Manchester City 2 Barcelona
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The first ever-competitive match to be held at Manchester City’s new
ground welcomed the Catalan Giants, Barcelona. Due to city council
restriction only 36,000 tickets could be sold, but the impressive new
stands were a wash with the new blue strip as the rain early on in the
day was replaced by sunshine. It was quite an emotional occasion
for fans like myself who had the privilege of being one of those lucky
enough to taste the atmosphere of this great new stadium.
City had displayed some excellent pre season performances up until
this match and with the majority of his new squad and new signings fit;
Kevin Keegan fielded a strong side. Including Ali Benarbia and, Paul
Bosvelt and Danny Tiatto.
Shaun Goater the Maine Road hero was welcomed back by the fans after
being sold to Reading in the close season. The hundred-goal hit man
clapped all parts of the stadium as a rendition of “feed the goat” was
Barcelona, managed by former Holland international Frank Rijkaard
also put out a strong line up, including the former Arsenal man Marc
Overmars and one time City target Michael Reiziger.
A minute’s silence was impeccably observed in the memory of Marc
Vivien Foe’s tragic death.
City started brightly when in the second minute Bosvelt combined well
with Danny Tiatto down the left flank, the Australia man whipped in a
cross cum shot that nearly beat Rustu Recber at his far post.
Kluivert could have put the visitors ahead when he eased his way
through the City back four and shot low and hard but David Seaman spread
himself well and deflected the ball away from danger.
Cocu also came close to putting Barcelona one up when he rose well in
the area to meet a Puyol cross, his effort beat Seaman but also the post
and the ball went behind for a goal kick.
David Sommeil could have then put City in the lead when Shaun Wright
Phillips had crossed in a looping corner. The defender beat his marker
and flashed the ball just wide of the post.
Ali Benarbia took a standing ovation as he left the field after 25
minutes and was replaced by another midfield playmaker Eyal Berkovic.
The Israel international came onto immediate effect as he turned the
screws in midfield putting Reiziger under pressure, the Holland defender
inadvertently passed to Anelka who pounced to drive the ball past the
hapless Recber. City were1 nil up after 34 minutes.
Trevor Sinclair came close to claiming a second for City when he
latched onto a loose ball in the Barcelona penalty area, he drove a
fearsome shot goal bound but a defender managed to deflect the effort
inches over the crossbar.
As half time drew closer City continued to press, with speculation
over his future Eyal Berkovic showed City his worth by some neat moves
and deft skill.
City started brightly in the second half with Eyal Berkovic
continuing to cause problems for the Barcelona defence. Sun crossed well
for the Berkovic who tried to convert from 8 yards out but his effort
was blocked by the Barcelona defence.
The visitors then restored parity to the game when Javier Pedro
Saviola got behind the defence and scooped the ball over David Seaman;
the goal came in the 58th minute. Kevin Keegan then made a straight swop
for his strikers, Jon Macken for Robbie Fowler and Paulo Wanchope for
goal scorer Nicolas Anelka.
In the 67th minute City re-took the lead with a bullet header from
new boy Sinclair. Berkovic teed up Sun down the right flank, the China
international made a pinpoint accurate cross and the winger picked out
his spot well. City were then 2-1 up.
The pressure from the right continued to pay dividends. Berkovic
passed to Wright Phillips who crossed from the bi –line. Wanchope sailed
high to meet the ball however his powerful downward header re-bounded
off the post and into the arms of the keeper.
Wanchope was in the thick of the action when he had a neat one-two
with Berkovic the Costa Rican international found himself free on goal
and only 10 yards out, but he screwed his shot wide.
As time ticked closer to the 90-minute mark the City players showed
how much they were enjoying playing in their new home. The midfield
engine looked well oiled and the link play with the front two was
excellent. Wanchope often found himself defending, then on the flanks
and if not taking up dangerous positions inside the visitors box.
The game ended in a flurry of activity in the Barcelona half, but
City couldn’t manage to convert their pressure and skill into goals. All
in all City looked comfortable and dangerous in the new surroundings.
Kevin Keegan’s men all looked sharp and hungry in readiness for the new
City: Seaman, Sommeil, Distin, Sun Jihai, Tiatto, Bosvelt,
Wright-Phillips, Benarbia, Sinclair, Anelka, Fowler. Subs: Nash, Dunne,
Horlock, Wiekens, Barton.
Barcelona: Recber, Puyo, Rieziger, Andersson, Lopez, Cocu, Quaresma,
Hernandez, Kluivert, Ronaldinho, Overmars. Subs: Marquez,Valdez, Ramon
Ross, Sanchez, Iniesta.
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