Europa League verdict: Manchester City 3 Aris Salonika 0
Goals: Dzeko 7 mins, 11 mins. Y Toure 75 mins for City.
It was hoped that City would continue from where they left off against Notts County and so they did. Edin Dzeko bagged an early brace to set Roberto Mancini’s side on the road to a comfortable victory which was sealed with a deflected second half strike by Yaya Toure.
Mancini deployed Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli and Silva for the first time and the results were impressive. Those who believe Mancini has been overly cautious in not deploying them before are guilty of overlooking Balotelli’s injury problems.
At present, the Italian only provides brief moments of menace yet his directness gave us a dimension that had been lacking in Greece. Here he set the tone by winning a free-kick in a dangerous area in the opening minute.
“This is only his second game after injury, he is maybe not 100 per cent. I think that he can play better. For the first half he played well, the second half so-so.”
Kolarov proceded to fluff the opportunity, but made amends soon after with the long pass that set Dzeko free to slot home his opener. Thanks to the slip by Lazaridis, the phrase Greeks bearing gifts came to mind, and contrasted markedly with their resolute defencing in the first leg.
Yaya and Barry kept the tempo high with perceptive passes that enabled our front four to do their stuff. Tevez soon provided a second assist for Dzeko in as many games and the Bosnian showed his quality by cutting inside a defender and planting his shot in the corner of the goal.
Tevez enjoyed greater success in the roaming role behind Dzeko than he has previously, though there is the danger that his goal tally will be reduced. It remains to be seen whether our main man is content to see most of the chances fall to someone else.
Tevez, Dzeko, and Balotelli each have different temperaments yet they share the selfishness of top goalscorers. Don’t expect any of them to pass to a team-mate when they might have the chance to score themselves.
Mancini will have to work on the attacking shape of the side to coerce them into a unit greater than the sum of it’s parts. The first half against Aris was a promising step in the right direction.
Within the current side the creator in chief will always be Silva and he set Dzeko away for what should have been his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time.
There can be no complaints about City easing off in the second half. We have a busy week ahead with tricky fixtures against Fulham and Villa. Once Yaya bagged our third it was no surprise to see Tevez and Silva make for the bench.
A hip injury to Kompany was the only downside of the night. Thankfully, Mancini remained optimistic afterwards that it wouldn’t be serious.
Rather than bring on Kolo as his replacement, the manager introduced Zabaleta and moved Boateng into the centre alongside Lescott. Aris aren’t known for their goalscoring and our defending was resolute throughout.
Lescott has yet to win over many supporters but this was another sound performance, while Boateng’s passing ensured we were still comfortable playing the ball out of defence. They form a pairing which looks capable of repelling stronger attacks than that of Aris.
This was a powerful performance in front of the watching Khaldoon al Mubarak, and Mancini must have been satisfied. Thoughts were able to turn quickly to upcoming fixtures and the next round against Dynamo Kiev.
From now on there will be no more easy cup games. Mancini will need to keep his players fresh for the Premier League while still sending out strong sides in the cups. This is a challenge only the best teams can cope with and it will be a remarkable achievement to qualify for the Champions League AND win some silverware.