Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Saturday August 25 2012
The Etihad lit up last night with its first hosting of a Barclays Premier U21 League, when City entertained Middlesbrough. And entertain was the key word.
At this level Boro are no mugs. Renowned for home production, Boro are often awkward opponents at this age group and for a while last night were difficult to encounter , but in the end the new elite waiting in the wings at Manchester City is a sight to behold.
The introduction of this league means that the U21s have meaningful football to play in a superbly organised completion. In turn this means that fewer footballers have gone out on loan and therefore, Marcos Lopes apart, City are genuinely fielding a side reflective of the age group and which should therefore fare better in the Next Generation competition which begins in earnest at Ewen Fields, Hyde next Thursday.
Despite the signature pouring rain the Blues got into their stride quickly. Gareth Barry began his competitive comeback and played the first half in commanding but low key style.
The style of play is a carbon copy of what Mancini has introduced at first team level and Atilo Lombardo`s men were quick to the ball and very reluctant to give it up. Although Boro were initially resistant it didn`t take City long to get the scoreboard ticking over when a neat move saw Hiwula dispossess Burgess, draw and round the keeper and slot home for 1-0 before the quarter hour had clocked up.
Then in true style one or two gifts went begging as Ruznak, Hiwula again and Lopes all went close. Boro did provide a scare just ahead of the break but this was blocked emphatically by McGivern, who has been around at this level for a while now.
After the break City once again got into their stride quickly. It looks as though this is "City time" for this team too. Scapuzzi had replaced Barry at half time and as usual his all-action style gave the Boro defence issues. He controlled a Silva-esque pass from Denis Suarez, lifted it over his marker who had no option other than to tug him back giving the referee a gift of a decision as he pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Suarez to show Silva just how to take a spot kick sending Ripley one way and the ball the other like an arrow into the corner.
Not everything is silk and skill at the Etihad, as we found out when the first team played Stretford last season . Occasionally a more direct piece of play from a set piece is needed. Scapuzzi demonstrated this after 65 minutes when he headed home a corner for 3-0. No messing, he just sized it up and..bang!
Boro just couldn`t seem to get moving. Starved of the ball they were in retreat for much of this match as City emulated their first team counterparts with some excellent football. I bet this team could finish half way in the premier league let alone the U21s!
And so it proved as we were about to pack up for the night when the very impressive Hiwula created some space for himself on the edge of the box and unleashed a hammer leaving Ripley again rooted.
Make no mistake dear readers this was great viewing and with all the forward thinking men in full flow City were more than a handful for Middlesbrough. Lops and Suarez keep the ball moving, Ruznak and Hiwula disturb the opposition back line and Evans keep the line intact.
At the back, McGivern is a seasoned campaigner at this level and needs a sterner test. On the corners Wabara and Helan have grown into giants, the latter giving me confidence that he could play Clichy`s role in the Capital One Cup and the former looking a robust Richards-like figure on the right but who does not look out of place in the centres, where Kennedy looked unhurried most of the match.
Johansen between the sticks had an easy night of things. One or two scares were dealt with by Kennedy and McGivern, but all in all it was a tidy and impressive night`s football in front of 1639 populating the West Stand.
With the maligned Financial Fair Play rules on the horizon and the likes of Ferguson campaigning for similar in the Premier League so that "Skint from Stretford" can at least compete with his bargain basement buys in the future, the future in the Sky Blue Garden looks very rosy. There are players here who will make it into the first team and who will save Mancini a fortune in the years to come.
Atilo Lombardo already seems to have a work ethic that was perhaps missing last season although Andy Welsh did have many of his key resources out on loan and no real competitive football for the others to play.
all times East Manchester
TOMORROW 15h00 Liverpool, Anfield, PL
Sa 01 Sep 17h30 QPR, The Etihad, PL
Sa 15 Sep 15h00 Stoke, The Britannia Stadium, PL
Su 23 Sep 16h00 Arsenal, The Etihad, PL
Sa 29 Sep 15h00 Fulham, Craven Cottage, PL
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FIXTURES:
The draw for the 2012/13 Champions League Group Stage will take place in Monaco on Thursday, 30th August. The opening round of games will kick off in the week commencing Monday, 17th September.
Date:Saturday August 25 2012
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