Put the biggest stars on the grandest stages and they seldom fluff their lines and football’s English champions are no exception – even if there was the odd stutter. - Manchester City FC

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  • 19 August 2012 18:10
  • Posted by Chris Bailey

Put the biggest stars on the grandest stages and they seldom fluff their lines and football’s English champions are no exception – even if there was the odd stutter.

City’s defence of their title eventually got off to the start that wider public opinion expected and that a packed Etihad Stadium had demanded.

There was not the raw emotion of that glorious day in May when the title was clinched in storybook fashion but there was plenty of drama not least in the opening quarter when the home side lost Sergio Aguero to a knee injury and then missed a penalty.

aguero

That muted proceedings somewhat for a while but the volume was switched back to ‘full’ six minutes from the break when super slim Carlos Tevez outfoxed the Saints offside trap and drilled a low effort past ‘keeper Kelvin Davis.It was made by a superb Samir Nasri pass. 

 

Thereafter there followed a defensive horror show from both sides that had both the managers shaking their heads

 

...City 3 Saints 2

  

Rather than a polished and purposeful performance aimed at sending a message to their rivals the Blue instead were left to stress their durability and never-say-die attitude to come from 2-1 down to win 3-2 - now where have we seen that before?

Premier League new boys Southampton were given a taste of what to expect now they are dining at the top table though the south coast side will have much easier assignments than this opening weekend date. That they scored two goals from such meagre possession did them credit.

Having spent much of the pre-season experimenting with what was loosely a 3-5-2 formation, Blues boss Roberto Mancini reverted to a 4-4-2 with Jack Rodwell handed a debut in central midfield alongside Yaya Toure.

The former Evertonian was neat and tidy – until he gave the ball away for the second goal - and demonstrated an eye for a tackle but elsewhere it was a bit of a sluggish opening against a side with an understandably limited attacking ambition.

Matters of course were not helped by seeing last season’s top scorer Aguero leave the arena strapped to a stretcher or by a weakly struck penalty by David Silva after Tevez’ speed on the turn had drawn the foul from Josh Hooiveld.

Davis made the all-too simple stop and then produced another to deny Tevez who toe-poked goalwards after wriggling free of four opponents.

With Merlin’s box of tricks still a little rusty after a summer collecting yet another major title with Spain, the anticipated goal avalanche never came and the breakthrough was painfully slow in arriving but once it did the Blues were in cruise control.

Watched by new CEO Ferran Soriano, whose football teeth were cut at the Camp Nou overseeing Barcelona develop into a super power, City knocked the ball around with effortless ease and an air of confidence that suggested winning the title in such dramatic fashion has strengthened self-belief.

 

They could have extended their lead on two occasions in the opening seven minutes of the second half

 

...City 3 Saints 2

Edin Dzeko should have scored from Nasri’s great work down the left but got his feet in a tangle and then Clichy arrived late at the back post for Toure’s ball but knocked it over the bar.

Silva’s poor day continued when he volleyed over an open goal from seven yards and City paid the price on the hour when Joleon Lescott’s attempted clearance fell to Rickie Lambert who curled home an equaliser just four minutes after coming on.

Just to show that was no fluke another sub Steven Davis then swept them into the lead.

nasri

Having been in that position against Rangers at the end of last term, no one was writing the Blues off. They thrive on adversity.

Quick feet allied to lighting fast football brains are always a potent mix and City in the end were just too savvy for a Saints side fresh up from the Championship for whom a place in the lower middle of the table will be seen as successful re-entry to the top flight after a period of re-generation.

Dzeko stroked home the equaliser and in doing so became the third sub to find the net and then Nasri sealed the win to cap a wonderful man of the match performance.

 

 

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Match details

Sunday 19 August 2012, 4:00PM

Etihad Stadium Att:46,109
Barclays Premier League

Referee:
Howard Webb (Yorks)

Teams

Manchester City:

Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Rodwell, Yaya Toure, Silva (Balotelli 71mins), Nasri, Aguero (Dzeko 13mins), Tevez (Kolarov 87mins)

Unused subs:
Pantilimon, Savic, DeJong, Milner

Bookings:
Nasri

Southampton:

K. Davis, Clyne, Schneiderlin, Hooiveld, Fonte, Rodriguez (Lambert 56mins), Fox, Ward-Prowse (S Davies 65), Lallana, Do Prado, Puncheon (Sharp 85mins)

Unused subs:
Gazzaniga, Richardson, Shaw, and Seaborne

Bookings:
Schneiderlin, Fox

All times are taken from a live feed and are approximate at time of publishing.

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