August 2011 - Reports
Return to Main Page           Home Page

QUICK NAVIGATION           Print

Match Reports for 2013 - 2014

Aston Villa 3 Manchester City 2    "Cityitus" is back
 Sunday 29 September 2013 : George Stanton for GYKO at Villa Park

Perhaps the arrival of Bayern Munich at Eastlands on Wednesday will be a blessing in disguise. A second league defeat of the season that was careless and avoidable left Manuel Pellegrini stunned and Manchester City's players with faces like thunder as they marched on to the team bus for the journey home, but bigger games have provided bigger performances so far this year.

Credit must go to Aston Villa for overcoming a 2-1 deficit with two goals in three minutes without their key players Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor, but this game was City's for the taking after their dominant first-half display and having taken the lead twice.

Lackadaisical defending will have alarmed Pellegrini despite Karim El Ahmadi's initial equaliser appearing marginally offside, after Yaya Touré had put City in front. Joe Hart did not even make an attempt to save Leandro Bacuna's fine free-kick, which again reined City in after Edin Dzeko had restored their advantage from a corner, and the winning goal was Sunday league fare.

A long ball forward from Brad Guzan was flicked on by Libor Kozak and Andreas Weimann waltzed past the centre-halves and rounded Hart to finish into an empty net. Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic, woefully disorganised during that period, will need to be more alert when Pep Guardiola and co roll into Manchester this week.

"I don't think this result will have an impact [against Bayern]," said Pellegrini. "We know it is a different competition, we know that we must turn the page and think about the Champions League. I repeat I think that the team played a good match today but we have to revise a lot of things.

"For me the most important things are the three goals that Aston Villa scored. Especially the first and third goal, the second goal was a good free-kick. We will have to defend better, not only on Wednesday."

It was City's display at the back that was particularly alarming. Not only was this their second defeat of the campaign, but another example of a poor result away from home, where they have managed only one point from a possible nine. A defeat by Cardiff City and a draw at Stoke leave Pellegrini's side five points behind the leaders, Arsenal.

This was a shadow of the team that dismantled Manchester United so ruthlessly. City enjoyed 67% of the possession but against Paul Lambert's 3-5-2 formation, with Bacuna and Antonio Luna operating as wing-backs, all they had to show for their first-half dominance was a scrappy goal from Touré that wriggled through Guzan.

Once Villa found their rhythm and the Holte End its voice, City were overrun in the space of a frantic few minutes. Four shots on target and three goals – Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry and Mario Mandzukic will be licking their lips.

Bayern have conceded two goals and scored 14 in their seven Bundesliga matches this season. City have not won a Champions League match at home since they overcame the German side in December 2011. However, having performed well in the Manchester derby and secured victory in their opening Champions League fixture this term, perhaps their strength under Pellegrini is on the big occasion.

City's manager, asked if his side were more motivated against stronger opposition, said: "If you only analyse the results of course, but I don't think it is about how the team thinks or feels. We tried to play exactly the same against the biggest teams or any other team.

"I think this match was very different than the ones we played against Cardiff or Hull. Today I saw the team playing the way we need to play and the way I want to play. Of course, this is not a good moment but they are professionals and we know how to raise our head again. We will try to win on Wednesday."

For Lambert, whose side have recorded victories over Arsenal, Norwich and now Manchester City this season, it was a first home win of the league campaign and, significantly, a result secured without their top scorer Benteke.

"I think too much has been made of the Christian thing," Lambert said. "I think Christian would be the first to say that we create the chances. For all the headlines he gets, he would be the first to say you need your team-mates. That's why it's hard to single out any player today because, as a team, they were brilliant."

Pellegrini will need his players to perform with equivalent unity when the European champions arrive in town on Wednesday evening.

Teams

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Clark, El Ahmadi, Weimann (Bowery 78), Luna, Delph, Sylla, Kozak

Unused subs: Steer, Bennett, Helenius, Albrighton, Tonev, Lowton  Bookings: Sylla 58

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov, Nasri (Navas 65), Fernandinho, Toure, Milner, Negredo, (Jovetic 74), Dzeko    Unused subs: Pantilimon, Richards, Lescott, Clichy, Garcia   Bookings: Nasri 52

Referee: Michael Jones                Att:35,000

 

Manchester City 5  Wigan Athletic 0        Wigan Dispatched
Tuesday 24th September 2013 : GYKO at the Etihad

The stuttering early-season form recedes from the memory. Manchester City cantered to a routine win crowned by a second-half goal burst that confirmed a result which had never seemed in doubt.

The victory made it three in succession for City, who followed the 3-0 victory at Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League and the emphatic win in the 166th Manchester derby by progressing to the next round of the Capital One Cup, a competition even the second-string that started would have a realistic chance of winning.Stevan Jovetic about to score for Manchester City v Wigan Athletic

Manuel Pellegrini stood down 10 of the side that routed Manchester United 4-1, with Fernandinho the sole survivor. This meant the Chilean could place the big guns of Matija Nastasic, Navas, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo, Aleksandar Kolarov and Yaya Touré, particularly imperious against United, on the bench in case of calamity.

From City's dire 1-0 FA Cup final defeat to Wigan that left only Gaël Clichy who started on that May day, with Emmerson Boyce, Jordi Gómez and Roger Espinoza remaining from the side that shocked Sheikh Mansour's millionaires in taking the trophy.

Before kick-off Pellegrini spoke of how he wanted the brand of fast, pressing football that dismantled United to be City's calling card, whatever the opposition or competition. By the close he had witnessed just that as City took their tally to 12 goals in those last three outings.

"I spoke with the players before we start, telling them we must always try to play the same way," the manager said. "We can change names but for me it was very important to see the same team we saw last Sunday, the same philosophy of football and the same high performance."

Of Yaya Touré, whose zinger of a free-kick took him to five goals in six games, Pellegrini said: "He is a player who can always improve more and Yaya is trying to do it."  The Ivorian's dead-ball effort followed similar finishes against United and Newcastle. Has he been practising them? " We are always practising. Yaya stays normally, kicking the ball after we finish the daily work. He is really in a good moment also. It is not normal, someone always scoring free-kicks."

Micah Richards, making a first appearance of the season after a hamstring injury, had opened up proceedings by drawing a save from Lee Nicholls, the visiting goalkeeper, with a header.

As should be expected from a side still worth more than £150m,City dominated throughout, with Marcos Lopes, a 17-year-old, enjoying an impressive full debut. The Portuguese forward was unfortunate to hit a post from a James Milner cross and as the sides wandered off at the interval, with Edin Dzeko's goal separating them, Owen Coyle's players could reflect on a Gómez free-kick he skied from 25 yards, and little else.

To a loud cheer from the home fans – and Wigan's dismay, no doubt – Touré entered for the second half at the expense of Fernandinho.

The prevailing sense, as on Sunday against the champions, was that City were toying with their visitors, able to increase the score still further at any chosen moment. When they finally did, with Stevan Jovetic's first for the club (pictured above), it derived from a slick sequence begun by Dedryck Boyata inside his half that took in James Milner and Dzeko before ending with Richards's slide-rule pass across the area being converted expertly by the Montenegrin.

Lopes's evening ended with 20 minutes remaining and Jesús Navas entered to claim his first goal for the club, preceded by Jovetic's close-range finish. While this all made it a wholly satisfactory evening for Pellegrini, City are at Aston Villa on Saturday when Paul Lambert's side should beware, though David Silva's thigh injury may keep him out until next week's visit of Bayern Munich for the second Champions League group game.

"Maybe for next Saturday I don't think he can play. But maybe for the next game of Champions League, he could be fit," Pellegrini said.

At the moment, the Spaniard is hardly missed.

Teams

Manchester City: Pantilimon, Richards, Clichy, Boyata, Lescott, Milner, Fernandinho (Yaya Toure 46), Garcia, Lopes (Navas 71), Dzeko (Negredo 79), Jovetic

Unused subs: Wright, Nastasic, Nasri, Kolarov

Wigan Athletic: Nicholls, Crainey (Redmond 68), Espinoza, Rogne, Barnett (Shotton 59), Garcia, McCann, Fyvie, Boyce, Gomez, Dicko (Powell 80)

Unused subs: Carson, McClean, McArthur, Buxton     Bookings: Barnett, Fyvie

Referee: Kevin Friend                 Attendance 25,519

Manchester City 4  Stretford United 1      Romp in the Etihad
Sunday 22nd September 2013 : GYKO having a ball at the Etihad

Nasri was the player in the corresponding fixture last season who had faced accusations of cowardice after ducking out of the way of Robin van Persie's late, decisive free-kick. Now he could be seen shadow-boxing by the corner flag. City had outfought their opponents in every department, from A to Z, and the bruises will take a long time to heal for the team beaten to the point of humiliation.

Manuel Pellegrini's side won with such remarkable, carefree splendour it felt as though the team in United's colours had no actual plan or idea about what this fixture is supposed to signify.

David Moyes now knows how the pre-knighted Alex Ferguson felt on that day at Maine Road, almost a quarter of a century ago, when United's manager of the time talked about going home and lying on his bed with a pillow over his head. At the height of this ordeal, Moyes's name reverberated around the stadium. Unfortunately for him, it was the home crowd serenading his appointment as Ferguson's successor with a great rendition of "There's only one David Moyes".

Moyes should brace himself for a lot of scrutiny over the coming days because this was a performance that exposed serious shortcomings. Yet nothing should detract from what an exhilarating display of attacking, incisive football it was from Pellegrini's team. They were faster to the ball almost every time, playing with great fluency and instinct.

Van Persie was missing for United with a groin injury, but that still goes only a small part of the way towards explaining the difference between the sides. At 4-0, with 40 minutes still to play, it was almost a surprise City stopped there. At that stage, United looked vulnerable to an even more chastening experience than the 6-1 at Old Trafford two years ago.

As it was, Wayne Rooney rounded off a late, overdue flurry from the away side by scoring with a free-kick that was totally out of keeping with the rest of United's performance. At least the champions did not totally crumple but ultimately it was a futile exercise, delaying their first spell of prolonged pressure until Sergio Agüero had scored twice, Yaya Touré had pinched another and Nasri had rounded off a ghastly five-minute spell for United at the start of the second half when David de Gea was beaten twice in quick succession.

That would usually be the point of the match, having gone in 2-0 down at the interval, when United would be expected to set about trying to add another story to their portfolio of exceptional comebacks. What actually happened strayed dangerously close to capitulation and the defending was extraordinary in its shoddiness. Agüero was completely unmarked for 3-0 and it was the same again for Nasri when he hooked in Jesús Navas's cross four minutes later.

They were goals that fitted the narrative of the first half. Every one will cause Moyes serious alarm when he examines the mistakes that preceded them.

City, in stark contrast, were buoyant, playing with great energy and all the qualities of movement and penetration their opponents were missing. They played like a team affronted to have passed the title of champions United's way last season. They harried and chased and, when they had the ball, they made great use of it. The rout began in the 16th minute with a moment of improvisational brilliance from Agüero. Antonio Valencia did not track Aleksandar Kolarov's overlapping run from left-back. Nasri's clever little flick left Chris Smalling exposed at right-back and Agüero, twisting his body and jutting out his left foot, managed to apply just the right measure of control to volley in Kolarov's cross.

Valencia had committed one of football's oldest sins, as Nemanja Vidic forcibly let him know, but it was that kind of basic carelessness that continued to undermine United and their captain was just as culpable as anyone.

The tone was set early on when Vidic broke the first rule of defending, over-playing inside his own penalty area and losing the ball with a risky pass. Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, the two players who were supposed to be shielding United's defence, were overwhelmed by Fernandinho and Touré.

Fellaini looked anything but a £27m player and, in the wide positions, there was a marked difference between the way Navas and Nasri pinned their markers back and the ineffectual offerings of Valencia and Ashley Young. At one stage, Young tried to clip a pass into the penalty area. It went straight out for a goalkick and, soon afterwards, City had their second goal.

This time it came from a corner that Nasri aimed for Alvaro Negredo, close to the penalty spot. Smalling tried to intercept but managed only to impede Vidic's jump. Fellaini was the third United player trying, and failing, to get to the ball and in the process he completely let Touré go. Charging in at the far post, Touré was a yard out as he applied the final touch from Negredo's knockdown.

Young, still managing to stand out for his wretchedness, was guilty late on of losing the ball in the build-up to City's fourth goal and Moyes, finally, had seen enough, substituting him straight away. Navas ran half the length of the pitch, unchallenged, before crossing for Nasri and the Frenchman's finish was wonderfully controlled on the volley.

A few minutes earlier, Nasri had played in Negredo, Vidic was spun far too easily and a simple cross left Agüero with a straightforward finish for the softest goal of the lot. United had been dismal to the core and Rooney's lack of celebration, after a marvellous free-kick, summed it up.


Barclays Premier League


Teams
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Nastasic, Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Navas (Milner 69), Nasri, Aguero (Garcia 86), Negredo (Dzeko 75)  Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Jovetic Bookings: Nastasic

Manchester United: De Gea, Evra, Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand, Carrick, Fellaini, Valencia, Young (Cleverley 51), Welbeck, Rooney   Unused subs: Amos, Buttner, Kagawa, Nani, Chicarito, Evans  Bookings: Rooney, Valencia

Referee:
Howard Webb                   Att:47,156

Viktoria Plzen 0 Manchester City 3      European Kick Start
Tuesday 17th September 2013 : Sranislav Jovjtch for GYKO at Štruncovy Sady Stadión

Manchester City finally produced the flying start to a Champions League campaign they have been seeking. After drawing against Napoli and losing to Real Madrid in their two previous opening group games, Manuel Pellegrini's team departed the home of the Czech Republic champions with a convincing victory and all three points.

A second-half goal burst from Edin Dzeko, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero did the business, though there is still work to be done for the new manager as he seeks to plot a path through the opening phase of the competition proper, a feat never managed by his predecessor, Roberto Mancini.Edin Dzeko slots home Manchester City's opener in the win against Viktoria Plzen.

"Yes, I think it's very important to start the Champions League winning away, it was not an easy match. Plzen are a very good team and to win 3-0 away, I'm very happy," Pellegrini said. "In the first half we had clear chances to score also but didn't do it. In the second half we had more speed to our play and that was very important against a team that had 10 players behind the ball. In the second half we finished what we started at the end of the first half but with two or three differences."

This is the perfect way to lead into Sunday's visit to the Etihad Stadium of Manchester United for the opening derby of the season. With Vincent Kompany coming through the match unscathed, the next wish for Pellegrini is that Gaël Clichy and David Silva can also return from their respective thigh and knee problems to give the manager the best chance of recording a win over the champions and register a significant early psychological blow over their cross-town rivals.

The manager said: "We'll see – from the report I had today David Silva could maybe arrive in the derby, Clichy more difficult. Vincent Kompany played 90 minutes without any problem – I had some doubts in the last 15 minutes to change him but he said he [was] OK. Micah [Richards] will work normally from tomorrow [following a hamstring injury] so there's no problem. And Agüero had took a little knock but he is fine."

City had been sluggish for passages against Plzen, again lacking the spark missing for most of last season. The sight of Jesús Navas being withdrawn after the break following an ineffective display summed this up, though Pellegrini will hardly grumble at the outcome of a contest in which the result was all important.

While the Chilean maintains the Premier League has equal status for the club, Pellegrini's pedigree in this competition was a principal factor in his appointment as manager, the desire being he can right a wrong that a £1bn-plus investment has so far failed to address.

He now hopes his side can grow into a season that had so far stuttered, as they did into this game. "It will give confidence to all the players. We also have the derby next Sunday so winning away in the Champions League and scoring three goals, having three or four more chances to score and keeping a clean sheet, always gives you a lot of confidence," said Pellegrini.

As the half-hour passed, the tale had been of a laboured City going the closer to opening the scoring with only the odd scare on Joe Hart's goal. Kompany provided one of these with a back-pass from near halfway that sold his keeper short and forced Hart into a sliding clearance with a boot.

Before this, City were unlucky not to take the lead through a series of chances of which at least one should have been converted. Navas, lining up on the right of a fluid 4-1-3-2, began these with a shot from the flank that was tipped over for the first corner by Matus Kozacik, the home keeper. Samir Nasri delivered the ensuing dead ball on to Dzeko's head and his flick-on demanded to be finished by Touré. Instead, the Ivorian's header found only the roof of the Plzen net.

The best of the visitors' chances came in quick succession. Agüero skated through the home midfield and, as a gap opened up, the forward unloaded a strike that skimmed across the turf, beyond Kozacik, only to rebound off his right post. Aleksandar Kolarov, in at left-back for Clichy, took aim with his left foot but could only hit the ball into Kozacik's hands. Kolarov also created a prime opening for Dzeko with a cross from his wing that found the No10 at point-blank range from the Plzen keeper, but Kozacik beat the header away.

Throughout the stanza Plzen found joy through the left boot of Pavel Horvath, their 38-year-old captain, who exposed City's vulnerability whenever he swung a high delivery into their area. Yet 12 minutes into the second half victory was secured as City transformed the score into a three-nil advantage.

First, Agüero outmuscled Lukas Hejda near halfway, remaining on his feet when he might have gone down to continue on to goal before unselfishly rolling the ball sideways to Dzeko, who blasted the ball past Kozacik.

The second came from Touré, the Ivorian producing a curling shot from 20 yards that the keeper could not stop.

Agüero finally had the strike his display deserved when a neat swivel was followed by a finish that gave his side an impregnable lead as he and the rest of Pellegrini's team could relax.

Teams

Viktoria Plzen: Kozáčik, Rajtoral, Procházka, Hejda(Hubnik 66), Limberský, Hořava, Horváth, Petržela, Kolář (Duris 61), Kovařík, Bakoš (Teci 84)   Unused subs: Bolek, Pospisil, Koukal, Wagner  Bookings: Limbersky

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Nastasic, Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Garcia 80), Nasri, Navas (Milner 67), Dzeko (Negredo 83), Aguero   Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Rodwell, Jovetic
 
Bookings: Kolarov, Fernandinho

Referee: Tagliavento                    Att:11,000

Stoke City 0 Manchester City 0            Oh For Tevez
Saturday 14th September 2013 : GYKO at the Britannia Stadium

Given the previous four league meetings between these sides here had ended 1-1 it was no great surprise to see this encounter end in stalemate. Yet for Stoke City there is the nagging sense that they missed an opportunity to claim a notable scalp. The hosts had at least five good chances to score and condemn a lacklustre Manchester City side to defeat. Facing the club that sacked him four years ago, Mark Hughes no doubt feels the greatest frustration.

Between them, Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters could have scored enough times to have secured what would have been a fourth successive win in all competitions for Stoke this season. Instead poor finishing let Jones down on three occasions and Walters once early in the first half. The Republic of Ireland international may also feel he could have done better at the start of the second half when he just failed to connect with Geoff Cameron's inviting loss cross.

The visitors created little and played with such a dearth of verve and drive that it was hard to believe this was a side that dismantled Newcastle on the first weekend of the season and, having spent more than £100m during the summer, are expected to make a strong challenge for the title. It is now two away fixtures without victory for Manuel Pellegrini following the 3-2 humbling at Cardiff last month.

The visitors at least kept a clean sheet on this occasion although their defending left a lot to be desired. Pellegrini made six changes to the side that beat Hull before the international break, including replacing Joleon Lescott with Javier García at centre-back. Stationed alongside Matija Nastasic, the Spaniard never looked comfortable against a Stoke side that played with admirable organisation and energy. Had the hosts had a cutting edge, they would have won comfortably.

"We're disappointed not to have won," Hughes said. "In terms of chances created we had the better of the game and that was probably the only thing missing from our performance. But overall we're happy with our performance. Over the 96 minutes City didn't put us under too much pressure. We coped with everything they threw at us."

That much is true and so too, perhaps, is Hughes's claim, made with a wry smile, that City had "prioritised the wrong game" ahead of a busy schedule of fixtures, which kicks-off with a Champions League visit to Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday before next Sunday's Manchester derby.

Pellegrini justified his changes by pointing out that a dozen members of his squad had been involved in internationals, and that the absence of Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards and Gaël Clichy through injury meant his defence was always going to lack a familiar look.

Recovered, however, was Stevan Jovetic, who made his first appearance for City following his £22m summer move from Fiorentina. The Montenegro striker showed some promise before being replaced by Sergio Agüero and had the visitors' best effort – a thrashed volley on 50 minutes that sailed just over the bar.

That chance was nothing compared to those wasted by Jones and Walters. On 14 minutes, the latter glanced Charlie Adam's cross wide of the far post after finding himself unmarked in the six yard area, while Jones missed in almost identical fashion on 55 minutes. In the first half, the same player also saw his close-range shot saved by Joe Hart having stolen possession from Samir Nasri and found himself with a clear run on goal.

The 28-year-old's final head-shaking miss came on 70 minutes and after Hart showed great reactions to block the ball when it had deflected off Nastasic following a cross from Marko Arnautovic, the Austria striker Stoke signed from Werder Bremen on deadline day and who came on as a second-half substitute.

It was little wonder that Pellegrini was full of praise for his goalkeeper. "I have always trusted Joe Hart," said the City manager, who suggested Kompany could return for the trip to the Czech Republic on Tuesday. "We did not create many chances but I'm not disappointed with the performance. This was a good point for us." For Stoke, all three were there for the taking.


Teams : Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters, Walters, Nzonzi, Adam (Arnautovic 70), Wilson, Etheringron (Ireland 70), Jones (Crouch 77)

Unused subs: Sorensen, Whelan, Pennant, Palacios   Bookings: Walters

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Garcia, Nastasic, Kolarov, Milner, Rodwell, Toure, Nasri (Navas 73), Negredo, Jovetic (Aguero 63)
 
Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Dzeko, Fernandinho, Boyata     Bookings: Garcia

Referee: Mark Clattenburg        Att:25,062

Manchester City 2 Hull City Tigers 0   City Scratch out a Win
Saturday 31st August 2013 : GYKO at the Etihad

Don't be fooled by the score line: Manchester City were nothing like as convincing. It took a goal from a set piece from Yaya Touré right at the end to make this second home victory of the season look respectable. Before that, City only just had their noses in front and could have been embarrassed for the second time in a week had Hull shown a little more composure in front of goal. It was hardly the statement of intent Manuel Pellegrini was looking for after the defeat in Cardiff last week, and while Hull showed more than enough organisation and enterprise to suggest predictions of a swift return to the Championship might be premature, on this basis there is no evidence either that Manchester City will justify the faith of all those who tipped them for the title.Manchester City 2-0 Hull City: Tough fought victory for Man City

The way they demolished Newcastle suggested otherwise, but now even Pellegrini accepts that might have been a false result. "I knew the Premier League would be harder than that, and so it is proving," the Manchester City manager said. "It was good to start off with a win and a clean sheet, and today we did the same, but I knew at the time that the way we beat Newcastle was not the reality of the English league."

Steve Bruce did not need telling where Hull need to improve. He is trying to bring in another striker and is interested in working with Nicklas Bendtner again, though aware that Hull is a hard sell to players on Arsenal's books. "Even in the Championship people were saying we were not scoring enough goals, and it's beginning to look like our achilles heel," the Hull manager said. "We've got really good players here, and I was immensely pleased with the way we took Manchester City on, but we need to take our chances."

At least Manchester City defended Hull's corners competently enough, after the catalogue of errors in Wales, though the centre-back pairing of Joleon Lescott and Matija Nastasic still managed to look ponderous in open play.

Lescott was lucky to get away with a misjudgement that let in Sone Aluko after just seven minutes, and Hull would have taken an early lead had not the forward rolled his shot the wrong side of a post. While Joe Hart was off his line early and could take some credit for narrowing Aluko's options, the goalkeeper was badly exposed and Hull really should have taken advantage.

Danny Graham had a goal disallowed for a narrow offside from Robbie Brady's cross before the home side got their act together. Allan McGregor made two sharp reaction saves in quick succession to keep out goal-bound headers from Aleksandar Kolarov and Lescott, though significantly the first was from a corner and the second from a second-phase cross swung in after a corner had been cleared. At no point in the first half were Hull opened up by their opponents' passing.

As the interval approached there were signs of the locals becoming restless with the lack of attempts on goal, not to mention the lack of excitement, and they were far from reassured when Touré climbed to reach a Jesús Navas corner and sent in a header that would not have hit a target twice as tall.

There were grumbles, rather than boos, when the first half ended scoreless.

"All teams lose sometimes, it is how they respond that is the important thing," Pellegrini had told home supporters before the game. Facing their second newly promoted side in a week, Manchester City were not exactly responding with alacrity. Considering Robert Koren had also flashed a shot just inches wide of Hart's left-hand post, Hull had looked far more capable of opening the scoring.

Pellegrini reacted by sending on Alvaro Negredo to replace Edin Dzeko for the second half, a switch that immediately looked more promising when the substitute found space to reach a David Silva cross but failed to keep his header on target. Negredo then played in Silva to set up a half chance that Navas could not convert and the Etihad crowd at last began to make some noise. The breakthrough, when it came, took everyone by surprise on account of its sheer simplicity. Pablo Zabaleta galloped down the right on the overlap and hit a first-time cross, Negredo met it on the six-yard line to head downwards past McGregor for his second Premier League goal.

It was so straightforward you wondered what Manchester City had been doing for the previous hour. Not much in midfield would be the short answer. Touré was almost inconspicuous until he crashed a free-kick past McGregor to allow his side to breathe more easily a minute from the end, and it is not every week you can say that.

The scoreline might have been convincing enough at the final whistle, but Pellegrini's City are evidently still a work in progress. While the new manager has yet to hit on the right formation or combination of players to bring the best out of Touré, Fernandinho and Navas, his opposite number could only envy his range of options. "Look at the quality of the subs they brought on," Bruce said. "That's what you are up against. We haven't got the biggest of squads, but at Chelsea, here, and against Norwich with 10 men, we've shown we can compete."

Teams

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Nastasic, Lescott, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva (Nasri 65), Aguero (Milner 76), Dzeko (Negredo 46), Navas   

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Garcia, Jovetic    Bookings: Fernandinho, Nastasic

Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamady, Figeuroa, Chester, Davies, Koren (Boyd 75), Huddlestone, Livermore, Aluko (Quinn 70), Graham, Brady 

Unused subs: Harper, Bruce, Rosenior, Meyler, McShane   Bookings: Figueroa, Davies, Koren

Referee:
Phil Dowd         Att:46,905

Cardiff City 3 Manchester City 2        Back in the Old Routine
Sunday 25th August 2013 : Dai Davies for GYKO at the

So much for Manuel Pellegrini insisting there was no chance of Manchester City underestimating Cardiff. There was little evidence that message got through to Pellegrini's players on an afternoon that was as chastening for Manchester City as it was glorious for Cardiff. The Welsh club's first top-flight home game for 51 years will live long in the memory in these parts after two goals from Fraizer Campbell and another from Aron Gunnarsson delivered a thrilling victory.

If the result would have been nigh on impossible to predict beforehand, it seemed even more unlikely after Edin Dzeko thumped a wonderful 25-yard shot beyond David Marshall seven minutes into the second half to give the visitors the lead. The natural assumption at that point was that Manchester City, who had looked strangely subdued in the first half, would go through the gears and take the game away from Cardiff. Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth.

Cardiff played at a remarkable intensity in the opening 45 minutes and they summoned more courage and spirit to haul themselves back in the game when Gunnarsson swept home to equalise. From then on it was all about Campbell, who caused Manchester City's makeshift defence problems earlier on with his pace but ultimately did the damage here with his head. Campbell twice lost his marker Pablo Zabaleta to nod home from corners, with Joe Hart not exactly covering himself in glory on the first, when the England goalkeeper flapped at Peter Whittingham's delivery.

The home team still had to endure a nervous finale. When Alvaro Negredo, a replacement for Dzeko, sent a towering header past Marshall in the second of six minutes of added time, Cardiff were hanging on. Negredo came close to pinching another in the closing seconds but the striker was unable to turn the ball home at the far post and with that chance Pellegrini's hopes of seeing his side salvage a point disappeared.

There were raucous scenes at the final whistle as Cardiff supporters celebrated their first home win at this level since a West Ham United team containing Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were vanquished 3-0 at Ninian Park in 1962. It was a sweet moment for Malky Mackay, his indefatigable players, the supporters who have been through some bleak times and Vincent Tan, the eccentric Cardiff owner who has caused controversy by changing the kit colour but also transformed the club's fortunes.

Tan sanctioned £28.7m of spending this summer as Cardiff broke their transfer record three times, yet it was Campbell, a £600,000 signing from Sunderland in January, who stole the show. A surprise England debutant 18 months ago, when Stuart Pearce handed him a full cap against Holland, Campbell has never put forward a convincing case in the past that he belongs at this level. He had managed only seven goals in 70 Premier League appearances before the start of this season.

By the end of the afternoon, however, the 25-year-old was reminding everyone why Sir Alex Ferguson held him in such high regard when he came through at Manchester United and Mackay was talking about the striker getting back into the England setup. The Cardiff fans certainly made their appreciation known when Campbell departed to a standing ovation in injury-time.

For Pellegrini, the inquest will centre on City's poor defending – Joleon Lescott and Javier García never looked comfortable in central defence in the absence of the injured Vincent Kompany – and questions must now be asked about whether Hart is close to reaching that point when he has made one mistake too many.

City were also poor in other departments. The fluidity and freedom that characterised their 4-0 win over Newcastle on Monday night was missing against a Cardiff side that worked tirelessly and got their tactics spot on. Mackay crowded the centre of the pitch with players when City had the ball, denying opponents that play narrow and with little natural width the chance to cut through them.

On one of the few occasions when Cardiff stood off Manchester City, they were punished. Fernandinho rolled a ball into Sergio Agüero's feet and, with a deft backheel, the Argentinian found Dzeko, who dropped into a pocket of space about 25 yards out. One sumptuous swing of the right boot later and the ball was arching into the top corner of the net.

Within eight minutes Cardiff were level. The impressive Kim Bo-kyung escaped on the right flank and delivered a low centre that Campbell swept towards goal. Hart blocked with his feet but Gunnarsson was first to the loose ball and gleefully rammed home. If that was not exactly in the script, it was nothing compared to what followed.

Whittingham's corner sailed over the stranded Hart's head and Campbell got in front of Zabaleta, in the 79th minute, to nod in. Three minutes from time Campbell repeated the trick when the substitute Don Cowie delivered an inswinging corner from the opposite side of the pitch. Cardiff were in dreamland and although Negredo's superb header, from David Silva's cross, had a few hearts in mouths, Mackay's players held on for a remarkable win.

Teams

Cardiff City:
Marshall, Connolly, Taylor, Caulker, Turner, Whitts, Medel, Campbell (Cornelius 90), Kim (Mutch 90), Gunnarsson, Bellamy (Cowie 82)     Unused subs: Lewis, Hudson, Noone, Maynard

Manchester City:
Hart, Zabaleta, Garcia, Lescott, Clichy, Toure, Fernandinho (Milner 77), Silva, Navas (Nasri 55), Aguero, Dzeko (Negredo 68)    Unused subs: Pantilimon, Nastasic, Kolarov, Rodwell

Referee:
Lee Probert               Att:27,068

Manchester City 4 Newcastle United 0   
Monday 19th August 2013 : GYKO back at the Etihad

Presumably Manuel Pellegrini knows it will not always be this straightforward and that Manchester City will not come up against teams as hopelessly out of their depth as this every week. Newcastle United were certainly obliging opponents for Pellegrini's first match and they suffered badly against a team that attacked from every angle.

It was a wonderful display: fluent, slick, pass-them-to-death football, underpinned by a collective desire to get the Pellegrini era off with a bang. Equally a game as one-sided as this cannot sensibly be taken as an accurate barometer when their opponents were so utterly abject.

Newcastle should just be grateful that City restricted themselves to two first-half goals from David Silva and Sergio Agüero, then another two after the break fromYaya Touré's free-kick and the substitute Samir Nasri. Bad as it was, 4-0 does not really do justice to the pummelling they had to endure. Alan Pardew talked later about there being a risk it could "emotionally scar us". The Newcastle manager also lost Jonás Gutiérrez to injury and there was a touch of ignominy thrown in for good measure in the form of the forearm chop that Steven Taylor served on Agüero to get a straight red card at the end of the first half. Moments earlier Taylor had been fortunate to escape giving away a penalty after an Agüero shot struck his arm. The two players were still disputing it when a high ball came their way and Taylor swung his left arm. With 11 men Newcastle had been hanging on. With 10 it was futile.

For Pellegrini the only downside was Vincent Kompany coming off with a suspected groin injury in the second half. City's new manager had promised vibrant, attacking football and he was good to his word. Even their two holding midfielders, Touré and Fernandinho, are better known for their qualities further forward.

Jesús Navas and Silva tormented Newcastle in the wide positions and Agüero's partnership with Edin Dzeko in attack made it feel inconsequential that Carlos Tevez has moved on and Stevan Jovetic was injured. Roberto Mancini's teams could be devastating going forwards sometimes but this forward six is brimming with even more adventure. Gareth Barry, one of the linchpins of the previous era, was not even on the bench.

Their confidence could be summed up by the moment in the first half when Kompany found himself, as the last man, under pressure from Yoan Gouffran. The City captain simply rolled the ball under his own foot and nonchalantly went on his way. Kompany would later play a stunning part in the Agüero goal, outmuscling Papiss Cissé then striding forwards to turn defence into attack. Dzeko flicked on the pass and suddenly Agüero was running through the inside-right channel, expertly picking his spot to score off the inside of the post.

Newcastle had looked dishevelled from the start. Pardew could barely disguise his anger as he explained why Yohan Cabaye had been left out, as a direct consequence of Arsenal's unsuccessful £10m bid. Newcastle are entitled to be irritated by the timing of the offer, regardless of how short they believe it falls but Pardew could not explain how brittle and naive his team had been.

Tim Krul had already made a splendid save to keep out Agüero, and Dzeko had put another effort narrowly wide, before the early bombardment conjured up the opening goal. Dzeko was prominently involved again, taking Silva's pass, then turning past the right-back, Mathieu Debuchy, far too easily. His cross ricocheted off Taylor and the deflection left Krul hopelessly exposed for Silva to head into a gaping goal.

The damage could have been even more grievous for Newcastle if the referee, Andre Marriner, had punished Debuchy's risky challenge on Touré inside the penalty area six minutes later. Add that to the one Taylor got away with and this could have been a confirmed thrashing even before Pardew's men had tasted their half-time oranges. As it was, the only criticism of the home team was the number of chances they passed up.

Pardew responded to Taylor's red card by taking off Gouffran and bringing on Paul Dummett, a 21-year-old defender, probably knowing the pressure was going to be just as unremitting after the break as it had been before. It began with Krul saving brilliantly from Dzeko, who will wonder how he went the night without scoring, and it was inevitable there would be more goals.

After 50 minutes Debuchy brought down Agüero on the edge of the penalty area and Touré's free-kick was curled beautifully around the wall and into the top corner.

The fourth goal, however, epitomised Newcastle's performance. Pablo Zabaleta's pass was directed towards Dzeko but eluded him and simply rolled through the middle of the opposition defence. Debuchy's attempt to cut out the danger was verging on pathetic and Nasri ran clear to roll his shot past Krul. Four-nil – with Alvaro Negredo playing only 10 minutes and Jovetic still to come. Pellegrini, nodding his appreciation from the touchline, could hardly have imagined a better start.

 Teams
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany (Garcia 71), Lescott, Fernandinho, Silva (Negredo 80), Yaya Toure, Navas, Aguero (Nasri 62), Dzeko

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Rodwell, Milner  Bookings: Dzeko, Fernandinho

Newcastle United: Krul, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Taylor, Tiote, Sissoko, Ben Arfa (S Ameobi 65), Gouffran (Dummett 45), Cisse, Gutierrez (Anita 44)
Unused subs: Elliot, Marveaux, F Ameobi, Obertan  Bookings: Sissoko, Yanga-Mbiwa, Debuchy, Taylor (sent off)

Referee: Andre Marriner                     Att:46,842

Return to Main Page           Home Page

QUICK NAVIGATION