The excitement of a new season is merely days away, as the friendlies are nearly complete, and the Barclay’s Premier League season will kickoff on Saturday. Today, the yearly tradition of the Community Shield took place at Villa Park, displaced from Wembley Stadium due to the Olympic tournament. Manchester City took advantage of the ejection of Branislav Ivanovic by scoring 3 second half goals to claim victory 3-2 over the FA Cup Winners.
Roberto di Matteo started what looks to be a full strength lineup, except possibly for choosing David Luiz over Gary Cahill. Fernando Torres got the nod up front, with Eden Hazard on the left. Juan Mata started as more of a central playmaker, but with Manchester City playing with a 3 man backline, he would drift right to allow Ramires to help Ivanovic contain Aleksandr Kolarov, City’s left wingback.
As stated before, Manchester City played 3 at the back. Kun Aguero and Carlos Tevez played up front, with Samir Nasri sitting just behind the two strikers drifting into wider areas in the build to find spaces. Yaya Toure and Nigel de Jong started in a dual pivot midfield. Edin Dzeko was on the bench, while Mario Balotelli had the day off.
I’ve tried to do things a little different this time with my diagrams. I’m hoping it can give a flavor of the way the match proceeded. As you can see from the key plays, Manchester City dominated the early parts of the match, with the play getting exceptionally chippy for what amounts to a friendly. The width created from Kolarov and Milner wasn’t as effective early in the match, except that it seemed to stretch the Londoners horizontally across the pitch. That opened up areas for Tevez, Nasri, and Toure to operate centrally.
The scoring started in the 40th minute, to an extent against the wealth of chances. A play started by Ashley Cole from the left led to a clearance off a cross. The ball came to Ramires, who dodged a defender and made a slick pass to his right. Mata may have made contact with the ball, but either way it came to Torres. He was able to nudge the ball with the outside of his left boot to get the club it’s lead before half.
Less than 3 minutes later, the game would change for the worse for Chelsea. Kolarov made a run from the left, and Ivanovic was late to the date. The Serbian defender lunged two-footed into Kolarov’s right leg, and referee Kevin Friend saw no other choice but to send Ivanovic to the showers early. Kolarov suffered no apparent injury from the reckless challenge, and completed the match. Roberto di Matteo adjusted his formation by moving Hazard and Mata to left- and right midfield, respectively, leaving Ramires to be the right fullback by default.
After the half, Mancini brought off Stefan Savic for Gael Clichy, presumably since Savic had earned an early yellow and did not want to chance any further disciplinary action. He also had Toure advance further in the attack, relying on a 3-5-2 with de Jong as the only holding midfielder to get back into the match.
Less than 8 minutes after the half, the Citizens leveled through Toure, and before the hour mark had the lead off a quality strike from Tevez. Both goals were off right footed blasts that left Petr Cech little chance to nullify. At the 65th minute, Nasri got a goal of his own to put City ahead for good. The French midfielder exquisitely volleyed a Kolarov cross from about 8 yards, again Cech unable to cope.
Manchester City continued to push, missing a few quality chances before Chelsea got a lifeline. Costel Pantilimon spilled a low, skimming 20 yard shot from Daniel Sturridge, and substitute Ryan Bertrand darted to the ball and tapped it in before the keeper could cover his mistake. That would be as close as Chelsea would get to the Manchester Blues.
It’s tough to gauge much from this exhibition, especially given that Manchester City gave up a lead to their Red Devil neighbors last year and still prevailed in the league. If you thought this relatively meaningless match would be uneventful, you missed out on a physical affair that was quite entertaining. The only thing left between us and the start of the season is a brief international date. Saturday can’t come soon enough.
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