Carling Cup verdict: Manchester City 5 Scunthorpe United 1
Goals: Ireland 3, Santa Cruz 38, Lescott 56, Tevez 71, Johnson 77 for City. Forte 26 for Scunthorpe.
City finally cut loose for the first time this season and overwhelmed a Scunthorpe side with five goals after the Iron had tested City’s nerves with a first half equaliser to Steven Ireland’s opener. Roque Santa Cruz, Joleon Lescott, Carlos Tevez and Michael Johnson all got on the scoresheet as Mark Hughes rotated his squad for the first time.
Wayne Bridge, Kolo Toure, Martin Petrov and Emmanuel Adebayor were all missing with minor injuries, while Craig Bellamy was rested. Pablo Zabaleta returned for Micah Richards at right-back. Sylvinho finally got to make his debut – his last competitive fixture involved defeating Manchester United to pick up a Champions League winners medal!
Vincent Kompany played alongside Lescott in our most physically imposing central defence since the days of Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin. Shaun Wright-Phillips returned to the right as expected, while Ireland had to make do with a place on the left flank as Hughes stuck with Barry and de Jong in the middle.
Roque Santa Cruz started for the first time and lasted a full 90 minutes. Another sign he’s getting fitter was that he only one knee taped up this time, instead of the two in the last round against Fulham.
Nigel de Jong was surprisingly named as captain. With Given and Barry both having captained their previous clubs, they might have been in line for the armband. Stevie Ireland was captain in Dunne’s absence during pre-season, while Kompany has also been talked about as captaincy material. With that level of competition, it just goes to show how well things have gone for de Jong in recent weeks that Hughes should entrust him to lead the side.
Aside from a shaky few minutes initiated by Scunthorpe’s equaliser, which featured another example of horrendous defending as Kompany went AWOL and Lescott actively ran away from the man with the ball, almost everything turned out great. Here’s some of the positives we managed to glean:
- Roque Santa Cruz showed us why Hughes values him so highly. The Paraguayan is a genuine target man, and has a good technique which he uses intelligently to bring others into play. With the score 1-1, he got the crucial second goal from which there was no coming back for Scunthorpe. The goal itself was a difficult to execute header that he made look deceptively easy. It came from a high cross that he was having to move backwards to reach. To then get over the ball sufficiently to head it down, into the corner, and at sufficient pace to beat the goalkeeper was no mean feat.
- It’s especially good for any striker to get his first goal for a new club. Any pressure to score will now be off and hopefully Santa can build on this.
- Losing Adebayor to the African Cup of Nations in January no longer looks so worrying, so long as Roque’s fitness holds up.
- Seeing Sylvinho slot in so comfortably on his debut removed any worries in having him deputise for Bridge. His distribution was as controlled and tidy as you would expect for someone who has just arrived from Barcelona.
- Vincent Kompany was imperious, timing challenges excellently and showing great ability on the ball for someone playing centre-half. Having the option of playing two towering six footers at centre-back could be a useful option against the more aerial teams in the Premier League.
- Carlos Tevez is looking fitter with every game. We’re now starting to see the dribbling and passing to go along with the work-rate. Another goal will do him good as his critics often point to his lack of strikes. Sometimes he snatches at chances, so hopefully the more goals he gets, the more confident and composed he’ll become.
- Another goal for Lescott. Having come in for a bit of stick recently, getting on the scoresheet is a great way to reply to the detractors, and also keeps the fans on his side. It was noticeable how his performance improved after scoring, implying he is a confidence player. More games like this and his confidence will be sky-high.
- The run-out for Vladimir Weiss gave everyone a lift with the full range of wing wizzard tricks. His whippet-like running both down the flank and across the pitch left defenders trailing. Some of his team-mates may have questioned the lack of passing in the penalty area, but his ongoing attempts to score kept the crowd entertained.
- Arguably the biggest plus was the run-out for Michael Johnson. The Iron may have been tiring, but his composure and ability on the ball was hugely impressive. The 21-year-old was playing like Gareth Barry, until he took the ball past a couple of defenders and hammered home a goal that brought back memories of his strikes in the early part of Sven’s reign.
- Finally, an excellent turnout of over 36,000. The combination of ‘quid for a kid’ and half-term school holidays meant plenty of young City fans got the chance to see their heroes score five goals. Twenty pence per goal – can’t say fairer than that, even in a credit crunch!
“Roque got a start and a goal as well. I thought his general play was outstanding.Ã‚Â He allowed players to flourish around him. I was pleased for him because I think he showed everybody what he is capable of.”
“There have been loads of changes while I have been out. Watching things evolve has been inspiring.Ã‚Â I want to be part of a team that is competing for the title and with that comes the challenge of just winning a place in the side.”