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Manchester City 2  Barcelona  1
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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 sung.

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 season.

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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