Used: Given, Richards, Milner, Adam Johnson.

Booked: Toure.

Goals: Silva 8, Jo 63.

Att: 25,100

Ref: Georgios Daloukas (Greece).

 

Manchester City 1 Blackburn Rovers 1       Another Botch Up
Saturday 11th September 2010 : Carl Howe for GYKO the the COMSTAD

The highs have been exhilarating for Joe Hart, the praise almost unremitting, featuring a player-of-the-month award, some glowing headlines, the promise of a treble-your-money contract and the confirmation of his place as England's first-choice No1 – but then football reminds you how the life of a goalkeeper can also throw up some excruciating lows.

This was certainly one after the bewildering mix-up with Kolo Touré that allowed Nikola Kalinic to score the softest of goals for Blackburn 25 minutes into a match that demonstrated, once again, why Manchester City are still very much a work in progress. Hart has been exceptional at times this season but this was a mistake that may have him waking in a cold sweat and he ought to be grateful his team-mates at least managed to ensure it was not the game's decisive moment.

Instead, Roberto Mancini's side should really have won such was their second-half superiority but settled in the end for Patrick Vieira's equaliser, the Frenchman turning in Carlos Tevez's low centre in the 56th minute. Vieira, in truth, had been off the pace but this was a throwback to his earlier years, driving forward, picking out Tevez and continuing his run into the six-yard area to turn in the return pass.

By that point two Blackburn defenders, Ryan Nelsen and Michel Salgado, had been forced off through injury but Paul Robinson was a formidable barrier in goal and, in stoppage time, there was a moment that epitomised Sam Allardyce's team, Christopher Samba throwing himself at the ball to block a gaping opportunity at point-blank range for the substitute Jô. As last-ditch tackles go, the fist-pumping Samba was entitled to celebrate as though he had just scored the winner.

That was the last chance for City, leaving them with a modest total of five points from their opening four games. But it could have been even worse had Mame Biram Diouf not wasted a good chance at 1-0 and, for all of City's possession in a late onslaught, the best opportunity actually fell to Kalinic.

This time Hart was quickly off his line to smother the shot, partially making amends for that embarrassing chain of events that started with Morten Gamst Pedersen pumping a hopeful ball into the City half and Touré, the nearest defender, being caught off-guard by the sudden presence of his goalkeeper.

Thirty yards from goal, the two City players left the ball for one another, Touré's defence being that Hart should have taken responsibility after coming so far. Kalinic took control, rolling the ball into an empty net with Hart and Touré in football's equivalent of no man's land.

"It was a fluke," Mancini said. "We have to stop giving our opponents gifts because we not only conceded a strange goal but, after that, had 25 chances to score."

That was an exaggeration Allardyce put right. "We have measured up against a side that should be brushing us aside in terms of the immense difference between the clubs. It will be seen as an upset, but it was a well-deserved one."

Although Robinson, recently retired from England, was in commanding form between the posts for Blackburn, Allardyce gave a modest appraisal of the goalkeeper's qualities.

"Paul has played better than that for us," he said. "He put himself in the right position to make those saves today. That has helped us get a point."

Teams

Man City Hart, Richards, Toure, Kompany, Lescott, Wright-Phillips (Jo 57), Toure Yaya, Milner, Vieira (Barry 66), Adam Johnson (Silva 85), Tevez.

Subs Not Used: Given, Zabaleta, Santa Cruz, Boyata.

Booked: Vieira, Toure Yaya.

Goals: Vieira 55.

Blackburn Robinson, Salgado (Chimbonda 46), Samba, Nelsen (Olsson 40), Givet, Mame Diouf, Jones, Grella (Nzonzi 57), Pedersen, El-Hadji Diouf, Kalinic.

Subs Not Used: Bunn, Emerton, Dunn, Mwaruwari.

Booked: Chimbonda.

Goals: Kalinic 25.

Att: 44,246

Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Sunderland 1 Manchester City 0                  Mugged by the Machems
Sunday 29th August 2010 : Bryan Meadows for GYKO at the other Stadium of Light

Roberto Mancini had reason to regret not bringing his famous blue and white woolly scarf to a cold and windy Wearside on an afternoon which offered a foretaste of what could be a harsh winter ahead for Manchester City.

After failing to convert their early ascendancy into goals Mancini's side were forced to withstand a second‑half onslaught from a seemingly reborn Sunderland who looked as if they had belatedly decided this was their cup final.

It ended with the previously "under pressure" Steve Bruce performing a wonderfully uncoordinated dance of joy in front of City's dug-out after Darren Bent's 90th‑minute penalty gave his Sunderland team their first win of the season as City conceded their first goal of the campaign.

Undone by a teasing cross from Ahmed El Mohamady, a right‑winger known as "Egypt's David Beckham", Micah Richards flattened Bent in the area and the striker's subsequent kick proved too good for Joe Hart.

Even the best strikers can spurn sitters and Carlos Tevez was left holding his head in his hands after his attempt to dink the ball into an unguarded net went disastrously wrong.

If nothing else, the build-up to Tevez's miss reminded Sunderland of Yaya Touré's devastating ability to create as well as contain. Having blocked Kieran Richardson's attempted shot Touré initiated a counter-attack. Not content with towering over everyone else in midfield he outstripped all comers, shrugging off Lee Cattermole's tackle while advancing more than half the length of the pitch. Once in the area Touré slipped the ball adroitly to the unmarked Tevez who, with Simon Mignolet having come way off his line, seemed certain to score.

Despite some clever breaks and refreshingly inventive passing on City's part the Argentinian's failure to capitalise represented a rare clear-cut first-half opening. Admittedly Bruce had Michael Turner to thank for a fine block after Fraizer Campbell neglected to look up and conceded possession to Tevez, and must have been similarly relieved when Mignolet saved superbly from Touré after a James Milner free‑kick was flicked on but, generally, the visitors failed to translate aesthetic superiority into goals.

Bar a Jordan Henderson snapshot directed wide Sunderland barely threatened to breach City's defence in the first half. But, despite injuries forcing the replacement of Campbell and Turner with Danny Welbeck and Phil Bardsley, the start of the second period proved a different story. Suddenly Sunderland raised a ferocious tempo, began closing down blue shirts with new‑found zeal and even gave Hart a few frights.

Bent's pace was posing City's expensively assembled defence problems and a minute after he was denied by an important Touré block, Welbeck connected with the resultant corner only to glance his header wide. A wildly off‑target shot from the Manchester United loanee striker demonstrated why Bruce is keen to persuade Rennes to part with Asamoah Gyan, the Ghana centre-forward but even so Mancini's brow looked increasingly furrowed as he paced his technical area.

A change was required and Emmanuel Adebayor was introduced at the expense of Joleon Lescott in a tactical re-shuffle. This re-arrangement saw Gareth Barry relocated to left‑back and Tevez, previously the lone striker, dropping into the hole behind Adebayor as Milner and Adam Johnson became more conventional wingers.

Mignolet was soon called to arms, doing well to repel an Adebayor volley after Richards flicked on a Milner corner. Desperate to spark a breakthrough, Mancini sent on first David Silva and then Jo but Sunderland were finishing stronger with Welbeck forcing Hart into a decent save before Bent's penalty reminded everyone that buying a winning team is harder than it looks.

Teams

Sunderland Mignolet, Ferdinand, Turner (Bardsley 46), Bramble,Richardson, Elmohamady, Henderson, Cattermole, Malbranque,Campbell (Welbeck 46), Bent.

Subs Not Used: Carson, Zenden, Riveros, Colback, Waghorn.

Goals: Bent 90 pen.

Man City Hart, Richards, Toure, Kompany,Lescott (Adebayor 75), Adam Johnson (Silva 81), De Jong,Toure Yaya, Barry, Milner, Tevez (Jo 90).

Subs Not Used: Given, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, Vieira.

Booked: De Jong, Richards, Toure.

Att: 38,610

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Manchester City 2  Timisoara 0                    City Coast it...
Thursday 26th August 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD

Manchester City achieved their goal of reaching the group stages of the Europa League with the minimum of fuss. Holding a 1-0 advantage from the first leg of the play-off in Romania they coasted through in front of their own fans. Shaun-Wright Phillips made the breakthrough and Dedryk Boyata extended their lead with his first goal for the club.

Manager Roberto Mancini rang the changes and kept only four of the side that started in the 3-0 victory against Liverpool on Monday. Vincent Kompany was named captain while goalkeeper Joe Hart, Micah Richards and Nigel De Jong were also retained. Despite switching things around Mancini was still able to call on two World Cup winners in Spain's David Silva and France's Patrick Vieira.

City got off to a flying start with De Jong racing forward before firing in a shot that brought the best out of goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon. That set the tone and Timisoara were again forced on the back foot in the 12th minute when Jo showed good footwork but dragged his effort wide of the post. Jo, who appears to have won favour with Mancini after loan spells with Everton and Galatasaray, was partnered up front by Emmanuel Adebayor. City kept up the pressure and almost opened the scoring in the 37th minute. Silva delivered the ball from the left and Jo peeled away from his marker to get in a header. However Pantilimon reacted brilliantly to push the Spanish forward's effort over the bar and prevent his side going further behind on aggregate.

Then Adebayor squandered a good chance when he evaded a couple of challenges and skipped into the penalty area, only to send his effort the wrong side of the post. City eventually got their reward in the 42nd minute and made it 2-0 on aggregate with a fine move. De Jong picked out Vieira and he split the defence with a glorious through-ball to Wright-Phillips. The England winger, who started on the bench against Liverpool, had little hesitation in rattling a shot beyond the goalkeeper.

Timisoara, however, had not given up and won a corner in the 55th minute. Mircea Axente got away down the right and Boyata took no chances, putting the ball into touch. Cosmin Contra sent his delivery into the area but Jo showed his defensive side to head clear. No sooner had he done that than the Brazilian returned to his attacking duties only to see his shot smothered by the goalkeeper.

City made it 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate in the 59th minute thanks to Boyata. The 20-year-old defender climbed high at the back post to thump a header into the net following a free-kick from Silva and savoured the moment after a fine finish. That goal sparked a fierce spell of pressure from City in the space of a few minutes. Adebayor should have scored following a dreadful backpass by Ovidiu Burca but somehow the former Arsenal striker clipped his shot wide. Then Silva saw his effort blocked before Jo sent a header off target as the visitors began to wilt.

It was becoming little more than a training exercise with City spraying the ball about and keen to build on their 3-0 advantage. Silva cut inside and fired in a shot that Pantilimon did well to push high into the night air.

Timisoara held out in the final few minutes while City will look forward to the draw and the next stage of their European adventure.

Teams:

Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Boyata, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, De Jong (Cunningham 64), Vieira, Silva,Adebayor, Jo.

Subs Not Used: Given, Lescott, Toure Yaya, Barry, Tevez,

Adam Johnson.

Goals: Wright-Phillips 43, Boyata 59.

FC Timisoara Pantilimon, Burca, Luchin, Mera, Sepsi, Contra, Bourceanu, Alexa (Chiacu 82), Curtean (Goga 57), Axente,Magera (Zicu 46).

Subs Not Used: Taborda, Poparadu, Scutaru, Tames.

Agg (3-0)

Att: 23,542

Ref: Manuel de Sousa (Portugal).
 

Manchester City 3 Liverpool 0                     Scousers Battered            
Monday 23rd August 2010 : GYKO at the COMSTAD

This was a victory whose resonance counted for more than the three points. Liverpool are not what they were but a victory over them conducted with such thoroughness will encourage Manchester City's feeling that their project is far more developed than rivals prefer to think.

Aspiring clubs have to hit a rhythm that makes victories natural if not inevitable at their own ground. Roberto Mancini's team did that on this occasion and the studied football he favours took its toll on the visitors eventually. Adam Johnson's first start of the campaign increased the refinement that will be essential if there is to be a genuine bid for the title.

Liverpool were spirited, but that quality alone will not restore the club to its former standing. With an unsettled Javier Mascherano left out while he aches for a move to Barcelona, there is an element of further disruption at a club already riven by the fans' resentment of the owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

The proprietor of City can expect nothing other than acclaim and tearful gratitude. Sheikh Mansour relished it in person here and an opulent opening goal was presented to him after 13 minutes. Johnson slid a pass between Milan Jovanovic and Daniel Agger, with James Milner, on his debut, slipping into space on the right before pulling the cross back for Gareth Barry to side-foot the ball into the net.

It was a slick move that also reassured anyone in the home support still to be convinced that City have the punishing fluency to match established contenders Chelsea and Manchester United. Obstinacy, of course, is another indispensable trait and this match would have been too intriguing for Manicini's taste if Liverpool had cut the lead to 2-1, but Joe Hart pulled off saves from David Ngog and Fernando Torres after a Steven Gerrard attempt had cracked off the post in the 57th minute.

City therefore ensured that they have begun with three clean sheets across Premier League and Europa League. That will not be a source of awe away from Eastlands, but it does hint at a methodical approach being implemented despite all the public interest in the glossy expenditure. There is a heritage at this club of failure with darkly comic overtones and envious enemies probably wallow in imaginings of City floundering even with limitless sums at their disposal. Above all, Mancini looks determined to keep that fate at bay with his emphasis on order and control.

The early breakthrough appeared to augur well, but City showed little further interest in laying on an extravaganza. That was not so very great a surprise. Mancini has tried to look methodical and even downbeat in his management, as if he could personally offset the bemusement and disbelief that swirls around a club of unequalled means.

The prosaic streak was at its broadest when he opened the Premier League campaign cautiously at White Hart Lane. Even if he was wilfully refusing to play to the gallery, a goalless draw must have been entirely satisfactory against Tottenham Hotspur, who beat City to the Champions League qualifiers last season.

A first home fixture against Liverpool seemed to demand that Mancini reveal more of his intentions. Circumspection could not be the order of the day when Milner, signed from Aston Villa in a deal valued at £26m, was on the left wing.

Nonsensical as it sounds after all the outlay, City can be as rueful as any other club when a player is missing. Mario Balotelli, a £24m acquisition from Internazionale, might have been of use, but a striker who on his debut scored the only goal of the away match with Timisoara in the Europa League was ruled out with a knee problem. It took some time before efficiency in the penalty area was tapped to add to the opener against Liverpool.

Momentum and credibility for City can only have their origin in victories , yet they hardly reduced the visitors to panic in the first half. Liverpool were a good test then of City's resources. They were bound to be obstinate under that formidable strategist Roy Hodgson. The visitors had at least a yearning to be bold since Torres, making his first start since Spain's World Cup triumph, had the improving Ngog to assist him. Hodgson's conundrum lay in the inability of his team to advance with purpose until they were beyond recovery.

Each game is a significant experiment for Mancini at present. There was at least an indication in this outcome that he is a little nearer to identifying a line-up that is both trustworthy and explosive enough to make opponents dread their visits here. He may be fortunate in more than his budget. Disbelief still lingers over the transformation of City. The manager, for a little longer yet, can go about his work with greater funds than Manchester United or Chelsea while being spared the full weight of expectation that they endure.

Man City Hart, Richards, Toure, Kompany, Lescott, De Jong, Toure Yaya (Zabaleta 84), Barry, Milner, Adam Johnson, Tevez (Jo 84).

Subs Not Used: Given, Wright-Phillips, Adebayor, Silva, Vieira.

Booked: Richards.

Goals: Barry 13, Tevez 52, 68 pen.

Liverpool Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Agger, Jovanovic (Pacheco 85), Gerrard, Lucas, Kuyt, Torres (Babel 78), Ngog.

Subs Not Used: Jones, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Maxi, Poulsen.

Booked: Skrtel.

Att: 47,087

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 0    Joe Hart stems the tide
Saturday 14th August 2010 : Ian Oliver for GYKO at White Hart Lane

Tottenham should have won this game and must be wondering how they didn't. Joe Hart is the short answer, Manchester City's new first-choice goalkeeper proving equal to the considerable amount the home side threw at him. Yet having created a succession of chances, Spurs cannot be totally happy with the quality of their finishing. They will need to sharpen up to prosper in the Champions League.

Harry Redknapp's players are appearing in the European Cup on Tuesday for the first time in 49 years, and to mark the occasion they paraded their Double-winning side of 1961 on the pitch at half-time. Spurs hark back to that year so often it has been unkindly suggested they adopt Living in the Past as an anthem, although as long as they get through their qualifier against Young Boys they have the chance to celebrate an achievement that does not involve old men.

By the end it was inevitably being suggested Spurs could have done with Cliff Jones or Dave Mackay against City, though that was slightly unfair on a first-half performance that had plenty to admire apart from goals. "Tottenham played very well in the first half," Roberto Mancini conceded. "We are going to need time to learn how to play together. That is normal when you have new players, but I saw some good signs in the second half. Our goalkeeper played very well, and I was quite happy with the second half."

Hart won the first round of his goalkeeping battle with Shay Given and was kept busy for almost the entire first half, City rarely crossing the halfway line and taking something of a battering as a result. The visitors' £100m outlay does not appear to have bought them much style or shape. There was little width on show and an unbridgeable gap between their line of three defensive midfielders and their Subbuteo front three of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Carlos Tevez and David Silva. The newcomer from Spain must have spent the first half-hour wondering if he was going to spend the whole of his City career seeing so little of the ball.

With Gareth Bale excelling on the left and Aaron Lennon more than occupying City's disappointing Aleksandar Kolarov on the right, Spurs put pressure on Hart's goal from the off. Peter Crouch had a far-post header scrambled away, then the City keeper made a superb reaction save from Jermain Defoe's close-range shot on the turn. Hart kept out a piledriver from Tom Huddlestone from the edge of his area, then had to look sharp to prevent a deflected effort from Benoît Assou-Ekotto dipping under his bar. Perhaps the best stop of the lot saw Hart stand up to Defoe when the striker was clear on goal after half an hour, and when a Bale shot did beat him, it struck the foot of a post. Vincent Kompany was on hand to block the follow-up from Lennon.

All this was before City had managed to trouble Heurelho Gomes, who made his first save of the game from Yaya Touré eight minutes before half-time. For all that, City should have taken the lead when they caught Spurs cold at the start of the second half. Wright-Phillips was in the clear after staying onside to take Yaya Touré's pass but was not quick enough to accept the chance before the cover got back. Kolarov, a mere £17m from Lazio, did not return after a sluggish first half due to an ankle injury, an unpromising debut leading to questions about Mancini's judgment before anyone has even had a chance to glimpse £22m Mario Balotelli. Pablo Zabaleta, in turn, found he had his hands full with Lennon's direct running, although as the hour mark approached it began to look as if Spurs might regret not turning their superiority into goals.

Spurs sent on Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko for the last quarter, the latter immediately bringing two more stops from Hart with not especially convincing shots, although City also improved when Adam Johnson replaced Wright-Phillips to offer more penetration down the right.

Practically the first thing Johnson did was skip effortlessly past Bale and Assou-Ekotto to set up Tevez with a chance. His shot hit Ledley King and spun narrowly over the bar with Gomes stranded, yet it was still the closest City had come to a goal in 70 minutes of trying.

Spurs had an opportunity to seal the points seven minutes from time, when Keane could not quite convert Pavlyuchenko's cross and the ball broke to Bale, only for the Welshman to miscue with the goal gaping. He almost atoned a minute later with a smart cross intended for Pavlyuchenko, but Kompany alone of the City defence was alive to the danger and the last chance was lost.

"That was a brilliant ball from Gareth, great vision and weight of pass, but I must admit we ran out of steam a bit in the second half," Redknapp said. "We couldn't get a break in the first half, and Hart is a goalkeeper who looks like he's got a great future. But if we can play like that all season we should be right up there again.

"A goal would have opened the game up but some of the football we produced in the first half was terrific. Everything we worked on in the hour that we had with the players this week was there to see."

Return to Main Page           Home Page

QUICK NAVIGATION