Manchester City came from behind to breeze past West Ham United in the Semi-Final of the Premier League Asia Trophy. Goals from David Silva and Lukas Nmecha turned the game around before a Raheem Sterling brace added some gloss to the scoreline. Here’s what we learned from the first game of preseason…
A Goal Made In Spain
City’s equaliser in the first half will surely go down as the moment of the match. There are beautiful assists and there are wonderful finishes, but this goal had both in equal measure. And it was two Spanish playmakers, one young and one old, who made it happen.
In truth, Manchester City had looked a bit flat for a while before Adrian Bernabe’s incredible cross, and the effects of the humidity were clear. He galvanised the team with a perfect ball to the chest of David Silva, who controlled it brilliantly and rifled home a first-time volley from a tight angle.
Not only did this goal remind City fans that the genius of David Silva still burns as strongly as ever, it was a fantastic moment for 18-year-old Bernabe, who can take pride in knowing that he turned the game around with a pass that even Kevin De Bruyne would have applauded.
With five current City youth players in the Starting XI, Guardiola decided to give some players for the future a taste of first-team action. We’ve already praised Bernabe for his impressive performance, but Taylor Harwood-Bellis also stood out as he partnered Aymeric Laporte for most of the game. Despite being denied a debut clean sheet, the 17-year-old looked assured and comfortable against a senior West Ham team; he was reminiscent of Eric García from last year but without the added challenge of diminutive height.
However, the outstanding youngster for me was Tommy Doyle, grandson of Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe, who was also the only youngster other than Harwood-Bellis to start both halves. Doyle showed obvious talent and (dare I say it) first-team potential, and I don’t think any City fan wouldn’t be thrilled to see him break into the first team over the next five years. It won’t be easy, of course, but we certainly haven’t seen the last of him for this pre-season…
Big Hitters Change The Game
Only in pre-season will you see four of the top twenty players in the Premier League subbed onto the same pitch at half time. Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sané arrived with City 2-1 up, and from then on the result wasn’t really in doubt.
With the famous blue-and-purple’s dominating possession, things quickly turned familiar. De Bruyne was smashing crosses into the penalty box, Bernardo was tracking back like the Duracell Bunny, Sané had a new hairstyle and Sterling was chasing down brilliant through balls and scoring. Later, the likes of Oleks Zinchenko, Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones and Kyle Walker arrived to make the situation even more controlled as Guardiola’s men dominated proceedings. You have to say that had we started a stronger XI- not that we should have done- the scoreline may have been far greater.
Raheem the Pre-season King
Since joining from Liverpool in 2015, Raheem Sterling has scored seven goals in pre-season friendlies for City – more than any of his teammates. He was at it again today, coming on at the break before quickly latching onto Sané’s through ball, dribbling to the box and slotting it past the ‘keeper. It didn’t take long for the Englishman to wrap up the win, either, smashing through Roberto from De Bruyne’s pass. It’s a lot to ask from Sterling to somehow improve on last season, but I wouldn’t put it past him.
There’s Work To Be Done (Obviously)
In this section I want to talk directly to some City fans who have reacted badly to a few performances today:
This shouldn’t be news to us, but we’re inevitably not going to be playing at our best yet. There are countless reasons for this: players adapting to new tactics, lots of youngsters and fringe players starting, humidity, jet-lag, players reluctant to waste energy, unfamiliar pairings…
So there’s no good reason to draw any conclusions from this game. It’s also important to remember that West Ham played a very strong team against a City side with only three of our top-class players starting and we still managed to get the win. With a fully fit senior squad available for the start of the season, lineups – and performances – will be completely different. If we’re giving away two penalties a game in September, worry away – until then, just enjoy the ride.
You can follow us on twitter here: @City_Xtra
You can follow the author here: @Nallensports