Report: Kaizer Chiefs 1 City 0
Tuesday 25 July, 2.00pm (BST)
Goals: Ntuka 45
City missed out on their latest chance of silverware in the final of the Vodacom Challenge with a narrow defeat to the Kaizer Chiefs.
Hughes reverted to a 4-4-2 formation and for the second time it resulted in defeat. The midfield began with Barry and De Jong making a solid pairing in the middle with Wright-Phillips and Petrov supplying the width.
Adebayor made his debut alongside Craig Bellamy and unsurprisingly they weren’t on the same wavelength. All the same this pairing looks to have potential and could be worth persevering with while Santa Cruz and Tevez continue their recoveries.
City started the game slowly and the Chiefs looked brighter than in Tuesday’s fixture. The Blues weren’t helped by a succession of injuries, with Vidal being stretchered off following a challenge on the Chiefs goalkeeper after 15 minutes. Ben Haim came on at right-back, but was soon moved to the middle after Dunne departed for Zabaleta. The captain’s armband went to Nedum Onuoha.
Meanwhile City had established a foothold in the game when, after 25 minutes, a good cross from Petrov picked out Bellamy on the edge of the area. The Welshman laid it off first time for Barry to wrongfoot two defenders and fire a shot straight at the keeper.
This tour has seen Petrov steadily rediscover some of his old form and he continued to look sharp, linking up well with Bridge. Adebayor was providing a few nice touches as he eased his way into the game.
Shay Given was required to make his first save after forty minutes when Wright-Phillips lost possession in the middle of the park. The Chiefs scored from the resultant corner, as Ben Haim wasn’t able to fully head clear and the ball went through to Ntuka who slotted home.
After 52 minutes Adebayor blasted over after being put through by the excellent Gareth Barry. The miss brought to mind those Ade-barn-door comments by Arsenal fans.
For the final thirty minutes Robinho took a break from his honeymoon and came on for what looked like an exercise in keeping the sponsors happy. Sadly it was Petrov who made way. Finally Weiss came on for Onuoha (not the most obvious change that one). Barry dropped into the back four and gave the impression he’d be comfortable playing anywhere.
An Adebayor header drew a save after 77 minutes, then great play from Weiss resulted in a shot from Robinho that went just wide. The final few minutes saw Bellamy and Robinho linking up well but still no goal for the second time in three matches.
Given that Hughes isn’t averse to the odd long ball and letting the game get stretched, it really is essential to have someone who can hold the ball up, and Adebayor was that man. Bojinov failed to make an appearance, which is ominous for his future, and a shame after he looked to have finally found his fitness in the first game.
All in all, a good workout and the team lasted the 90 minutes better than in the first two games.Ã‚Â In the post match interview Hughes looked like he’d rather be back in the UK. Adebayor described his fitness as 70%, and he’s already looking light years ahead of Benjani. Another 30% on that could well prove to be happy days!
“I thought Emmanuel was excellent today. For his first game, obviously when you combine a player of his quality and standing in the game, then you expect a certain level of performance and he certainly provided that for us.
“He showed the qualities that we all know he has, which will be invaluable for us this season, so we’re absolutely delighted that he’s here. He’s going to be a huge player for us this season once the team understands the best way to play with him.
“He plays in a way that enables him to get the best out of his team-mates, so we’ve got an exceptional player.
“So we’re delighted with his performance today and sure we’ll be really happy with his performance right through the season.”
A couple of final points. Firstly, I did have some concern today about the form of Wright-Phillips, the final ball still isn’t there often enough and I couldn’t help feeling Elano would have offered more of a threat on the right flank.
A plus on the tour has been the form of Bridge. There was a lot of speculation about the training and lack of fitness under Scolari at Chelsea. Watching the former Chelsea left back bombing up and down, he did look a different player to last season and interestingly linked up better with Petrov than Robinho.