Ped's Pre-season Musings (3)
City today took on the Malaysian national team in the final leg of part two of their pre-season work in Kuala Lumpur.
Mancini fielded an odd looking side, once again having a look at "three-at-the-back", this time in the unusual shape of Savic , Kolo and Zabaleta. Youngsters Razak and Suarez got starts as did Johnson.
The Argentine spearhead of Aguero and Tevez commenced, with Yaya, Kolarov and Pantilimon making up the starting eleven.
City got off to a business-like start, but first blood could have gone to Malaysia as Pantilimon rushed out to collect and ended up outside the box still carrying the ball. A free kick was granted but the ref decided a card was inappropriate.
Shortly afterwards Aguero thought he`d opened City`s scoring account only to find an eagle-eyed linesman waving his flag. City continued to push ahead with their neat passing moves retaining possession for long periods.
After seventeen minutes though our hero from last season treated us to an absolutely awesome goal to make up for the hat trick he never scored in the match against Arsenal. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, Aguero shrugged off four would-be tacklers before delivering a chip shot over keeper Marlias. The blue and white shirts thought the Poznan was in order. It was a goal to savour from a master marksman.
It was perhaps astonishing that Malaysia stood firm until half-time. City without Silva, Kompany, Dzeko, Balotelli, Milner, Clichy,Lescott, Nasri and Richards in the outfield seamlessly moved into their stride as the stand-in players looked totally at home, when almost a full team was still at home.
Suarez had the job of moving the ball in Silva fashion, Razak guarded the back-line, Barry Fashion and Johnson did the job of guarding the right hand side and dropping back to cover any raids down that side, if you like, Milner fashion.
Up front Tevez looked in devastating form back to precisely what City bought and delivering exactly what the supporters want.
It was therefore fitting that once we entered "City time" after the break he latched on to an exquisite through ball from man of the match Aguero, drawing the keeper one way then slotting the ball into the far corner.
He was involved again in the next move where he put on his "greedy" hat , shooting and missing when Johnson was handily placed unmarked a couple of yards away, having started the move with a tackle just outside his own penalty area.
Tevez made up for that in the very next attack, which had similar combinations of Tevez and Aguero pulling the defence together in the middle before releasing Johnson. The should-be England man, squeezed into a gap, lined it up on his left foot and drilled it into the net with little backlift.
It was now a case of whether City would go for it and make it a cricket score (well not an England cricket score) or to give the younger players on the bench a worthwhile run out. Mancini saw the hour out and then rang in six changes, introducing Scapuzzi, Lopes, Johansen, his own son , Boyata and Evans who looks very confident and comfortable playing his football in the first team in a well-attended stadium.
The Blues in maroon continued to clock up the stats but just when the tour looked as though it was reaching a perfect conclusion of three clean sheets, the consummate professional, Zabaleta dozed off for a second, let the ball go on the edge of the box, couldn`t recover and could only watch as Akil drove the ball past Johansen.
The double-header tours have brought a progression of scores moving through the gears from a 0ne-goal defeat, via a 0-0 a 1-0 a 2-0 so a 3-0 would have been perfect. However we will not be upset at letting Malaysia get on the scoresheet, although I think it was playing on Zaba`a mind as he left the field.
City look to be continuing where they signed off last season. The football is looking good, there has clearly been a progression in terms of the younger players who will benefit from inclusion in an under-21 league for the coming season.
Razak looks as though he can play in a number of positions, and is big enough to stand in for Yaya, although today once Yaya left the field it was Johnson who took up his role leaving Scapuzzi to play wider out.
Suarez looks comfortable in the centre of midfield and Evans looks a revelation, so for me the future is bright, the future is sky blue.
I suspect none of these footballers will grace ice station Z-Zebra at Boundary Park tomorrow night but they will soon face Wolfsburg, when just maybe one or two of those resting up after the Euros will be stepping up their fitness bids.
It is of some concern that Kompany is home already receiving treatment and that Kolo came off holding a hamstring, but there is plenty of time before the season begins to get the defenders fit.
I`m sure Mancini knows what he is doing, he seems to have done so since the day he walked through the doors at the Etihad.