Tuesday 21 July, 7.00pm (BST)
Goals: Ireland 45
The second game in South Africa saw City put out a stronger side and reap the rewards with a deserved victory courtesy of a goal from captain Stephen Ireland on the stroke of half time.
Hughes ditched the 4-4-2 and reverted to last season’s formation with first Ireland and then Wright-Phillips in the hole behind a lone striker.Ã‚Â Everybody looked more comfortable with this.Ã‚Â There was never the sense of being overrun which we had on Saturday.
It’s worth noting the contrast from last season for Ireland when he was on the road to Sunderland during the final friendly, believing he was no longer required by the Blues. He could have had his name on the scoresheet earlier in this fixture when he was put clean through after eighteen mintutes, but shot straight at the keeper.
Prior to that City’s early domination had resulted in a free kick after ten minutes. McGivern will feel he should have scored with a header after Barry put over a decent ball. Is this a sign of things to come, with the England international due to take set pieces?
De Jong, Barry and Ireland looked a very promising midfield trio that was to good for the Chiefs. Whether or not it was down to our different formation and personnel, the Kaizer Chiefs didn’t look as good as our previous opponents in my opinion. If their defence had played a higher line, they’d have been in the Northern hemisphere.
City finally exploited this with a good run and cross by Etuhu for Ireland to score on the stroke of half time. It was an excellent run into the box by the Irishman. Another summer spent running up and down the hills of Derbyshire paid off for that one.
A pair of changes by City at half-time saw Wright-Phillips emerge as captain and Benjani replace Caicedo. City were less effective without Ireland and Benjani in particular looked like he could soon be elsewhere. A glance at Adebayor in the stands would may well have confirmed that. One plus was the performance of Petrov who was linking up with Bridge and putting over some dangerous looking crosses.
However as City tired, the Chiefs started to create openings, culminating in Motaung jr. missing a sitter from six yards out with only Taylor to beat. A goal for the Chiefs would have been harsh on the young defensive duo of Mee and McGivern, who deserved their clean sheet after looking assured throughout. They provided a timely reminder of the strength of the Academy when potential deals for Terry and Lescott struggle to get completed.
Sadly the same could not be said for Etuhu, who missed a golden opportunity in the 89th minute after being put through by Petrov.Ã‚Â Personally I’ve never been convinced that he would make the grade with us and am surprised he’s still here.Ã‚Â Maybe somebody at the club hasn’t quite got over the way his brother Dickson walked out on us and is refusing to let Kelvin go.
Zabaleta was given Man Of The Match, though I was most impressed with Barry, while Ireland just carried on from last season. The manager will say it’s all about the workout, but for the fans it was nice to see a win and keep a clean sheet with our first glimse of a Summer signing in the excellent Gareth Barry.
Finally I’d like to comment on my first experience of watching a game on the new web site (I was at Eastlands for the Pirates game). According to the club I was one of about 21,000 to do so, and it was definitely a positive experience so credit to the people responsible for the site.
I understand there were problems on Saturday, but for me they were minor on this showing.Ã‚Â There were a few pauses but this is the nature of live video streaming.Ã‚Â At one point I switched to the low bandwidth option and the picture was still perfectly viewable.Ã‚Â The club use Brightcove for serving their video and as an American company with a lot of blue chip clients they’re about as good as we can get for this kind of thing.Ã‚Â The internet wasn’t designed to serve live video so no company is able to do it to perfection, and compared to the frustrations that can be had on Justin.tv and the like, this was definitely a big improvement.Ã‚Â And it’s free!
The Daily Mail
Taylor – To get beat from so far out for the second goal initially looked embarrassing, but in truth there wasn’t anything he could do about it.Ã‚Â Otherwise capable without looking exceptional.Ã‚Â 6
Zabaleta – Half time switch to midfield reminded us of his flexibility.Ã‚Â Competitive and capable in midfield without ever dominating.Ã‚Â 5
Ben Haim – Must have been as surprised as the rest of us to see him starting a game.Ã‚Â 5
Mee – Wholehearted, but let down by giving away an unnecessary penalty with an obvious shirt tug.Ã‚Â 5
Garrido – Defensively he spent the afternoon being to easily beaten.Ã‚Â A shame as he demonstrated good technique when getting forward.Ã‚Â 5
Ireland – Captain for the day, and looked the fittest after another kung fu summer.Ã‚Â Lacked the cutting edge to make things happen though.Ã‚Â 6
Johnson – A welcome surprise to see him back.Ã‚Â Bigger than ever if not better, but the U-21 international did ok.Ã‚Â Let’s hope there’s no reaction.Ã‚Â 6
Weiss – Lively and looked our most likely source of inspiration.Ã‚Â Needs to learn to play the early ball when it’s on.Ã‚Â 7
Petrov – Did anything he try come off?Ã‚Â Frustrating to those who remember what he’s capable of.Ã‚Â 5
Bojinov – Looked so much fitter than at the end of last season, which is a big plus.Ã‚Â Just hope he gets a chance.Ã‚Â 6
Bellamy – The first player to get booked, and for berating a linesman on an off-side call.Ã‚Â He just doesn’t do friendly, and for that we should be grateful.Ã‚Â Like Bojinov, playing for his future.Ã‚Â 6
Vidal – Did ok, but not well enough to suggest he’s going to be breaking into the first team on this showing.Ã‚Â 5
Benjani – Showed some decent movement, but goals just didn’t look likely, and that’s what we neededÃ‚Â 5.
Caicedo – Used his strength well on a couple of occasions, but the link-up play wasn’t good enough to cause any real problems.Ã‚Â 5
De Jong – Appeared to be brought on for a run out, as he’s hardly the type to turn a game round.Ã‚Â Showed his usual positional discipline, which I always feel Zabaletta could learn from.Ã‚Â 6
Man of the match: Weiss
Saturday 18 July, 2.00pm (BST)
Goals: Thwala 35, Thwala 55.
And so the 2009/10 pre-season began.Ã‚Â Sunshine and unparallelled optimism giving way to defeat and a dispiriting display.Ã‚Â Then who should pop up at Eastlands but another Ã‚Â£25m striker to lift our spirits.Ã‚Â Welcome to Manchester indeed.
I took advantage of the club’s offer to watch our heroes show off their tans and tattoos on the big screen at Eastlands.Ã‚Â City took a chance on the weather with the open air seating outside the stadium.Ã‚Â They got lucky there as the sun blazed down, but not with the satellite feed as we missed most of the first half due to technical difficulties which we were assured came from the South African end.Ã‚Â Whilst the technical faults were being worked on, we were treated to an unbearable compere and last seasons highlights dvd.Ã‚Â The compere seemed blissfully unaware of just how loud the speakers already were as he screamed at us to have a good time.Ã‚Â We were up for a enjoyable afternoon, but nowhere near his overexcited state.
After his ranting it was actually a relief to see a re-run of us being blitzed at Villa on last season’s opening day.Ã‚Â It’s frightening to see just how much the personnel has changed since then, and as the goals were flying in (particularly against Portsmouth) it made me wonder whether Jo really was as bad as many people like to think.Ã‚Â With the experience of last year, and a full pre-season without having to go to the Olympics, I think it will be interesting to see how well he does in David Moyes‘ settled team.Ã‚Â I still have the feeling that in a couple of years he could be a very useful player.
After missing the first thirty five minutes South Africa finally flickered into view, and we were greeted with one of Hughes most bizarre team selections featuring several players who looked like they should be wearing ‘For Sale’ notices on the back of their shirts rather than squad numbers.Ã‚Â In the centre of defence were Mee and Ben Haim, the former unlikely to be seeing competitive first team action for a while yet, and the latter unlikely to see it again.Ã‚Â Garrido was at left back and taking a hammering from a pacy winger.Ã‚Â In front of him and offering scant support was Petrov.
An even bigger surprise was the sight of Michael Johnson in the middle of the park, and bigger is a description that fitted him in every sense – he’s clearly not being going hungry on the treatment table.Ã‚Â Someone who did look considerably fitter than when we last saw him was Bojinov and the Bulgarian provided our biggest goal threat, despite not showing much of an understanding with strike partner Bellamy.
Ireland was rewarded for last season with the captaincy for the day and looked by far the fittest player in blue.Ã‚Â Our other most likely source of inspiration was young Weiss, who was on the receiving end of some heavy treatment, but was both commendably unflinching and uncomplaining.
It was notable to see Hughes playing a rare 4-4-2 formation with wingers and a pair of strikers throughout the game.Ã‚Â Sadly we never looked comfortable and the Pirates were marauding through us with ease.Ã‚Â A central midfield pairing of Ireland and the recuperating Johnson is never going to have sufficient muscle for a Premier League game, especially with lightweight wingers in Petrov and Weiss.
Not long into our satellite experience Mee
conceded a penalty with a poor piece of unnecessary shirt pulling.Ã‚Â Thwala
gave debutant Stuart Taylor no chance with the spot kick.Ã‚Â Entertainment was in short supply but Bellamy provided a little light relief, picking up a booking for berating a linesman who dared to flag for a dubious offside.Ã‚Â The Welshman clearly doesn’t do ‘friendlies’.
Bojinov, playing just behind Bellamy, came closest to scoring with a powerful shot from distance and a header from the six yard box.Ã‚Â One couldn’t help feeling this was a chance that the taller Santa Cruz or Adebayor would have taken, and looking at Bojinov’s reaction gave the impression he knew that too.
Half-time in the Eastlands car park saw us treated to what appeared to be an art students video work, with imagery featuring Maine Road, inflatable bananas, City subbuteo players and the like.Ã‚Â I doubt it was to everyones taste, but I found it infinitely preferable to the compere, who delighted in announcing there were 2,800 of us present.Ã‚Â The figure was later upped to 3,000 on the the official web site.
The second half saw the introduction of Vidal at right-back, with Zabaleta replacing Johnson in midfield.Ã‚Â Was this Vidal’s first team debut?Ã‚Â I don’t recall seeing him before.
First Caicedo and later Benjani replaced Bellamy and Bojinov during the second 45 minutes.Ã‚Â With no improvement in understanding between the strikers, it was a reminder that with so many new players arriving, getting them to gel into a coherent unit will clearly be the main challenge of the pre-season fixtures.Ã‚Â This one appeared a wasted opportunity with so few likely to feature in the opening Premier League fixtures.Ã‚Â It was remarkable to note that with Tevez, Santa Cruz and Adebayor signed, we started this match with what could be our fourth and fifth choice strikers, and finished it with the sixth and seventh choices.Ã‚Â The future is surely elsewhere for Benjani and probably Caceido.Ã‚Â Bellamy is our only out and out striker to offer real pace, and this along with his feisty competitiveness will probably be enough to give him a future.Ã‚Â I think it’s fair to say most fans would like to see more of Bojinov, especially as he’s finally looking fit and ready to fire, but will he get the opportunities?
At the back worse was to come in the second half for Taylor.Ã‚Â A freakish cross-cum-shot from the left flank flew over Nicky Weaver’s former England U-21 rival and into the net via the far post.Ã‚Â On reflection there wasn’t a lot Taylor could do about it, but conceding from such a distance couldn’t have felt good in front of the watching Hughes.Ã‚Â Thereafter we struggled as the Pirates appeared further down the road in their fitness levels.Ã‚Â It should be noted they did provide decent opposition, being strong and competitive throughout.
Post match, Hughes naturally sought to find some positives in what was in reality a disappointing showing:
“I thought it was a good exercise for us, a lot of players had good periods, but a big positive was Michael Johnson getting through 45 minutes. We are absolutely delighted with that. I was really pleased with what he was able to produce in that time. If we can get him back at anywhere near the level that we know he is capable of then it’s like an extra player for us this year.”
The best thing for me?Ã‚Â Well, the new home kit looks a good one.