The new season was upon us and every blue around had butterflies at the thought of watching THE CHAMPIONS, yes I said it, The Champions, set about defending what was theirs, The Premiere League Trophy.
With only one pre-season signing we knew pretty much what side would come out, but would it be the 3-5-2 of pre-season or the 4-2-3-1 of last year. Mancini went with the latter and the team sheet read as follows; Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Yaya, Rodwell, Silva, Nasri, Tevez and Aguero. The subs were; Pantillimon, Kolarov, Savic, De Jong, Milner, Balotelli and Aguero.
The game kicked off to renditions of ‘Championes’ and ‘Blue Moon’ and the atmosphere was electric as a generation of fans watched their boys begin their defence of the title for the first time. City quickly took the game to Southampton who were soon being pushed back into their own half.
Southampton were playing a dangerous game, dropping deep as City were on the ball, allowing the Blues the lion’s share of possession, but in the tenth minute as Aguero danced on the ball to the left opponents box, Clyne came sliding in with a hard challenge from the side. Aguero went down in a heap and instantly signalled to the bench that this was serious.After three minutes of treatment, the talsimanic Argentinian was stretchered off to be replaced by Dzeko, the extent of his injury as yet, unknown.
Within two minutes City were awarded a penalty as Tevez jinked and twisted in the box, his movement too much for Hooiveld who sent the hitman crashing to the turf, inside the box. Silva picked up the match ball and placed it on the spot. Unfortunately, his shot was as poor as the rest of his play today and Davis easily saved the tamely struck shot.
Tevez was running around energetically and all the players were playing ok, but they were lacking width and despite overwhelming possession, City were failing to break down the Southampton back six. If Southampton could just hold out until half time, the second half would be a different proposition.
If Southampton were hoping to enter the second half all square, the hadn’t reckoned on the darting run of Tevez between Centre Half and Full Back or the sublime lofted pass by Nasri which landed perfectly in Tevez’s path or the perfect finish by Tevez, drilling a low shot which beat Davis at his near post.
The second half opened as the first half ended, with City piling on the pressure as Dzeko, Clichy and Silva all wasted excellent chances to increase their lead. The Premier League new boys, Southampton. looked shell shocked and at a loss as to how to change the game.
To their credit, Southampton made their first change as 27 goal Lambert entered the fray at the expense of Rodriguez. It was this change the impacted so well on Southampton’s fortunes. Three minutes after coming on it was Lambert who was quickest to a loose ball on the edge of City’s box. With one touch he controlled the ball and unleased a wicked shot which Hart was never going to get close to.
Worse was to follow for City as Rodwell lost the ball whilst City were in an advanced position and Southampton were much quicker to react. Their second subsitute had as much impact as their first as Davis only on for a matter of seconds, finished the flowing Southampton attack with a fine goal which again left Hart with no chance.
This wasn’t Shades Of Grey though, this was shades of QPR. The champions picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and raised their game a notch. Their possession stats showed near 80% for them, but Tevez’s goal apart they hadn’t made the possession count.
Going behind galvanised Mancini’s men and by the 72nd minute had drawn even after Vincent Kompany’s piledriver of a shot was finished off by Edin Dzeko after Davis failed to hold onto the initial shot.
City finished the game off with ten minutes of the game left after Nasri wriggled loose of his marker in the box and curled the ball past a despairing Davis to send Southampton back home with a lesson to learn.
Mancini would not have been happy with the way City dominated possession wise but were so profligate in front of goal. Yes they scored three but they should have had at least two or three more. He will also worry at the two goals conceded as their cavalier approach often leaves gaps at the back. Mind you a win is a win and City like to do it a certain way, maybe not good for the blood pressure, but great none the less.
Joe Hart – 7
Beaten twice through no fault of his own and a mere spectator for the rest of the game.
Pablo Zabaleta – 7
Got forward well but his crosses were often overhit. Left with little cover and caught out of position on occasion.
Vincent Kompany – 7
Out of position for the first goal but otherwise a reasonable performance from the Captain.
Joleon Lescott – 7.5
The pick of the defence today. Looked sharp and strong.
Gael Clichy – 7
Wasn’t utilised enough when assuming forward positions. His crosses are not as good as Kolarov’s.
Yaya Toure – 7
An engine in midfield which unfortunately ran out of petrol in the 80th minute.
Jack Rodwell – 7
A decent debut other than his mistake which led to a Southampton goal.
David Silva – 6
Gave the ball away to much and missed a host of chances including a ridiculously taken penalty.
Samir Nasri – 8
The pick of the midfield with his clever passing and great movement. Looks great just behind the front two. Scored a great winner.
Carlos Tevez – 8
Chased and harried
Sergio Aguero – N/A
Took a nasty assisted fall and may be out for some time.
Edin Dzeko – 7.5
Made a nuisance of himself and was happy to chase and do the dirty work. Got himself on the score sheet as well.
Mario Balotelli – 7
Stuck to his task on the left well and was back helping out Clichy more than once.
Came on for the dying minutes to allow Tevez a standing ovation.
Roberto Mancini – 7
Got things slightly wrong today expecting to be able to play through Southampton who had an excellent rear guard. Needs to sort Yaya’s best position out as he doesn’t have the engine to last 90 minutes playing box to box.
Ref Watch – Howard Webb
Had a poor game and made some bizarre decision’s but luckily didn’t impact much on the result.