Date:Sunday July 27 2014
With severe weather on the horizon and very soon in the Heinz Field, AC Milan must have thought they had witnessed a blue tornado in the first half tonight in Pittsburgh. You might say that time and again City opened them up like a tin of beans.
Parading up to eight regular starters this was geared up to be a tough invitation for a City side boasting a mix of new signing in the shape of Fernando and Caballero, shop window fodder in the shape of Sinclair, a striker desperate to put last season behind him in the shape of Jovetic and another with a golden future in front of him in the shape of Iheanacho. Sadly for Milan, all of the above-noted front men were to disturb their netting together with a rejuvenated Jesus Navas.
The rout began as early as the eleventh minute when an awesome crossfield pass of some fifty yards from Fernando found Navas. He quickly turned it in to Jovetic who instantly hit it inside the near post. The speed and execution were quite special.
Almost immediately and indeed in the next attack, a similar combination saw City raid down the right and this time a good cross by Clichy found Sinclair who did his exit route no harm by turning in the cross.
City were pressing high up the pitch all the time, playing three at the back and using the full backs like rooks in a chess match to control the proceedings. If Kolarov stayed as part of the three, Clichy would raid and vice-versa, if Clichy sat in. It was little surprise when Jovetic ignored the easy cross into a crowded penalty area in favour of a long ball to Navas, who was retreating from having taken a corner on the left. Navas volleyed the ball goalwards and a deflection off a luckless Milano wrong footed the keeper and sent City 3-0 up.
Milan did try to get things moving and despite City`s back three of Nastasic, Boyata and either Kolarov or Clichy looking far from convincing, Cowboy Bill kept everything in check at the back using his sheer size to thwart all-comers, including an excellent point-blank save from a goalbound header.
But City would not be pegged back and once again they surged forward and a ball moved in from the left wormed its way to the young Iheanacho. Although initially it got stuck in his feet and at least three Milan defenders closed in on him, he managed to toe-bung a shot through one of the defenders legs. Although the keeper got both hands to it, he couldn`t prevent an unlikely 4-0 scoreline after only 26 minutes.
The elements were now approaching rapidly and the safety management team having some hard decisions to make, Milan began the respectability show with a tap-in just before the break. For me Nastasic, once hailed on these pages as a club captain in waiting didn`t do enough, preferring not to jump with his opponent, but simply try to disturb him by pushing. His punishment was a goal which Milan hardly deserved forced in by Muntari.
As the teams hurriedly headed for the changing rooms before the lightning came, we were told that the final decision on whether the match would resume would be given in around twenty minutes time. City would have wanted to get the show back on the road, but I`m sure that Pippo Inzaghi, his tenure as manager already in the balance after one and a half games, would have been doing the dance of a rain doctor in his team`s dressing room.
As it looked as though play was to resume, rumour was rife that Mario Balotelli, at the match but not expected to play would appear for late-starting second half. Indeed Super Mario did appear and within eight minutes of the restart he was prodding the ball home, but had strayed offside.
Milan started the second half with more purpose as City were guilty of sitting on their laurels. If they were to continue in this way the Engineer would be a very unhappy teddy even though Milan`s second half team was more or less their starting line-up. We even saw Balotelli tackling back and City forced into a foul to break up a Milan attack.
City were still pressing on whilst at the same time swarming back in numbers when they gave up the ball. After 57 minutes City raided down the left with Kolarov who instead of his usual rapier-like far post cross, slipped the ball inside to Jovetic, who clipped it past a defender and drove the ball home giving the keeper not a prayer. This was a superb strike and shows what City missed last season when this outstanding young man was ravaged by niggling injuries.
In their next attack Milan gained a free kick in a dangerous position as Essien took the grass. Balotelli and Honda presided over the dead ball and surely it was going to be Mario to take it? Well, no it was Honda whose shot looked more like a clapped-out scooter than anything you would expect from a supposed leading striker and the City wall dealt with it easily.
City took the opportunity to bring on Garcia and Huws for Fernando and Iheanacho. This 17-year old really looks the ticket and surely with the Engineer`s hands on the wheel, he must be destined for a great future on the Etihad Campus over the next few years.
There is robustness evident already in the City ranks this season and that`s without Kompany, Fernadinho and Yaya. Even Navas was showing resilience, despite his size and this all augurs well for Pellegrini`s men.
All the talk around just outside and well outside Manchester surrounds Van Gaal, his demands and declarations. Could this be another case of City flying underneath Johnny Baguette`s radar and creeping into pole position? Are you just fed up of talk rubbish day after day talking non-stop rubbish about Stretford`s finest who will no doubt win the title by twenty points, the coming season.
With twenty minutes left Jovetic took the applause, making way for Guidetti. Kolarov also left for Richards. Are we ever going to witness the best of Guidetti? The lad has so much talent, but like the Jovetic of last season has been so beset by injuries, his career feels as though it is daily jeopardy. I have watched this kid regularly since he became involved with City and certainly before the advent of Aguero, the Beast and Dzeko, he was probably the most lethal goalscorer in the club, although his game was lacking in other areas. His loan spell in the Netherlands added considerably to his all-round game and it seems as though season after season we look forward to him springing on to the scene posing threats for every striker except Aguero. Now it looks as though that man is going to be Iheanacho, unless the likeable Guidetti can find a rabbit in the top hat. I have spoken to his father on many occasions and there is no doubt that he would be so proud to see his boy parade regularly in sky blue.
After 75 minutes it looked as though Boyata had sustained an injury, but it turned out to be little more than cramp as he blocked a Milan attempt. Zuculini was then withdrawn after he had a chance to make it 4-0 in the first half, before Iheanacho actually did.
Rekik came off for Boyata, Leigh for Navas and Rodwell for Zuculini as the blues line-up took a very youthful look indeed. Pellegrini was clearly determined to give as many players as possible some valuable match time. It was left to Caballero to keep Milan at bay and direct the youth ahead of him in masterful fashion. Willy always looked a bit suspect in front of the Frente Bokeron, but maybe that was because of the shortage of true class in front of him. Although we have only seen him a couple of time guarding the pipes for City, he looks like a huge man laying down the challenge to Joe Hart to perform at his best every week, as indeed he did once normal service was resumed after the intervention of the departed Costel Pantilimon last season. I still however forget that Malaga, under Pellegrini reached the last eight of the Champions League only to find themselves cheated by an outrageous refereeing decision against Dortmund.
Nothing that Milan tried seemed to be coming off. Either the last pass had too much beef on it or Caballero took charge. So they were forced to introduce Mastour who has only just attained his sixteenth birthday. Well done to Inzaghi for this. At a time when top sides, City included, spend big on big players and maybe stifle their home grown products, it is refreshing to see this type of introduction.
The Stretford-favouring co-commentator on TV took great delight in going on about the state of the defence telling the watching world that every time Milan had a freekick or corner, Milan looked as though they were going to score. What did the scoreline say?
I have only 2 definite words to say to him…Kompany, Demichelis and if City can extend that to a third word in the form of Mangala, may we remind him that in the red corner we have Evans, Jones and Smalling and a cheque book full of promise, providing that a team out or European competition can attract anyone at a sensible price.
City quite easily dismantled one of Europe`s most famous teams in a similar fashion to the way they dismantled United twice last season, and indeed others, notably Ashburton Grove`s finest. Arsenal have however made a couple of useful signings this close-season, but I think that once again they will be found wanting in the marathon although they may once again attain silverware in the sprints, unless of course they come up against City.
Without their World Cup stars City already look a dangerous outfit. If we can add fully fir versions of Aguero, Silva, Dzeko, Kompany, Zabaleta and Demichelis they will take on greater potency than a suitcase full of Viagra and will render themselves, once again, difficult opposition for everyone between now and May 2015.
Date:Sunday July 27 2014
Inter Play Down Yaya Rumours (Sunday January 25 2015)
Pellegrini - We Have No FA Cup Excuse (Saturday January 24 2015)
Stats: Manchester City v Middlesbrough (Saturday January 24 2015)
Manchester City v Middlesbrough - Team Line-Ups (Saturday January 24 2015)
No Villa Move For Scott (Saturday January 24 2015)
Team News - City v Middlesbrough (Friday January 23 2015)
Containing Boro (Friday January 23 2015)
FA Cup Magic Not Lost On Fernando (Friday January 23 2015)
Pellegrini - We Need To Return To Our Best (Friday January 23 2015)
City Need To Refocus In A Set-Piece Nightmare (Friday January 23 2015)
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