Date: 16th August 2011 at 11:23am
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What a night it turned out to be at the Etihad Stadium as City opened the new season in style. The evening started with an excellent interview and book launch by Paul Lake on the stage in City Square, where the crowd was buzzing at the prospect of an appearance by Sergio Aguero.
As usual though Mancini left the near capacity crowd waiting for its “Christmas Day” by declaring him not in peak enough condition to warrant a starting berth, which served to heighten expectations even more.
The team proudly paraded T-shirts proclaiming “I love Manchester” although Balotelli adapted his with the word “City”. At least he smiled whilst wearing it.
He left out the roman candle that is Balotelli, preferring to go with Johnson wide out with a combination of either Silva or Toure supporting Dzeko up front.
Barry was restored to midfield alongside de Jong with Milner becoming the victim. The back line more or less selected itself, with Richards and Clichy on the flanks and Lescott and Captain Kompany in the centres.
City tried to get into their stride from the off, but newly-promoted Swansea played some neat football, retaining possession and supporting each other in good style. We are aware that City tried to get Brendan Rodgers on at least 2 occasions to join the management team, but he is his own man and sets his team out to play football the right way, albeit with limited resources.
Goalkeeper Vorm must have had Ferguson wondering why he paid £19m for De Gea pulling off a string of excellent saves to keep the Blues at bay and to frustrate the expectant supporters time and again.
After 20 minutes or so, City turned the screw and prompted and probed, but each time the goal appeared so did Vorm or so did the woodwork which was checked out by Silva and Barry ahead of half time.
Toure was starting to turn up the turb, setting off on his powerful runs, but the end product seemed to be missing.
Everyone knows that the first match of the season against a newly-promoted side can be a banana skin and against the background of no home team winning a match in the Premier League this week end so far, was this about to unfold in the newly-named Etihad Stadium. It looked that way as the half closed with Vorm the hero and City asking themselves “Why are we not in front?”
However what was to unfold in the second half even had Gary Neville drooling. Silva turned in a total masterclass – how many times have we said that? He set play up all over the field, bringing in Johnson, Dzeko, Toure and Richards as the visitors began to tire and gain a different appreciation of life in the Premier League.
And just before the hour it all came right for the Blues. The Magician that is David Silva took the ball in his own half, turned up the after-burners and from just inside the opposition half cut a majestic diagonal ball into Johnson`s path. For once Johnson ran directly at the Swansea defender and as no-one came to double bank forced him to back off giving Johnson a chink of light into which he unleashed a flashing drive that caught Vorm by surprise to the extent that for once he couldn`t hold on. As he spilled the ball, Dzeko for the first time facing the goal was on it in a flash and drove it into the net.
The adrenaline valve released, it was time to up the ante and the ecstasy was enhanced as Aguero finally took off his track suit top. He was called on as a replacement for Nigel de Jong who looked to have picked up a thigh injury.
Talk about an impact substitution, the lively Aguero was like a jack-in-a-box, his first touch producing a shot on goal and a tremendous save by Vorm. But holding the water back was a temporary respite for Swansea as shortly afterwards, Silva released Richards whose powerful rampaging run again had the Swans defence backing off and his inch perfect daisy cutting cross found a new hero lurking on the six yard line and Aguero was on the scoresheet. The Family Stand went mental and the sound of a new legend-in-waiting`s name was resonant as the Poznan was in full swing.
Not bad for a starter, but the main course and the icing on the cake hadn`t arrived yet.
It was clear that Aguero is something different and he appears to have dove-tailed with Silva already. Their inter-passing was unplayable as once again Aguero attacked the box, lifting the ball over the advancing keeper but to one side of the goal. Most players would have given it up but not Aguero. He tracked the ball to the by-line, hooking it back over his head and directly into the path of Silva who lashed it into the net.
Swansea`s fluency had left them now. They tried their best, but against such quality they were by now over-run. And so it proved as the match headed for its conclusion. Aguero, around 30 yards out and in traffic stepped out to his right, suddenly finding himself in acres of space. He looked up, got his bearings, took aim and sent an exocet into the Swans net. It was simply unstoppable and went in like an arrow.
At half time 4-0 would have flattered City, by full time, it could have been so much more.
There is a fluency about City`s play now that clearly shows the gelling is well advanced. Sometimes they look a little rusty up front, but there is no doubt that the new game plan is coming together and it revolves around Dzeko, soon to be fully assisted by Aguero.
When on sole patrol in the first half and playing mainly back-to-goal it wasn`t coming off for Dzeko. He created a couple of half chances but couldn`t get the shots off that he would have wanted. But the first time he saw the ball in front of him in front of goal, we saw what the Bundesliga saw the season before last – a quality striker scoring from inside the six yard box. Dzeko performed better than Torres did for Chelsea over the weekend, and has a positive attitude and appetite.
In goal Hart made an exceptional save when Swansea attacked with a man over, but didn`t use him, hoping to catch Joe off guard. Not this kiddy, no David de Gea here!!.
The back line looked fairly comfortable, a little nervous early on as Sinclair raided down the left, fancying himself against Richards, but finding the door shut. Graham found himself unable to make an effect as Dyer and Dobbie found themselves pegged back. Richards continues on his excellent run and Kompany was majestic in his play and leadership.
In midfield de Jong patrolled danger like a blue-lineman in ice hockey, releasing Toure on his rampaging runs. Barry played tidily but it was the inimitable David Silva who was simply superb, setting up the attacks, bringing everyone into play. This lad has eyes like lasers and seems to know where everyone is before he gets the ball.
Nicholas Anelka once said of Ali Berbarbia -” this guy`s amazing, he sees us before we see ourselves.” Isn`t the same true for Silva? One minute double-marked, the next in acres of space to create pinpoint passes. And his work in tandem with Aguero brought the kind of admissions out of new Sky pundit Mr Neville that we certainly cannot have expected. It was not better demonstrated than the third goal.
The scoreline was perhaps a bit sad for Swansea whose first half performance will get them better results against the lower echelon teams, but they will need to take a look at the Blackpool story from last year to ensure that all their effort is not in vain. Teams like City, Chelsea will Stretford cash them up as City did last night. They need to ensure that they get something against peer teams and get away from other places with a draw. It will be a difficult campaign for them. What is missing is Premier League know-how, Premier League experience. They`ll need some of that to get through the season intact.
It was an odd week one. City was the only home side to win. Stretford despite a bright start struggled to overcome a hard working Albion but made their usual luck with a double-kiss own goal. Chelsea looked a bit past it with Torres working hard without the shine and our good friends at Ashburton Grove? Well what can I say? Last year I referred to them as Assassins as they passed around the yellow cards in the wake of Boyata`s dismissal. This season they are upsetting our old boys, first of all treading on Joey Barton and then giving him a clout round the head. With Fabregas gone and Nasri heading elsewhere, it looks like another long unproductive season for the Gooners.
As for City, the marker is down and with 2 tricky away matches coming up, if we go into the Wigan match having banked 9 points, expectations will be in outer space.
It looks good for the Blues. Mancini has made good calls, the tactics look competent and competitive and I hear Nasri is on his way.
And another measure of City`s new found affordability is that the Passenger Transport Executive has named the Metrolink Station serving us as “Eastlands City Stadium”. All the signage is in place and the rail computer programs have been written. Apparently it will cost £150000 to rename the station “Etihad Stadium”. And guess who is paying for that? (not Kia Joorabchain).
It is also thought that Aguero spent his first week`s wages on a £200k Maserati!
And as we left the Stadium last night the humourists were asking – “Who`s this Carlos guy we are trying to get rid of”. The stage is set for a new Argentine Hero. That man is Sergio Aguero.


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