Manchester City recorded their first victory of the Pep Guardiola era today, as they beat Borussia Dortmund on penalties in the International Champions Cup.
City took the lead in the 78th minute, courtesy of a fine team goal which was finished off by Sergio Aguero, much to the delight of the fans. Dortmund then capitalised on some tired City legs, as Christian Pulisic equalised with the last touch of the game. The game went straight to penalties and it was twenty-year-old Angus Gunn who was the hero, making three very good stops to win the tie for City.
After Monday’s Manchester derby was called off as a result of poor conditions in Shanghai, it was imperative that this game went ahead in order for the players to gain some much needed match fitness before the season starts. The pitch in Shenzen was visibly poor, appearing to get cut up with ease after every tackle. Thankfully, both teams emerged from the game without any injuries.
Pep made a number of changes from the team that started the game in Bayern Munich, with a new formation being tested. City started the game with three at the back – Tosin Adarabioyo, Nicolas Otamendi and Aleksandar Kolarov – with Jesus Navas and Gael Clichy operating as wing backs. Fernandinho, Fernando and Fabian Delph took up the midfield positions with Kelechi Iheanacho and Oleksandr Zinchenko further ahead of them, after the youngsters managed to keep their places in the starting line-up.
It was a very poor start from The Blues, Willy Caballero in particular looking shaky, with 11 of his 19 passes failing to reach a teammate. One of these passes landed straight at the feet of Ousmane Dembele, with Nicolas Otamendi producing an outstanding block to keep the sides level. Emre Mor then curled a shot narrowly wide as Caballero looked intent on making life difficult for himself. City did grow into the first half however, creating a few opportunities, and Kelechi Iheanacho will be disappointed that he didn’t manage to convert any of his three chances. Fabian Delph offered great energy and willingness to run through the middle, whilst Oleksandr Zinchenko turned in another impressive cameo before both were substituted at half time.
Guardiola rang the changes at the break, as you would expect during any pre-season friendly, with eight substitutions being made in total. Spanish youngsters Aleix Garcia and Pablo Maffeo made their second appearances of pre-season whilst Jason Denayer, David Silva and Sergio Aguero were given their first minutes under Guardiola. Dortmund also made a number of changes and it clearly had an effect on the pace of the game, as the opening 15 minutes of the second half were rather drab.
The game did recover, however, as the substitutes settled into the game. Wilfried Bony looked bright with some nice turns, but he was unable to convert any of his chances, leading to a lot of frustration from fans inside the stadium, and back home.
In the 77th minute, Pep replaced Aleksandar Kolarov with Angeliño, who starred in the defeat to Bayern Munich. The explosive left back had only been on the pitch a minute before playing a part in the opening goal. After being set free by a long ball from Adarabioyo, the young spaniard cut the ball back to the incredibly impressive Aleix Garcia, who then played David Silva through, to play the ball across for an easy tap-in for Sergio Aguero. It was the first goal of the Pep era, and a fitting one at that, typifying the style of football we are hoping to see under Guardiola in the coming years.
Nolito was given his debut in the closing stages of the game, being brought on with Raheem Sterling for our two Ivorians, Wilfried Bony and Yaya Toure. Unfortunately, City were unable to see the game out as they let tiredness get the better of them.
Before the equaliser however, Dortmund were denied a clear penalty by referee, Fu Ming, as Fernandinho brought down Shinji Kagawa. This left Thomas Tuchel and the Dortmund players Fu Ming, themselves. Their frustration was then eased when Christian Pulisic, a 17-year-old ‘wonderkid’ from the USA, slotted home through the legs of Angus Gunn, after City’s players switched off to a short Dortmund corner. It was the last kick of the game, as the referee signalled for penalties to decide the winner.
The goalkeepers came out on top in the first round of penalties, with Burki and Angus Gunn saving from Aleix Garcia and Felix Passlack, respectively. It was then the turn of the outfielders to take charge, with some good penalties from Adarabioyo, Fernandinho, Aguero, Nolito and David Silva, with Dortmund’s players matching them pound-for-pound.
It was the nervy figure of Raheem Sterling who eventually missed, a player who seems desperately short of confidence, and it was obvious from the moment he stepped up that he wouldn’t hit the back of the net. Luckily, young Angus Gunn came to the rescue, keeping the tie alive by saving from well from Jacob Bruun Larsen. Substitute Angeliño then slotted home excellently, putting all the pressure on Mikel Moreno to keep Dortmund in it. Gunn saved brilliantly once again, to give Guardiola his first taste of victory as Manchester City manager.
Irrespective of the result, there were clear positives to take from this game, as City looked to be gaining fitness and getting more used to Guardiola’s system, showing fluidity with a number of formation changes. Young players such as Aleix Garcia, Tosin Adarabioyo and Pablo Maffeo impressed once again, whilst there were much needed minutes for stars Sergio Aguero and David Silva. Guardiola has now confirmed that City will play at least two more friendlies before the season starts, but it is clear that we are now heading in the right direction.