Report: City 2 Celtic 1
Goals: Barry 15, Bellamy 50 for City. Killen 24 for Celtic.
City completed pre-season with a morale boosting victory over a weakened Celtic side with goals from Gareth Barry and former hoops hero Craig Bellamy. Former City academy star Chris Killen netted for Celtic.
The number of empty seats in the home areas were disappointing, but at least there was a large turnout from the ever boisterous Celtic fans, who were given the whole of the South Stand. Unsurprisingly they were in high spirits after their midweek victory in Europe.
A trio of former City players made a return in the shape of Georgios Samaras, Willo Flood and Killen. All received a good hand from City fans as the teams were read out.
The warm reception was reciprocated for Shay Given and, in particular, Craig Bellamy who is famed for his title winning exploits north of the border. It must have made a welcome change for the Welshman to be cheered by the opposition fans!
Hughes sent out a strong line-up, though with Dunne being the only outfield player over 6 feet tall, it would represent quite a gamble to play this side at Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn.
Zabaleta took over from Richards at right-back and had an excellent game in his preferred position. The Argentine’s tackling and his refusal to let wingers get the better of him is a lesson to all our other full-backs.
With Toure playing on the right of central defence, we again saw Dunne shunted over to the left. In the early part of the game Dunne survived ok, possibly due to a complete lack of Celtic attacks. However following City’s first goal and the departure of Toure, Celtic came into the game. A glorious pass from Samaras sent the unmarked Killen racing through on Dunne’s blind side, and he fired past Given. It was very poor defending from City to let the New Zealander get away so easily.
Soon afterwards Ben Haim moved to the left side and Dunne was back in his comfort zone on the right. From then on City looked a lot more at ease in open play. Corners were another matter as aside from Given nobody appeared fully focussed. We were lucky not to concede on more than one occasion. Any observers for “Set Piece Sam” Allardyce would have been busy noting that.
City had started the game well with the midfield pairing of De Jong and Barry looking excellent once again.Ã‚Â This relieves Ireland of having to restrict his breaks forward, which he struggled to do when asked to play in a central midfield pair in the second half. Barry demonstrated the art of knowing when to break into the box in scoring the opening goal. It was beautiful in it’s simplicity as Wright-Phillips released Zabaleta who hit a fantastic cross for the former Villa man to volley first time into the net.
The substitution of De Jong for Adebayor at half-time meant a change in formation. Barry, with Ireland supposedly alongside him was required to do a lot more covering and did well not to be overrun.
Six minutes into the second half, Bridge picked up the ball at full back and set off on a meandering run that took him towards the centre circle. A ball over to Bellamy had the Celtic defence back-pedalling and the Welshman turned his defender one way and then the other before firing into the bottom corner. Another quality goal from City.
Hughes then seemed intent on giving all his attacking players a run out in front of the watching Khaldoon al-Mubarak. Tevez, Weiss and Petrov all made an appearance. Tony Mowbray appeared to go substitute crazy himself and both teams lost their shape as the game petered out.
“It was a good work-out, but we’re at a stage where we are a bit fed up of friendlies and want to get the real stuff started. In fairness, today was a good exercise because they were good opposition, and there was a great atmosphere today.
“There are always things in friendlies that will look a bit false, and you need to get the competitive juices flowing to see what you want to see.”
“I knew I could only play Carlos for about 25 minutes at most today,” Hughes continues, “and I wanted to see him on the pitch with Robi and Ade.”
Once again it was a decent match to watch as both sides played an open game at a decent pace, particularly in the first half. The centre of defence and general lack of organisation at the back remains the biggest concern, both in open play and at set pieces.
The forwards aren’t quite gelling, but there’s now sufficient quality and variety to believe they will. The workrate of Tevez seemed to rub off on some of the others, and that in itself could be a useful improvement on last year. Hopefully Khaldoon al-Mubarak will have departed feeling sufficiently happy with how the money’s been spent.
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