Verdict: Blackurn Rovers 0 City 2
Goals: Adebayor 3, Ireland 92 for City.
City came through a strong test at Blackburn with a great pair of goals at the beginning and end of the game from Adebayor and Ireland. In between there was grit, determination and character in defence to keep an Allardyce bombardment at bay.
Hughes surprised me with his starting eleven by leaving De Jong on the bench and going 4-4-2 with both Adebayor and Bellamy playing up front. For a difficult away game, this was a bold selection from the manager.
It paid off immediately with Adebayor’s stunning goal. I don’t think any City fan could have dreamt for a better start. There were several qualities to note about this goal:
- It started with a clearance off the line from the much maligned Richard Dunne and continued the full length of the pitch with great pass and move football.
- After setting Wright-Phillips away on the wing, Adebayor headed for the penalty area to get on the end of the return. This was something he hadn’t been doing pre-season, when he was happy to link up play and pull out wide. On numerous times here he looked to get on the end of things which is exactly what we’ve needed from a striker.
- It was the first of two assists from Wright-Phillips, who also set up a good chance for Tevez. To often last season his final ball let him down, so hopefully this is a sign of better things to come.
As the first half wore on, Blackburn put us under increased pressure with Hughes decision to go with the taller defenders in Richards and Dunne, ahead of Zabaleta and Onuoha, being vindicated. Errant finishing and Shay Given prevented the home side going in level at the break with the pick of the Irishman’s saves coming when he clawed out a Samba header that was heading for the bottom corner.
It was good to see the team come out stronger after a half-time team talk. It’s not always been clear how effective Hughes’ in-game influence is (and that’s putting it politely). In the first half we were looking to get the ball forward early and it was coming back far to regularly.Ã‚Â This had resulted in a steady stream of throws and corners into our penalty area.
In the second half we were more patient and sought to keep the ball with our superior passing. Initially we weren’t creating many chances but more importantly the intensity of pressure had been relieved at the back.
As the game wore on and the intensity of both teams pressing game subsided we started to find gaps in the home side’s defence. Ireland spurned one good chance before sealing the game with an almost comically good goal. After initially trying to go round Robinson, his chance seemed to have gone, but after seeing he couldn’t make the pass to Adebayor, Superman turned again and passed the ball into the net. Adebayor still looked to be thinking he should have received the pass!
The TV cameras showed a hug between Hughes and Richards as they celebrated the goal, which was good to see after the reports last season that they haven’t always seen eye to eye. Picking the England U-21 international ahead of Zabaleta shows the management still have faith in Micah and he responded with a committed display.
The new signings all had excellent games. Adebayor’s goal and level of involvement gathered plenty of praise, while Barry continued his excellent pre-season form. My doubts over Toure’s lack of height for this fixture proved unfounded as he competed for everything. His ability to spot danger and make clean interceptions showed great defensive qualities, while his ability on the ball gives a new dimension to our build up play.
It’s not surprising to see players give their all on a debut and it will be interesting to see if Adebayor and Toure can maintain this level of performance. Today though, everyone was just delighted to have got the win, no-one more so than the manager.
“We are delighted to make a statement.”
“Ade was excellent. The goal settled him down and his attitude was first class.”
“I thought his general play and attitude to team-mates was excellent. If you’ve got front men who will chase and harry and try to rectify mistakes, those are great qualities. Everyone was bouncing off everyone else.”
“It’s a fantastic start for me and the team. I am happy to be at a club where the fans are 100 per cent behind me.”
It was fabulous to come away with a clean sheet after our defensive frailties and, despite the excellent performances of the new signings, I’d make Shay Given the man of the match for a couple of outstanding saves and giving that sense he wouldn’t be beaten.
There should also be a special mention for Richard Dunne. All the speculation about Lescott and his own future could easily have unsettled the skipper, but this was an outstanding performance in his unfavoured left centre-back position.
One final point that’s worth noting is the players we had on the bench. Over the past couple of years we’ve been blessed with seeing top quality players in the starting eleven, but surely no City teamsheet has ever had this depth of quality.