City cash in against Blackburn
Goals at either end of the match from Emmanuel Adebayor and Stephen Ireland saw Manchester City start the new Premier League season with a 2-0 win away to Blackburn Rovers here on Saturday.sports Updated: Aug 16, 2009 17:32 IST
Goals at either end of the match from Emmanuel Adebayor and Stephen Ireland saw Manchester City start the new Premier League season with a 2-0 win away to Blackburn Rovers here on Saturday.
But, in between the goals, there were many more questions than answers for manager Mark Hughes and his squad, assembled at a cost of around 200 million pounds, to ponder against the Welshman's former club.
After a pre-season spent under an intense spotlight, City finally looked relieved to be able to concentrate simply on the matter of playing football and, within three minutes of the campaign kicking-off, were in front.
The goal came from an immediate City counter-attack, after Rovers' Benni McCarthy had seen his header cleared off the line by Richard Dunne.
Ireland found Adebayor, around the halfway line, and the forward's telling pass freed Shaun Wright-Phillips down the right, the England winger leaving Stephen Warnock flat-footed before pulling the ball back for his fast-arriving team-mate.
Adebayor made the rest look astonishingly simple as the 25 million pounds former Arsenal striker hammered an unstoppable and crisp first-time shot past Paul Robinson from a step inside the home penalty area.
Ireland would eventually complete the victory in the closing seconds when, with Rovers stretched in search of an equaliser, he collected a Wright-Phillips pass and committed Robinson and defender Gael Givet before scoring in the bottom corner.
But that incredible start for Hughes's team had been one upon which they were unable to capitalise or, more accurately, were not allowed to capitalise.
Rovers responded swiftly and should have been level well before the interval.
Dunne and Micah Richards were both forced into making desperation clearances and blocks inside their six-yard area while South Africa star McCarthy and Jason Roberts were both guilty of poor strikes from promising positions.
In the 27th minute, City's former Blackburn keeper Shay Given made a stunning reaction save to keep out Christopher Samba's header from El-Hadji Diouf's corner, a stop followed shortly after by a good block to deny another McCarthy effort, set up by his partner Roberts.
It was a rare City counter that brought their only other opportunity of the first period, in the 37th minute, when Robinho found space for himself on the edge of the Blackburn box and unleashed a wicked drive that Robinson tipped over his bar.
There were strong, but clearly flawed, Blackburn appeals for a penalty after a Keith Andrews shot struck Dunne's body and the torrential rain that greeted the start of the second-half, momentarily at least, seemed to knock the teams out of their attacking stride.
Still, Given was required to parry a Roberts header, from a cross from marauding right-back Lars Johansson, while Robinho again threatened the Blackburn goal with a superbly placed low shot which skidded off the wet surface and forced Robinson into a superb diving save.
Carlos Tevez, who had started the game from the substitutes' bench because of his lack of pre-season match practice, was brought on to replace Robinho midway through the second half but the chance to put the outcome beyond doubt fell, instead, to midfielder Ireland.
He was played through after a surging run by Craig Bellamy and selfless pass from Adebayor but, with time and space at his disposal, succeeded only in clearing the target by several feet.
McCarthy, with a 20-yard free-kick that sailed over, and Tevez, with a shot that was kept out by another smart save from the impressive Robinson, might have added to the scoreline.
But, for Hughes and the huge contingent of travelling City fans at least, the outcome was heading in a favourable direction.