An authoritative 2nd half performance saw Manchester City clinch their first Community Shield win since 1972 with a 3-2 victory over Chelsea at Villa Park.
The traditional curtain-raiser to the English domestic season has generally struggled to break free of its tag as a glorified friendly. Last season’s Community Shield Manchester derby went some way to change this perception however, with United’s exhilarating 3-2 victory giving an indication of the closely contested title race that was to come. Although United and City are expected to find themselves in the top two league positions this season, the appearance of F.A. Cup winners and European champions Chelsea presented the game with an aspect of intrigue. Opinion is divided surrounding Chelsea’s ability to challenge the Manchester clubs for the league title this season and Roberto Di Matteo’s relative lack of top class managerial experience has been questioned despite last season’s Champions League win. Unfortunately Chelsea were able to field just one of their prestigious pre-season signings, as Oscar’s exploits with Brazil at the Olympics and a niggling injury to Marko Marin meant that only Eden Hazard appeared in the matchday squad. Though in spite of a couple of notable absentees Roberto Di Matteo fielded possibly his strongest starting line-up in a bid to start the new season with a trophy and momentarily silence any detractors.
Conversely, Manchester City were not at full strength as Roberto Mancini elected to experiment with three in defence and Nigel de Jong in the midfield holding role as David Silva was left on the bench. Mancini had bemoaned his club’s lack of activity in the transfer market so far this summer and with no new faces in his matchday squad it would have been a relief to the Italian that the day started with the news that City were close to completing the signing of Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of £15m. The acquisition of Rodwell, a player with undoubted potential, reflects Mancini’s vision for the future of the club rather than the present so be sure to expect a couple of higher profile reinforcements before the end of August.
City looked the better team both territorially and in possession during the game’s opening stages, with Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez looking particularly sprightly without enjoying any clear-cut chances. Yet it took Fernando Torres’ opener on 40 minutes for the game to rise above exhibition match pace. Ramires was the creator, darting past Pablo Zabaleta before threading the ball to Torres, who converted competently with a cool finish beyond Pantilimon. Chelsea were soon to be subdued however when Ivanovic’s lunging challenge on Kolarov was rightly deemed reckless by referee Kevin Friend, who justly brandished a straight red card.
After being unlucky to be a goal down at the break City started the 2nd half in imperious fashion, with Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure orchestrating play against a Chelsea side who struggled to match their opponents once they had been reduced to ten men. James Milner’s tireless efforts down the City right was an additional headache for the Chelsea defence and his hard work was rewarded when the England international’s deflected cross fell to Yaya Toure on the edge of the box. Characteristically, the Ivorian international didn’t hesitate to shoot and his drilled effort cruised beyond Cech for the equaliser.
City were not content to only be on level terms and were soon ahead when Carlos Tevez was allowed to storm across the edge of the box by David Luiz before powerfully launching the ball into the top corner to make it 2-1. Chelsea had no answer to City’s relentless forward play and the contest was virtually over when Nasri met Kolorav’s cross with a superb volley to double the lead on 65 minutes.
Chelsea fans would have feared a drubbing but to their credit Di Matteo’s side steadied their nerves and stemmed the flow of City’s imposing attacking football. There was even time for Ryan Bertrand to reduce the deficit when he pounced on Pantilimon’s failure to handle a drilled Daniel Sturridge shot, but the day was to be City’s and only poor finishing from Aguero meant that the game finished 3-2.
What does today’s result tell us about the coming season? Well, not a lot. Chelsea looked inferior until being reduced to ten men and were nowhere near a match for City thereafter. Though Di Matteo will expect a considerable improvement once he can utilise new signings Marin and Oscar in support of the resurgent Fernando Torres. Hazard will certainly need a few months to settle into the pace of the English game but with Sturridge, Mata and Ramires Chelsea have more than enough quality to make a solid start to the season. Manchester City performed impressively, albeit against ten men for a large proportion of the game. But with more signings imminent, the Community Shield doesn’t look likely to be the only piece of silverware making its way to Eastlands this season.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic (Red Card ’42), Luiz, Terry, Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Ramires, Mata (Sturridge ’75), Hazard (Bertrand ’72), Torres.
Goalscorers: Torres ’40, Bertrand ’80.
Manchester City: Pantimilon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Savic (Clichy ’46), Milner, De Jong, Toure, Kolarov, Nasri (Silva ’77), Tevez (Dzeko ’89), Aguero.
Goalscorers: Toure ’53, Tevez ’59, Nasri ’65.
Man of the Match: James Milner (Manchester City)
[image credit: mirror.co.uk]