It took a penalty shootout to separate last season’s top two in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday, but Guardiola’s Manchester City were victorious for the second year in a row.
Raheem Sterling’s early opener was cancelled out late on by Joel Matip- but it didn’t matter for City in the end thanks to Claudio Bravo’s save in the shootout. Here’s what we learned from the 2019/20 season’s curtain-raiser…
Walker May Thrive Off New Competition
Danilo is an extremely solid right-back for almost any side, but thanks to injuries last season he never really put Kyle Walker’s place in the team under threat. Now, with a swap between the Brazilian and Juventus’ Joao Cancelo seemingly close, Walker knows he’ll need to play very well to stay in the side.
Today the ex-Tottenham man played like a man possessed. It felt like the performance of someone trying to convince his manager that he deserves to keep being selected and I don’t doubt Pep will be happy. Even before the end of the match, Kyle stood out as one of City’s best players, but his team would have lost if not for his astonishing acrobatic clearance. The ball was a fraction of a second away from crossing the goal line in the final minutes of the game before Walker threw himself underneath it and succeeded in saving the game for City. If he can keep turning in performances like that, Joao Cancelo will have to work hard to get in the XI.
Sterling Breaks His Curse
Raheem Sterling may have been getting better and better every season since joining City in 2015, but one small moment had evaded him until today- he’d never scored against former club Liverpool. This fact had been building up to something more ominous the longer it went on, almost like some sort of curse, until the spell was broken in the first fifteen minutes at Wembley.
Raheem instinctively turned in Silva’s pass at the end of what was a fantastically engineered set-piece, scoring what would ultimately be City’s only goal of the game and celebrating with aplomb. We’re going to ignore that miss later on, seeing as we’ve won – he’s only human, after all…
Rodri Slots In
While Angeliño stayed on the bench, fellow new boy Rodri got to play the full game as he made his competitive debut for City. There was a buzz of interest once again amongst football fans watching the game, waiting to see how he played against a top team.
Safe to say, they weren’t disappointed. Rodri looks every bit the player we need in his position, able to recover the ball regularly, retain it intelligently and play some great passes too. Against Liverpool he slotted into the side like the central piece of a jigsaw, and his height made a noticeable difference from set-pieces. However, it wasn’t a perfect performance. On a few occasions, the Spaniard lost the ball a little too easily and seemed a bit surprised with the pace of the match. With that said, his quality is clear and after a few Premier League games it looks likely that he’ll be up to speed.
Remember last month when Wolves beat us on penalties in a friendly? On that day, City came out with one of the worst sets of penalty kicks you’re likely to see, prompting much speculation about who would be in charge of spot-kick duties this season.
Today, though, there was no need for concern. City’s five takers dispatched their chances excellently, with Gundogan and Bernardo Silva tucking away the first two. Then youngsters Phil Foden and Oleks Zinchenko stepped up and made no mistake from the penalty spot. Finally, Gabriel Jesus (who had a very good game) took responsibility and made his first game as City’s #9 a memorable one by scoring the winning penalty. All this was without Aguero, Sterling, Sané, Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez or Fernandinho stepping up to the plate. If we’ve started as we mean to go on, we could see a lot of penalties scored in a season where – thanks to VAR – spot-kicks will be more common than we’ve ever seen before.
With every passing month, memories of Claudio Bravo’s disastrous first season at City are fading rapidly. Performances like today only help his cause.
This was one of Bravo’s finest games in a City shirt. He was on fire. Nothing got past the Chilean at Wembley, as he blocked and stopped pretty much everything Liverpool threw at him with supreme confidence. The only goal he conceded was anyone’s fault but his own and even after that Claudio kept us in the game with some late saves. To top it off, Bravo managed to stop Liverpool’s second penalty in the shootout – like Walker and Sterling, we simply wouldn’t have won this Shield without his contribution.
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