Manchester City, in their bright third kit, played out a dull 0-0 stalemate before losing out on penalties against Premier League counterparts Wolves at the Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai, China. Of course, the extremely humid conditions aren’t suited the best for European sides but Pep Guardiola’s side did manage to play some eye-catching football as usual.
While a couple of youngsters impressed with their tenacity, some of the experienced guns from the back-to-back PL winners are slowly coming into the groove for yet another exhilarating season of Premier League action. And yes, the match came with some warning signs for some players.
Here are our main takeaways from the final game of the Premier League Asia Trophy.
Academy lads stepping up
Adrian Bernarbe and Ian Poveda-Ocampo were handed starts in what was a solid starting XI from Pep Guardiola. Poveda-Ocampo was the star among the duo, as the youngster played some silky passes while creating a good link-up with Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne. Matching the wavelength while playing with the Belgian maestro is not an easy nut to crack, but Poveda-Ocampo proved why he has been touted as the next big thing from the academy.
Bernarbe was brilliant on the left side but Leroy Sane’s lacklustre outing against Wolves made things tougher for the youngster. However, the Spaniard showed glimpses of maturity and these matches will make him stronger going forward. For the likes of Lucas Nmecha, Harwood-Bellis, Aleix Garcia and Ben Knight, it was tough for them to get into the match after coming on around the hour mark.
When Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester, his first plan was to make all the teams play in the same manner – be it the U14s, U17s or EDS. His decision is now turning out to be a masterstroke, given the fact the youngsters are looking better and better whenever they play with the senior squad.
Did you miss Kevin De Bruyne?
Kevin De Bruyne’s 2018/19 was a season to forget in terms of fitness and injuries. The 28-year-old missed the majority of the campaign due to knee and muscle injuries but all of looks to be a thing of the past now.
KDB looked at his best, stringing passes for fun, hitting those inch-perfect crosses – with both his legs – trying to stitch the midfield and attack with his god-gifted vision. Pep will be delighted to have him back and the first half of the match against Wolves showed why he is regarded as arguably the best attacking midfielder in the world right now. His volleyed ping to Leroy Sane was no doubt his individual highlight of the match – sheer brilliance.
Manchester City are to blame for the 0-0 draw. The Blues had more than enough opportunities to change the scoreline in their favour. A Raheem Sterling penalty miss will be the talking point of the match, followed by a couple of glorious chances missed by Sane. New signing Rodrigo had a glorious chance to alter the scoreline in the first half, but the Spaniard miscued his tap-in, as Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio held on to his half-hearted shot. Other than that, there were good link-ups, especially in the second half. However, the Blues weren’t clinical on the day and can only blame themselves.
A tale of penalty misses!
It all started with Raheem Sterling trying to put one into the top bin in the 21st minute of the first half. His shot was miscalculated, as the ball went high over the crossbar. After the match ended 0-0, the table turned towards Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva and Lucas Nmecha – who all missed their respective penalties.
Not a heroic day for Claudio Bravo as he managed to save just one penalty in the shoot-out and misjudged the other spot-kicks. Maybe there were tired legs after a long 90 minutes of play in difficult conditions – but it can’t be used as an excuse as every penalty taker came onto the pitch after the first half. Good learning to take forward into the season and every player will take a lesson from today’s outing – a bit of complacency can kill the game.
Leroy Sane’s humdinger
Despite some of Europe’s top clubs making huge moves this window, all eyes have been struck at one piece of business – will Sane leave for Bayern Munich or will he stay and fight for his place at City.
The German winger looked out of sorts today – not comfortable on the ball, trying to force dribbles, not on the same wavelength as his teammates. Sane needs to clean his head out as soon as possible and get back to what he does the best. A couple of through passes by Bernarbe would have been easily reached by the German winger but not today, as he looked lost and waited for the ball to arrive at his feet.
Even when he played on the right-hand side, he looked stumped while trying to cut back. Wolves’ Boly was made to look like a prime Paolo Maldini every time Sane tried to skip past him. Apart from winning that penalty in the 20th minute, Sane was wasteful. He took a couple of shots which would have rattled the back of the net on any other day, but something clearly didn’t seem right.
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