After spending 3 days trudging around in the mudbath that sometimes calls itself Creamfields it was with some relief that having managed to slide my car off the site last evening I settled down to watch a re-run of one of the most amazing matches I have ever seen played by a Manchester City team.
Hosts Tottenham suffered only one defeat at home last season, haven’t been beaten by City at home in seven years when Kevin Keegan’s 10-man team rescued a cup tie from 0-3 to 4-3 and haven’t lost a league match against City at White Hart Lane in twenty years.
For their part, City now have an embarrassment of riches, parading a subs bench that contained the rogues gallery of Tevez and Balotelli for this match amongst Richards and Savic.
So did the omens look good or bad? City are scoring for fun, Spurs look laborious and a different outfit altogether from the side that lit up the Champions League last season, before taking a quarter-final exit.
Indeed from the start, it looked as though Spurs would make a match of it. As the open football flowed from end to end, City’s new look side adorned by Nasri looked impeccable as they sliced open Spurs time and again in similar fashion to Spurs doing likewise to City last season. It was only a matter of time, and just before the half-hour before Nasri working well with former Arsenal colleague Clichy down the left sent over a left foot cross. Dzeko got across Kaboul to flip the ball in with his left foot.
The Poznan and the resonant Edin Dzeko song hadn’t even abated before the same combination were at it again. This time a change of feet from Nasri found Dzeko craning his neck to head just inside the far post in unlikely style. Twenty seconds earlier Spurs might have equalised had Crouch’s header been either side of Hart. At that point Dzeko was covering in his own penalty area. He motored up the field as the quick passes took place with an almost telepathic feeling that if he got there he would score. His industry was duly rewarded.
After the break Spurs tried to get on the front foot and test City. They brought on Defoe who presented City with different challenges. He can be as slippery as a bucket of eels and made an early impact, but nothing was going to halt the juggernaut from the Etihad.
Just before the hour a sweeping move involving the length and breadth of the field saw a superb and unexpected change of direction in the play as Yaya steamed up on the blind side. An inch perfect ball along the six yard line found the predatory Dzeko in his perfect hunting ground to score with his right foot and claim the match ball with a perfect hat trick. The last City player to claim a hat trick against Spurs actually pre-dated my watching of City by a few months, back in 1962!
Nasri, Silva and Aguero appear to have clicked immediately and Nasri played a cute pass putting Aguero through from the left. He held off the by-comparison giant Dawson and crashed a cannonball straight through Friedel for 4-0.
A few minutes later with pretty well only Defoe having not given up, Spurs got a toe hold in the match. A scorching shot from him was well saved by the hitherto unemployed Hart. However the corner went over Kompany and Yaya didn’t track Kaboul who headed home.
Shortly after Van der Vaart’s injury left Spurs with only 10 men, but rather than hurt Spurs, City provided their travelling fans with a treat of calypso possession football, perhaps never previously seen from a City team. And it was perhaps fitting that having had three goals plated-up by Nasri and Toure, Dzeko rounded off the afternoon with a self-made pile driver from the edge of the box.
We probably haven’t seen a centre forward performance like this since we fed the Goat, and even Shaun’s toe pokes and tap-ins never got the credit they deserved, but here we have a guy who is delivering his promise. He is difficult to mark, like lightning when he sees the rabbit and treats the ball and the back of the net as his best friends. An easy selection for Man of the Match.
Nasri making his debut for his new club did everything else that would have made him Man of the Match on a different day.
Aguero quietly goes about his business, moving right to left, left to right with a pace that makes him impossible to predict or track, leaving defenders playing pass-the-parcel and hoping he doesn’t appear in their channel.
And all of this over-shadowed the Magician, Silva, who probably had to play third fiddle in this match.
I said last week that Toure, Silva and Barry gave City more fluidity in breaking out from midfield in a way that is not reflected when de Jong is in there. Nasri simply rounded it all off. This brand of football is bringing out a different dimension in Barry, who for me looked at one time to be expendable, but who has now raised his game to take on the new challenge. The exchanges of sit or run with Toure again leaves opponents wondering who will make the run next and where from.
Now with Nasri and Silva springing from either left or right and Dzeko and Aguero sticking or twisting, right, left, deep or forward, it is a scary prospect for most teams to encounter.
How sad though that one moment of concentration switch-off let Spurs score. This was similar to the goals City conceded against Bolton and will be addressed by Mancini at Carrington this week. He rotated Richards with Zabaleta, ever ready with the Duracells loaded, and brought on Savic to remind Lescott that somebody is there waiting in the wings, notwithstanding that Kolo comes back to the fold this week.
Spurs are starting to look a bit rudderless. It was disappointing to hear their fans ‘boo’ Modric who was excellent for them last season but who didn’t have a prayer in this match because of the class in black and red swarming all around him. Bale who took nearly an hour to turn on any kind of afterburners, looked more like a bale of hay.
Crouch didn’t do enough, Van der Vaart was practically non-existent and the only time that Lennon truly tested Clichy, not only was the City man up to it, but Lennon headed for the sidelines to join Spurs’ endless injury list.
Another great day for City. Another new dawn in the shape of excellent football, where the pundits drooled and the oppostion feared to tread. The battle for the title this season is the Battle of Manchester.
all times GMT+1
Sa 10 Sep 15:00 Wigan, The Etihad, PL
We 14 September 19:45 Napoli, The Etihad, CLGS1
Sa 17 Sep 15:00 Fulham, Craven Cottage, PL
Tu/We 20/21 Sep 19:45 Birmingham, The Etihad, LC3
Sa 24 Sep 12:45 Everton, The Etihad, PL
Tu 27 September 19:45 Bayern Munich, Allianz Arena,
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