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Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Manchester City 3  Ukrainian Joy Ride
Wednesday 21st September 2019 : James Watkins for GYKO at the Metalist Stadium

Manchester City took three points from their away trip to Shakhtar Donetsk, after winning 3-0 in Ukraine.
Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the match, and in truth, should’ve won by at least five or six goals. But, Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus all found themselves on the score sheet, as City became the only Premier League team to win their opening Champions League match of the season.

Manchester City went into half-time with a 2-0 advantage, after a dominant display. The visitors almost went ahead through Rodri, who miscued his header. But, Guardiola’s side made the breakthrough in the 24th minute, after some excellent hold-up play from Gabriel Jesus inside the box. He laid the ball into Ilkay Gundogan with the outside of his boot, and the German rattled the post from outside the box with his weaker foot. The ball rebounded into the path of Riyad Mahrez, who gratefully accepted the open goal.

Shortly before half-time, City doubled their lead through Gundogan, who was an ever-present in the midfield. The previous scorer turned provider, as Mahrez teed up Gundogan inside the box, who toe-poked the ball past the goalkeeper and into the near post.

The Citizens had numerous chances to grab a third goal after the break. Gundogan broke through the Shakhtar midfield lines on 50 minutes, as City found themselves in a 4 v 3 situation. But, the German fluffed his shot, and Raheem Sterling couldn’t put the rebound on target.

Guardiola wouldn’t have been happy with the amount of chances City failed to convert in the second half, but the third goal eventually came on 77 minutes. A classic City-esque counterattack caught out Shakhtar’s defence, and with three players queuing up, the Citizens had to find the net. Kevin de Bruyne brought the ball forward, and played it into the run of Jesus. The Brazilian took a single touch before sliding the ball into the far corner of the net.

City’s next Champions League match will be against Dinamo Zagreb on October 1st. The Croatian side tore apart Atalanta in the other match in Group C on Wednesday night. Guardiola will be keen to cut off the supply to Mislav Orsic, who scored a hat-trick for the hosts against the Italians.
Meanwhile, City can now enjoy hosting Watford this weekend in the Premier League.

Shakhtar Donetsk (4-2-3-1): Pyatov; Bolbat, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko, Ismaily; Alan Patrick (Marco Antonio 74), Stepanenko; Solomon (Konoplyanka 45), Marlos, Taison; Junior Moraes (Dentinho 74)
Subs not used: Shevchenko, Butko, Antonio, Lovalenko, Bondar

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Walker (Cancelo 81), Fernandinho, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Gundogan , Rodrigo (Mendy 83); Mahrez, De Bruyne (Bernardo Silva 77), Sterling; Jesus
Subs not used: Bravo, Aguero, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Mendy, Cancelo, Garcia

Referee: Artur Dias (Portugal)     Attendance :
Norwich City 3 Manchester City 2    Canaries Singing
Saturday 15th September 2019 : Ken Torkington for GYKO at Carrow Road

The Carrow Road crowd will cherish this memory for years to come. Echoes of ’93 and all that bounded across the stadium as Norwich City – newly promoted, short of money and with eight first-team players out injured - took on, outplayed and beat the celebrated champions of England. The Canaries might just have put a cat among the pigeons in the title race.

Manchester City are now five points behind Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table and given the tightest margin by which the title was decided last year – 11.7mm of ball by one account – that is not a meaningless total. On the other hand it is still September and there are many games to go but, beyond the points, Pep Guardiola will have seen enough in this match to worry him. City were not at their attacking best but their defending left a lot more to be desired.

Norwich led from the 19th minute when Kenny McLean exploited a City weakness, getting across to the near post to score with a header from a corner. Todd Cantwell, fresh from an England Under-21s debut in midweek, doubled the lead before half-time with his second goal of the season.

Sergio Agüero then clawed one back before the break, only for the decisive goal to be struck by Teemu Pukki five minutes into the second half after Nicolás Otamendi was mugged for the ball on the edge of his box. Rodri’s 20-yard drive came late on and ultimately did not make a difference.

“It’s definitely a proud night, without a doubt”, said Daniel Farke. “To win against the best team in the world as Norwich City who is promoted and have no chance to spend money and an incredible amount of injuries. The mentality and spirit and bravery was exceptional.

“I always believe in my players. We knew that we were not the favourites but we started to play [this kind of] football because we want to do something extra. The mood was difficult this week, because we had good performances in [the first] four matches but the outcomes were not great. We were struggling a bit for self-confidence. We made a point of trying to give them some belief this week.

“There is an unbelievable spirit and unity around Carrow Road right now. This result is brilliant proof that, if we stick together even in difficult times and go further on with bravery and spirit, then you always have a chance. It’s a night to remember without any doubt but we must further go on. I’ll be happy when I’m back on the sofa. I’m too exhausted to celebrate.”

From Norwich’s patched-up side some of the standout performances came in defence. Sam Byram, recruited from West Ham for less than a million pounds in the summer,stood up to Raheem Sterling throughout. At centre-half Ibrahim Amadou provided a brave foil to Ben Godfrey. Alexander Tettey – the only player in the Norwich squad remaining from their last Premier League campaign – was authoritative despite making his first appearance of the season. Then there were Pukki and Cantwell, the two effervescent forwards continuing to make their mark on a division they might have expected never to play in just a year ago.

City’s problems mirrored Norwich’s strengths. Agüero’s far-post header was City’s most successful tactic before Kevin De Bruyne – left out in favour of Ilkay Gündogan after the international break – was hastily summoned from the bench in the second half.

Much of City’s attacking lacked alacrity while, at the back, the combination of Otamendi and John Stones looked anything but authoritative. Norwich toyed with them at 3-1 up. It is only one game, and both managers know that, but they will each be taking very different lessons from it.

NORWICH: (4-2-3-1) Krul; Byram, Amadou, Godfrey, Lewis; Tettey, McLean; Emi (Drmic 83), Stiepermann (Srbeny 89), Cantwell; Pukki
SUBS NOT USED: Fahrmann (GK), McGovern (GK); Hanley, Heise, Idah

MAN CITY: (4-2-3-1) Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Gundogan (De Bruyne 57), Rodri; Bernardo Silva (Mahrez 74), Silva (Gabriel Jesus 57), Sterling; Aguero
SUBS NOT USED: Bravo (GK); Fernandinho, Joao Cancelo, Foden

REFEREE: Kevin Friend          ATTENDANCE: 27,035

Man City Legends 2 Premier League All Stars 2
                       Vinnie Signs Off With A Smile
Wednesday 11th September 2019

Somewhat poetically, Vincent Kompany missed his own testimonial. Of course he did. A hamstring injury; a scenario in keeping with his final few years at this club. 'It's typical of me,' laughed Kompany. 'I can't risk it. I'm usually ready to play at the end of the season!'

His figure is statesmanlike in these parts and there were no tears, no yearning for those final moments addressing the Etihad Stadium to last forever. His departure from Manchester City is not a farewell, more of a 'see you soon' and the Premier League champions expect him to return in some capacity, be it in coaching or business. The 33-year-old beamed as he strode from the tunnel flanked by his three children as 51,602 supporters patiently waited for their captain.

The smile will be broader when the exact size of the cheque for Tackle4MCR becomes clear. Kompany's desire to make a discernible difference to the city's homelessness epidemic is highly commendable. So too the band he got back together for Wednesday night. It was fun, the high calibre of stars on show made sure of that.

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher found themselves booed mercilessly, Paul Scholes aggressively bit at Samir Nasri's ankles whenever possible. Nigel De Jong has not lost his appetite for tackling. Nicky Butt left one on Craig Bellamy before verbals were exchanged. Old habits die hard.

They sung about Shaun Wright-Phillips and Pablo Zabaleta, watched David Silva embarrass the elders he used to dance around during a 22-minute cameo.

The pantomime inquest from the Premier League All Stars, who had a distinctly Manchester United feel to them, drew laughter. 'You can't have a successful project without Manchester United involved,' Kompany said. 'We have our differences - that is clear - but if we can get together for these sort of events the city is stronger.'

The All Stars replied in style, a sharp move involving Scholes, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie was finished off by Robbie Keane. Van Persie later scored with a trademark whip.

Benjani headed a late equaliser for City and celebrated the only way he knows how.

His exit was a bit of a whirlwind and it is fair to say nobody at City was particularly prepared for that eventuality when the veteran decided on becoming Anderlecht's player-manager. Kompany did not even have time to conduct one last interview with the club's television channel.

In that sense, this was fitting. Colin Bell and Tony Book ceremonially congratulated Kompany before a long embrace with Mike Summerbee, complete with touching words.

He might not realise it yet, but the man who led this club for a decade now owns a seat at their rich table of legends.

MANCHESTER CITY LEGENDS: (4-3-3) Hart; Zabaleta (Richards 71), Toure, Lescott (Luckassen 82), De Jong; Nasri (Hamann 77), Ireland (El Kababri 82), Silva (Bellamy 22, Vassell 61); Wright-Phillips (Benjani 71), Aguero (Cobbaut 28, Kompany 46), Petrov

GOALS: Petrov (2), Benjani (89)

PREMIER LEAGUE ALL-STARS: (4-3-3) van der Sar (Given 46); Neville (Saief 35), Carragher, Carrick, Cole; Arteta, Butt (van der Vaart 46), Scholes, Giggs; Keane (Cahill 46), van Persie

GOALS: Keane (31), Van Persie (48)

REFEREE: Mark Halsey   Attendance : 51,602

Manchester City 4 Brighton 0       No Contest
Saturday 31st August 2019 : GYKO at the Etihad

Twenty-seven minutes into the kind of match to which they have long since become accustomed, Manchester City’s fans broke out in applause to support their stricken neighbours. “Stand up for the Bury boys” was the accompanying chant and it would presumably not have taken long, upon a quick survey of the home support, to locate some of the 28,885 who watched the Shakers win 1-0 at Maine Road in their final meeting. That was on Valentine’s Day 1998, when both clubs were in the second tier; they are based 10 miles apart but here, against a competent but outclassed Brighton, they got back to their modern-day business of operating in an entirely different universe.

That applies in comparison with almost everyone they face, in fairness, and especially when Kevin De Bruyne is in full flight. Friday was the fourth anniversary of his arrival from Wolfsburg and he marked it with a fitting masterclass, opening the scoring after little more than a minute and providing an assist for Sergio Agüero to convert the first of two sublime finishes.

Had a flashing volley not cleared the bar shortly before his 69th-minute substitution, he might have signed off with a goal of the season contender. In the event his work was long done by the time Bernardo Silva, 17 seconds after coming on, scored the fourth and the only black mark for City was a potentially serious injury to Aymeric Laporte, who was taken off on a stretcher in the first half.

“My players up front are incredibly good and they make the difference,” Pep Guardiola said.

Brighton stuck to their guns, playing from the back in the face of a vigorous City press and creating opportunities to make things mildly awkward after going two down. It is easy to be magnanimous when you have won without reaching full throttle but Guardiola seemed genuinely heartened to have watched something he claimed was far removed from the timid fare visitors usually offer up.

“Sometimes the opponents have the courage and personality to say ‘OK, I am going to play’,” he said. “They played to hurt us and score goals. It is a good lesson for me. I learn from my colleague.”

That determination to chew on morsels for self-improvement is part of what makes him. Everyone knew the die was cast upon De Bruyne’s opener, timed at 67 seconds.

The goal would not qualify for a highlights reel of the playmaker’s City days but was dispatched as efficiently as anyone would expect. David Silva had the freedom of the inside-left channel after Davy Pröpper’s missed challenge and there were no prizes for guessing what resulted: a cutback, and a sidefoot into the vacant goal from De Bruyne.

It took any sting from the game. City dozed for a while and when Kyle Walker and Dale Stephens fairly engaged in a 50-50 challenge to a resounding thud it had the effect of waking everyone up. Agüero and De Bruyne duly shot wide while David Silva could not adjust his feet to convert Raheem Sterling’s centre.

They were interrupted when Laporte, who had halted a gallop up field from Adam Webster, went down clutching his right knee. The medics came on and so, after a lengthy delay, did Fernandinho in Laporte’s place. “The doctor is going to call me but I think [he will be out] a while,” Guardiola said.

It did little to knock City off their stride. The second goal was a peach, Riyad Mahrez back-heeling De Bruyne into space and Agüero receiving the Belgian’s pass, thumping past Mat Ryan after taking two touches to work an angle.

Brighton worked their two best openings either side of half-time, Ederson saving from Neal Maupay and Fernandinho heading away a goal-bound effort from Leandro Trossard. “The performance of our players was one of real courage; their application was fantastic,” Graham Potter said.

It is no criticism of them to say that Agüero’s was even better. A subtle first-time touch from David Silva, allowing him to size up a curler from the edge of the area, opened up the chance and the end product was scintillating. Bernardo Silva, slotting in from an angle, had the final say.

Unlike that defeat to Bury this was hardly a “where were you when?” occasion, but nowadays City routinely provide moments to stick in the memory.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte (Fernandinho 37), Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Gundogan 70), Rodrigo, David Silva (Bernardo Silva 79); Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling
Substitutes not used: Bravo, Angelino, Joao Cancelo, Foden.

Brighton & Hove Albion (3-5-2): Ryan; Webster, Dunk, Burn; Montoya, Propper, Stephens, Bernardo (Murray 67); Maupay(Connolly 67), March, Trossard (Gross 74).
Substitutes not used: Button, Duffy, Gross, Jahanbakhsh, Mooy.

Man of the match: David Silva         

Referee: Jonathan Moss 7            Attendance: 54,386

Bournemouth 1 Manchester City 3   South Coast Stroll
Sunday 25th August 2019 : Keith Ludbrook at the Vitality Stadium for GYKO

There were periods when this was awkward. Manchester City even looked flustered at times, stretched by Bournemouth’s urgency and admirable refusal to wilt. And yet Pep Guardiola’s side still negotiated passage to another victory with all the panache of seasoned champions and with David Silva, dwarfed by the home side’s central midfielders, untouchable at the heart of so much of their play. He retired at the end having barely broken into a sweat.

To thrill at so much of the attacking football this team can deliver is also to despair for virtually every other side in the division. It seemed almost unfair that City should force their way ahead here with a goal that owed something to fortune, Kevin De Bruyne scuffing his shot from Oleksandr Zinchenko’s centre only for the ball to fall kindly for Sergio Agüero to cushion and convert. There was more to admire at the build-up to their second – from Aymeric Laporte’s pinged cross-field ball to Bernardo Silva, then David Silva’s slipped pass for Raheem Sterling to score – as a goal which felt suitably majestic in its construction.

That David Silva should be so integral felt a reminder of what City will lose when he departs at the expiry of his contract next summer. This was his 400th appearance for the club, the first player to reach such a landmark at City since Paul Power. He may not have the energy of old, with the management and medical staff managing his schedule cannily, but few compare when he infiltrates that pocket of space in front of an opposition backline. There is no real quelling his threat. The Spaniard would be baffled at the non-award of a penalty after Jefferson Lerma stood on his foot on the hour-mark but, unperturbed, was soon wriggling into a crowded penalty area to panic Bournemouth once again. Agüero emerged from the clutter to ram in his side’s third and confirmed the victory.

Not that Bournemouth ever threatened to surrender meekly. They had been the more aggressive through the opening exchanges, their muscular energy disconcerting the visitors to the extent that Kyle Walker was sanctioned for the second of two crude fouls on Nathan Aké. Ederson, tearing out of his penalty area, would also earn a caution for clattering Callum Wilson while the contest was still goalless. That punishment might have been deemed lenient. Yet by the time the Brazilian blocked Adam Smith’s close-range attempt, after Nicolás Otamendi’s ill-judged decision to chest down on the edge of his six-yard box, the home side were playing catch-up.

Their approach had been disrupted by the loss of Charlie Daniels to what appeared another serious knee injury – the wing-back’s left leg buckling as he attempted to cross – with the ease at which City sliced them open to extend their advantage perhaps reflective of a team readjusting. Yet the substitute introduced for the stricken Daniels, Harry Wilson, would illuminate the occasion with a sublime free-kick in first-half stoppage time, whipping the ball over the wall and beyond the leaping Ederson via a flick from the angle of post and bar.

At least that offered Bournemouth hope and, briefly, momentum. Callum Wilson might even have forced them level after bursting beyond Aymeric Laporte, only for the defender’s slight touch to unsteady the striker and Ederson to conjure a smart save. The champions were stretched in that frantic period, reliant upon their goalkeeper’s punching from Ryan Fraser’s dangerous delivery, but City’s threat on the counter was ever-present and Agüero’s second rather deflated their challenge until the latter stages.

There is no disgrace in losing to these opponents. And if this is to be his last year in this league, performances like this from David Silva should be cherished

C Bournemouth: Ramsdale, Smith (Ibe 68), Mepham, Steve Cook, Ake, Daniels (H Wilson 37), King, Lerma, Billing, Fraser, C Wilson (Solanke 69).
Subs not used: Boruc, Surman, Rico, Simpson.

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva, Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling.
Subs not used: Bravo, Tasende, Rodri, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Joao Cancelo, Foden.

Referee :  Andre Marriner             Attendance: 10,486

Manchester City 2 Tottenham 2  VAR rears its ugly head again
Saturday 17th August 2018 : GYKO at the Etihad

It was an extraordinary finale and, amid all the drama and utter confusion, spare a thought perhaps for those Manchester City supporters who had happily left the stadium, believing they had just seen their team score a dramatic and joyous stoppage-time winner.

What they had not accounted for was VAR concluding, after what felt like an age, that the shot from Gabriel Jesus had been preceded by a handball from Aymeric Laporte. Jesus had danced in front of the supporters, wriggling his hips, samba-style. Pep Guardiola and Sergio Agüero, who had fallen out so publicly earlier in the second half, had made up with a touchline embrace. The scoreboard had pronounced it was 3-2. And the Spurs players had all retreated before the signal came that the goal could not stand. And, suddenly, there was a tinny roar from the away end.

For City, that was an excruciating moment of deja vu bearing in mind the influence of VAR when these sides met in April’s Champions League quarter-final. The shot-count in their latest encounter was 30-3 in favour of the home team and, in corners, 11-2. Guardiola described it as one of the more illuminating performances of his three-year reign. What City could not do, ultimately, was make the game safe after Raheem Sterling and Agüero had put them in front, twice.

Spurs duly nabbed a point courtesy of equalising goals from Érik Lamela and the substitute Lucas Moura, only 19 seconds after coming on, as well as some splendid goalkeeping from Hugo Lloris and various moments of fortune when City, inspired by the brilliance of Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, threatened to overwhelm them.

Nobody should be too harsh on City because they had played stylishly and fully warranted Guardiola’s compliments. That, however, made it an even more painful occasion for the champions because, if there is one lesson to be had from last season, it is that a draw these days is a bad result for a team with title aspirations.

This one ended a 15-match winning sequence, going back to January, and the spat between Guardiola and Agüero was probably a measure of their frustrations. It was not the first time the two have clashed and, for an uncomfortable amount of time, Guardiola could be seen flapping his arms and covering his mouth so nobody, bar Agüero, could make out the precise words. Suffice to say, it didn’t look like a “well done”.

For Spurs, it was a tough, obdurate performance, albeit one that must have reminded them they are still a considerable distance behind City in terms of pure skill. Not that they should worry too much about that after ending a run of six successive away defeats. If that had extended to seven, it would have equalled their worst run since August to December 2000, when George Graham was in charge.

To make matters worse for City, they could legitimately argue they ought to have been awarded a penalty in the first half because of Lamela’s manhandling of Rodri at a corner. The referee, Michael Oliver, evidently did not think a player being grappled to the floor was worthy of being penalised. Neither did the VAR officials, which was mysterious when this was precisely the sort of oversight they should be trying to put right.

Amid all this controversy, it also now transpires that Sterling is capable of scoring the kind of expertly placed header that has never previously been listed among the skills of a player who stands at 5ft 6in. Though it helps when De Bruyne is capable of swinging over the kind of beautifully weighted delivery that led to the opening goal.

The cross was sumptuous, spinning high in the air before arcing towards the back post. Sterling had turned his body position so when the ball connected with his forehead it went back across Lloris before nestling just inside the side-netting. It was placed to perfection. And, in that precise moment, the television cameras caught Guardiola looking at his coaching staff as if he was a little surprised, too.

Their lead lasted three minutes before Lamela strode through the middle to place a left-footed shot past Ederson. Laporte had committed the classic defensive error of turning his back as his opponent shaped to shoot. Twenty yards out, Lamela curled a low effort into the bottom corner.

City took the lead for a second time when Agüero darted forwards to turn in another of De Bruyne’s right-sided deliveries and, as a snapshot of how the game was going, how about the moment late in the first half when Bernardo was boxed in by three opponents but gave them all the slip? The olés were memorable as Bernardo eluded Tanguy Ndombele, Danny Rose and Lamela.

The problem for City was turning their superiority into more goals and that left them vulnerable to the kind of sucker punch Moura delivered after his 55th-minute introduction for Harry Winks. Lamela swung over the corner from the right. Moura’s header flashed past Ederson and Spurs held on, courtesy of a correct, though late, VAR decision and more evidence of how the sport is changing but, not necessarily for the better.

MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko; Gundogan, Rodri (D. Silva 78), De Bruyne; Bernardo Silva (Mahrez 80), Aguero (Gabriel Jesus 65), Sterling
Subs not used: Bravo, Fernandinho, Joao Cancelo, Foden

TOTTENHAM (4-3-2-1): Lloris; Walker-Peters, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Rose; Sissoko, Winks (Lucas Moura 56), Ndombele; Lamela (Lo Celso 85), Eriksen (Skipp 90+1); Kane
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Dier, Davies

Referee: Michael Oliver     Attendance : 54,503     

West Ham United 0 Manchester City 5  Well 'ammered
Sunday 11th August 2019 : Brent Hapgood for GYKO at the City of London Stadium

Welcome to the new world. Which looks, it must be said, quite a lot like the old world. On a breezy afternoon in east London, Manchester City’s two-times champions kicked off the new season with a defeat of West Ham that barely required a shift out of second gear.

Raheem Sterling made it four goals in a week with a wonderful hat-trick. Riyad Mahrez was involved throughout, passing, moving and dribbling with a familiar swagger, and taking a decisive hand in the first four goals. Kevin De Bruyne looked close to his hard-running best in midfield.

In-between this, VAR kept up a regular commentary on City’s dominance, disallowing one goal, retaining another and ordering a penalty retake.

This will surely become a feature of City’s matches given the rhythm of their attacks, the way cut-backs from the flanks and cute runs along the defensive line are key to their best moments. Otherwise it was a breathtaking show of controlled strength. Their opponents may come forewarned of the way City attack and facing essentially the same set of players. Trying to stop them is another matter altogether.

The stadium was full at kick-off, the skies above an autumnal grey, the atmosphere inside largely undetectable beneath the brain-mangling volume of the pre-match PA.

West Ham had seven players in their starting lineup who have joined the club in the past year. This included their record signing Sébastien Haller, who had previously mused on whether he might get a touch of the ball.

But West Ham did start brightly, with Jack Wilshere prominent in midfield, and Haller was sharp in the opening minutes, dropping deep at times and playing neatly with his back to goal.

Steadily, City began to exert their own patterns. With nine minutes gone, Mahrez had their first shot at goal, grooving in from the left and drawing a low save from Lukasz Fabianksi.

After 20 minutes Manuel Pellegrini appeared for the first time on his touchline, a small, sharp-suited figure in the middle of all that branded claret carpet, gesturing anxiously towards West Ham’s left.

Perhaps he was asking Michail Antonio to offer a little cover to his full-back. If so it went unheeded. Almost immediately Mahrez did his Mahrez thing, sitting Aaron Cresswell down on the turf inside his own area with that same old shimmy, but shooting into the side-netting.

The first goal arrived two minutes later courtesy of a lovely move down that side. De Bruyne carried the ball across from the left. Mahrez played a delightful through pass for Kyle Walker, tearing down the right. The cut-back was deflected on to Gabriel Jesus, who finished neatly.
Gabriel Jesus gives City the lead.

It was a move City repeated throughout the first half. It seems odd that opponents still set up against them as though in fear of being pierced down the middle. One day someone is going to say hang it all and just play two full-backs instead.

On 32 minutes, there was a first intervention from VAR as a bored-sounding voice said: “They’re checking for a red card,” followed, a few moments later, by “no red card”.

Ten minutes before half-time the home team had their first shot at goal, a hooked effort over the shoulder from Haller and City went to the break having barely broken into a collective sprint.

It was 2-0 five minutes after half-time. This was a glorious move down the right. Mahrez fed De Bruyne on the charge. He glided into space and played a perfectly weighted ball to Sterling, who veered in on goal and finished with ease.

Two minutes later it was 3-0, then 2-0 again as VAR scrubbed off the goal for a very narrow offside against Sterling’s shoulder; a moment of technical offside-dom that offered no advantage and a decision that penalised a fine piece of movement.

Clearly the offside rule needs to be tweaked for the post-VAR world. The best suggestion being: you are onside until the whole of you is offside.

For a while West Ham pressed hard again and after 72 minutes they should have pulled one back. Ryan Fredericks whipped in a cross from the right and Ederson pulled off a fine double save, first from Javier Hernández’s left thigh, then from Manuel Lanzini’s header. Moments later it was finally 3-0.

Mahrez cut inside and lofted a beautiful little pass over the defence. Sterling read it, stayed onside, then produced a lovely lobbed finish.

There was time for Fabianksi to save a weak 83rd-minute penalty from Sergio Agüero, on as a sub, before VAR ordered a successful retake for encroachment by Declan Rice and as the stadium began to empty Sterling completed his hat-trick with a lovely low finish after fine work from Rodri

West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell; Wilshere (Snodgrass 56), Rice; Anderson (Hernandez 66), Lanzini, Antonio (Fornals 45), Haller
Substitutes not used: Roberto, Ogbonna, Sanchez, Zabaleta

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Gundogan 79), Rodri , David Silva (Foden 80); Mahrez, Jesus (Aguero 69), Sterling
Substitutes not used: Bravo, Otamendi, Bernardo Silva, Cancelo

Referee: Mike Dean 6    Attendance: 59,870

Liverpool 1 Manchester City 1    City win first Trophy on Pens
Sunday 4th August 2019 : Ben Jacobs for GYKO at Wembley Stadium

Call it a phoney war, if you like, but the Community Shield suggested Manchester City and Liverpool are set for another epic battle. One point separated them last season and there was nothing between them on Sunday until City prevailed in the penalty shootout. So Pep Guardiola’s side won by the narrowest margin. Again. But there was enough to indicate things could go the other way over the next nine months.

If the purpose of this curtain-raiser was to stoke anticipation for the main event that kicks off on Friday, mission accomplished. Gabriel Jesus converted the decisive spot-kick after Georginio Wijnaldum missed for Liverpool but there was enough before that to please – and worry – both managers.

At first City threatened to win at a canter; Raheem Sterling giving them an early lead that reflected their superiority and Liverpool’s sluggishness. But the European champions gradually found fluency and began to expose frailties in City. They struck the frame of the goal twice before Joël Matip nodded in an equaliser. Liverpool would have clinched victory if not for a spectacular clearance off the line by Kyle Walker. Factor in Guardiola being booked for a tantrum and it was clear City were spooked before emerging triumphant.

Both managers had said they would have welcomed a longer break before renewing hostilities but that did not mean either was about to make this chore any easier for his rival: 65 days after Jordan Henderson lifted their sixth European crown, Liverpool began with nine of the 11 players who started the Champions League final.

Guardiola, too, deployed nearly all of his artillery; the main acknowledgment of this match’s ceremonial status being the inclusion of Claudio Bravo in goal ahead of Ederson. “We have to prepare as if every match is a final,” said Guardiola and, given how little room either side leave the other for error, both will probably have to sustain that approach throughout the campaign ahead.

City started far sharper. They could have scored in the fourth minute after Sterling dispossessed Joe Gomez 30 yards from goal and slipped a pass through to Leroy Sané, who fired into the side netting.

Roberto Firmino was the only Liverpool player who shone from the start. Mohamed Salah, by contrast, was off‑colour: busy and dangerous but wasteful. He dragged a shot wide of the near post early on and did almost exactly the same thing several more times.

The fact City’s breakthrough came while they were at a numerical disadvantage – Sané having an injury assessed – spoke of how much better they started. The nature of the goal confirmed the point, as Liverpool’s defence was caught napping by a quick free-kick. Oleksandr Zinchenko headed a lofted pass from Walker back across the six-yard area, where Sterling beat Henderson to the ball and forced it past Alisson.

Salah botched another good opportunity before Sterling did likewise for City, shooting straight at Alisson from eight yards. Rodri, City’s record signing at £62.8m, moved and passed with almost Fernandinho-esque intelligence on his debut but he was given a lesson in the competitiveness of the Premier League when he was muscled off the ball twice in the first half by Firmino.

City’s chief vulnerability was in defence. Zinchenko found the going tough at left-back and was not helped much by his central defenders. A weak header by John Stones in the 29th minute from a cross by Divock Origi demanded an intervention from Zinchenko that did not come; Salah should have punished him but poked high and wide.

City’s vibrancy had subsided. When Gomez escaped being penalised for raising a foot to prod a bouncing ball away from David Silva, Guardiola, highly strung at the best of times, bawled and gesticulated so much the referee booked him.

City’s grip on the game loosened as Liverpool’s menace grew. In the 57th minute Virgil van Dijk hooked a shot on to the underside of the crossbar after a corner by Trent Alexander-Arnold was allowed to bobble all the way to him at the edge of the six-yard area. Reminiscent of City’s decisive escape at the Etihad Stadium in January, the shot was millimetres from crossing the line. Then Salah cut into the right-hand side of the box and rattled the post.

Walker, resolving to get City back on to the front foot, launched into a storming run forward before feeding Sterling. Clean through on goal and with Walker offering support, Sterling appeared overwhelmed by the options and allowed Alisson to step out and relieve him of the ball. City’s sharpness had faded all right.

And their defensive frailties – relative to the strength of the rest of their team – were being increasingly exposed by Liverpool, who soon equalised with a goal similar to City’s. Van Dijk, pulling wide to retrieve a free-kick from the right by Henderson, dabbed a dainty cross back across goal and Matip climbed above Nicolás Otamendi to nod into the net.

City were not exactly unravelling but there was certainly some raggedness about them. Maybe that was inevitable given the lack of preparation; maybe, though, they will regret not replacing Vincent Kompany.

Liverpool, spruced up by five substitutions and running through City’s midfield with impressive regularity, came closest to winning in normal time. Bravo foiled Naby Keïta and Salah before he finally beat the goalkeeper – only for Walker to hook his header off the line spectacularly.

LIVERPOOL: (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold (Matip 67), Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Lallana 79), Fabinho (Keita 67), Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino (Shaqiri 79), Origi (Oxlade-Chamberlain 79)
SUBS NOT USED: Mignolet (GK); Lovren

MAN CITY: (4-3-3) Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Foden 89), Rodri , Silva (Gundogan 61); Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Sane (Gabriel Jesus 13)
SUBS NOT USED: Ederson (GK); Tasende, Aguero, Garcia

REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 7       ATTENDANCE: 77,565

Manchester City Fixtures & Results 2019/20

Date Kick Off Opponent Venue  Comp Result
Su 04/08/2019 15:00 Liverpool Wembley CS D 1-1*
Sa 10/08/2019 12:30 West Ham United A PL W 5-0
Sa 17/08/2019 17:30 Tottenham Hotspur H PL D  2-2
Su 25/08/2019 14:00 Bournemouth A PL W 3-1
Sa 31/08/2019 15:00 Brighton & Hove Albion H PL W 4-0
Sa 14/09/2019 17:30 Norwich City A PL L  3-2
We 18/09/2019 20:00 Shakhtar Donetsk A CL W 3-0
Sa 21/09/2019 15:00 Watford H PL  
Tu 24/09/2019 19:45 Preston North End A LC  
Sa 28/09/2019 17:30 Everton A PL  
Tu 01/10/2019 20:00 Dinamo Zagreb H CL  
Su 06/10/2019 14:00 Wolverhampton Wanderers H PL  
Su 20/10/2019 17:30 Crystal Palace A PL  
Tu 22/10/2019 20:00 Atalanta H CL  
Sa 26/10/2019 12:30 Aston Villa H PL  
Sa 02/11/2019 15:00 Southampton H PL  
We 06/11/2019 20:00 Atalanta A CL  
Su 10/11/2019 16:30 Liverpool A PL  
Sa 23/11/2019 17:30 Chelsea H PL  
Tu 26/11/2019 20:00 Shakhtar Donetsk H CL  
Sa 30/11/2019 12:30 Newcastle United A PL  
Tu 03/12/2019 19:45 Burnley A PL  
Sa 07/12/2019 15:00 Manchester United H PL  
We 11/11/2019 17:55 Dinamo Zagreb A CL  
Sa 14/12/2019 15:00 Arsenal A PL  
Sa 21/12/2019 15:00 Leicester City H PL  
Th 26/12/2019 19:45 Wolverhampton Wanderers A PL  
Sa 28/12/2019 15:00 Sheffield United H PL  
We 01/01/2020 19:45 Everton H PL  
Sa 11/01/2020 15:00 Aston Villa A PL  
Sa 18/01/2020 15:00 Crystal Palace H PL  
Tu 21/01/2020 19:45 Sheffield United A PL  
Sa 01/02/2020 15:00 Tottenham Hotspur A PL  
Sa 08/02/2020 15:00 West Ham United H PL  
Sa 22/02/2020 15:00 Leicester City A PL  
Sa 29/02/2020 15:00 Arsenal H PL  
Sa 07/03/2020 15:00 Manchester United A PL  
Sa 14/03/2020 15:00 Burnley H PL  
Sa 21/03/2020 15:00 Chelsea A PL  
Sa 04/04/2020 15:00 Liverpool H PL  
Sa 11/04/2020 15:00 Southampton A PL  
Sa 18/04/2020 15:00 Newcastle United H PL  
Sa 25/04/2020 15:00 Brighton & Hove Albion A PL  
Sa 02/05/2020 15:00 Bournemouth H PL  
Sa 09/05/2020 15:00 Watford A PL  
Su17/05/2020 14:00 Norwich City H PL  

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