City look mean and hungry for another title
MAN CITY 3
(Stevan Jovetic 41, 55, Sergio Aguero 69)
(Pablo Zabaleta 83-og)
A Manchester City striker of the past sat glumly in the stands, watching his new team collapse under a wave of attacks.
A Manchester City striker of the present and of the future led the charge.
While Mario Balotelli awaits clearance to play for Liverpool, wild horses couldn't hold Stevan Jovetic back.
The champions obliterated the challengers at the Etihad Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time), pouncing on their mistakes, punishing them brutally for their every slip.
Jovetic, his debut season in England ruined by injury, was at the heart of everything.
If City lost the ball in the final third, the Montenegrin would clatter back into his own half to try and win it back.
The question has been asked: are City's players hungry enough to retain their title?
On the evidence of this, they'll gladly accept second helpings.
It was the tenacity of Jovetic that led to the first goal.
Dejan Lovren's desperate defensive header gave debutant Alberto Moreno the chance to hoof the ball clear, but the young Spaniard tried to take the clearance on his favoured left foot.
In the time it took to shift his balance, Jovetic was in, snatching the ball away and then lashing it past Simon Mignolet.
Moreno has learned the hard way that in England, you don't always get the time to use your favoured foot.
Jovetic made and finished the second goal, beginning the move with a glorious back-heel to the impressive Samir Nasri and then moving into space to convert the cutback. Glen Johnson, who seemed to try to block the shot with an awkwardly raised knee rather than with his head, may have some questions to answer.
With 20 minutes to play, Sergio Aguero appeared as a substitute. Just 23 seconds later, he put City 3-0 up.
Liverpool had started well and were arguably the better team until Moreno's shaming.
Brendan Rodgers' decision to hold most of his new signings back was vindicated by a coherent, confident display.
Few teams go to the home of the champions and then seek to put them on the back foot.
But, as well as the Reds moved the ball, they struggled to make serious opportunities on goal. Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho were bright, Joe Allen was excellent in the middle, but it was half an hour before Daniel Sturridge was able to fire off a shot, and the majority of his efforts came in the hopeless stages of the game.
Liverpool fans could be forgiven for wondering how a certain Uruguayan forward would have performed in similar circumstances.
Soon, at least, they will get to see how a certain Italian forward fares.
There were positives for Liverpool, not least in the way they continued to fight for the game even when most teams would have given it up as a lost cause.
Rickie Lambert pressured Pablo Zabaleta into a late own goal and might have added one of his own had he been more decisive in the box.
The addition of Lazar Markovic made an immediate impact on the left flank, where the Serbian attacker caused a number of problems.
Emre Can displayed a cultured touch, though he should have been sent off for an appalling dive when his frustrations boiled over.
Against other teams, Liverpool might have salvaged a draw. But not against City.
The suspicion over the summer was that Uefa's Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions wouldn't unsettle City in the slightest because the bulk of their spending had been completed.
This transfer window was always about consolidation.
With so many key players locked into new deals, including David Silva who was outstanding once again here, City are as happy and settled as they have been at any period in their history.
Firm conclusions can never been drawn from only two games, but there are certainly signs that City are well set to retain their title.
For Liverpool, there is plenty of time to recover and there are plenty of lessons to be learned, not least by young Moreno.
This team are too good to collapse in the absence of Luis Suarez, but it is not unrealistic to expect a slight dip in a period of readjustment.
Besides, there is no shame in being beaten by this City side.
- MAN CITY: Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis, Fernando, Samir Nasri, David Silva (Jesus Navas 65), Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko (Sergio Aguero 68), Stevan Jovetic (Fernandinho 80).
- LIVERPOOL: Simon Mignolet, Glen Johnson, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Martin Skrtel, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen (Emre Can 75), Philippe Coutinho (Lazar Markovic 60), Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling (Rickie Lambert 79).
"There are so many beautiful moments now after so many problems last year. But I don’t want to think about that as it’s the past. I just want to enjoy with this team with these players and to win as many titles as we can."
— Stevan Jovetic
CITY BOSS WANTS FOUR FIT AND FIRING STRIKERS
The return to form of Stevan Jovetic has brought cheer to Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini who insists he needs four fully-fit strikers in order for his side to defend their Premier League title.
Jovetic, the forgotten forward of last season's title-winning campaign after being dogged by injury, scored twice in the 3-1 victory over Liverpool yesterday morning.
Substitute Sergio Aguero, still making his way back to full fitness after his World Cup exertions after injury problems of his own late last season, added the third before Pablo Zabaleta's late own goal.
Pellegrini (above) currently has to choose two from three - Edin Dzeko is his other fit striker with Alvaro Negredo still out injured with a broken metatarsal - but the Chilean believes he needs everyone at his disposal.
"We need four strikers. At this moment Stevan is doing very well but you cannot forget Negredo is injured," he said.
"Dzeko and Jovetic and Aguero are working well. It is important that they continue playing the way they did.
"Kun Aguero is a very special player for us and it was good that the first ball he touched was a goal. That was not luck.
"He is working very hard during the week and this is an important reward."
With Jovetic, 24, hitting some form, Pellegrini was asked who was the ideal foil for the Montenegrin.
"That is difficult to answer this at the moment but a player like Jovetic can play with any top player," he added.
"He was very unlucky last season but we never had any doubt about this quality.
"To start the new season in this way after an unlucky season is good but I don't think it is like a new signing."
Injury and illness had restricted Jovetic to only three goals from 11 league appearances last season, but he appears rejuvenated after a successful pre-season.
Pellegrini said:"He was very unlucky last season, but we never had any doubt about his quality."
"I'm very happy for him, because after such an unlucky season, he deserves to start this season the way he's playing. Not only for his goals. Stevan was working the whole game, without the ball also."
- PA Sport/AFP.