Barclay’s English Premiership
Monday 23 August 2010, 20.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, K Touré, Barry, de Jong, Y Touré (Zabaleta 86), A Johnson, Milner, Tevez (c) (Jo 86)
Unused: Given, Silva, Vieira, Wright-Phillips, Adebayor
Goals: Barry (13), Tevez (53, pen 67)
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Gareth Barry
City’s opening home league game of the campaign was always going to be a tough one against strong opposition. Liverpool may have struggled last season, but, with Roy Hodgson taking charge, they would always be well organised and dangerous in attack.
The game started cagily, with Tevez trying to get in behind the Liverpool defence from a Richards long ball, and Torres being just offside in a similar position in the City half.
Liverpool looked to have settled quicker than the hosts, but City broke quickly and Skrtl found himself in the book after just three minutes for a cynical foul on Adam Johnson, as the winger had beaten him down the right flank.
With five minutes gone, N’gog had the first effort of the game, but it was easy for Joe Hart to swallow up, before the new England goalkeeper nearly put his side into trouble with a bad ball to Richards. Jovanovic nipped in, but he couldn’t take advantage as City cleared.
Adam Johnson flashed a shot just past Reina’s post on eight minutes, before City took the lead a few minutes later. Milner did well on the right, controlling a difficult ball and cutting inside. There, he rolled it to his former Villa team-mate Barry, who planted the ball in the net for City’s first goal of the season.
It could have gotten better for the home side just 30 seconds later, as Tevez broke free from Carragher and shot at goal from just inside the area. Reina pulled out of making the save, though, comfortable that the ball was wide and it hit the side netting.
City began to control possession and were knocking the ball around well in the midfield, leaving Gerrard and Lucas chasing shadows. Barry finished off another fine City move with a shot wide of the goal, before Adam Johnson couldn’t quite turn as he was crowded out in the box.
Just after the half hour, Barry put in two excellent tackles to deny Kuyt a chance to cross the ball, before Torres tried to break free of the City defence, but couldn’t get away from Micah Richards, leaving Hart to dive on the ball.
A decisive break-away from the home side nearly doubled their lead on 37 minutes, but Adam Johnson’s effort was a yard wide of Reina’s post, as the goalkeeper scrambled across.
Gerrard tried again for the visitors just before the break, but his effort from range, as the ball broke to him from a Kompany tackle on Torres, was sliced well wide of Joe Hart’s left hand post.
The second half started just as cagily as the first and it was the home side who took the initiative once again. From a Milner corner on 53 minutes, Richards climbed highest to nod the ball at goal. Tevez touched it past Reina and Glenn Johnson couldn’t keep it out from behind his goalkeeper and City were two goals clear.
Liverpool, looking to get back into the game, began to dominate the game as City looked like they might have relaxed too soon. Jovanovic was denied by a superb Barry tackle as he tried to break into the box.
Gerrard then hit the post with a shot from range, before Joe Hart produced two more blinding saves to add to his growing collection. First, he parried from Ngog from inside the six yard box, and then he was back up to dive out at the feet of Torres and put it behind for a corner.
With just over 20 minutes to go, City sealed the game and Skrtl was perhaps lucky to have stayed on the pitch. Adam Johnson broke into the box through two Liverpool challenges and, as he got to the ball, Skrtl hacked him down to concede the penalty. Tevez stepped up and sent Reina the wrong way for 3-0.
On 73 minutes, Torres reminded City that the game was quite over, as he turned Richards in the box and sent a shot towards the top corner. But it was Joe Hart in goal and he wasn’t going to be beaten on his near post, as he touched it around for the corner.
It was looking bleak for the visitors and, with ten minutes to go, Glenn Johnson skied an effort from outside the box, before Kuyt headed towards goal, but it was a simple catch for Hart.
City completed the game as if it were a training session, stroking the ball around the pitch, leaving Liverpool chasing shadows. James Milner impressed on his debut, but he was just pipped to man of the match by Gareth Barry, who didn’t put a foot wrong all evening. On the basis of this performance, you’d think it was City who had been top four regulars in the past.