Blackburn 0 Man City 2: Brilliant Barry helps City find right attitude
17 August 2009 01:31
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Before next Saturday's home game with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester City fans will hold aloft a giant banner.
Written in Arabic, it will say simply: 'Thank You Sheik'.
While the rest of football has gazed upon City's mammoth summer spending spree with a mixture of derision (Manchester United), unease (Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal) and simple resignation (everybody else), the supporters of the richest club in the world have understandably got themselves rather excited.
And on Saturday at Ewood Park it was easy to see why as four of the signings paid for by City's owner Sheik Mansour of Abu Dabhi combined to give manager Mark Hughes the winning start he so desperately wanted.
City's effort in edging out Sam Allardyce's team a draw perhaps would have been a fairer result was very much a team one.
That in itself represents progress under Hughes after last season's fractured, dispirited displays away from home.
However, it was hard not to recognise the sizeable contributions of centre forwards Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy, central midfielder Gareth Barry and goalkeeper Shay Given.
The quartet cost in the region of £60m between them. Money well spent if this was anything to go by.
Adebayor scored a wonderful opening goal, despatched from his instep like a bullet from a gun in only the third minute.
Given, meanwhile, made two outstanding saves, one in each half. It was, though, Bellamy full of endless intelligent running and Barry who stood out.
Gareth Barry (left) was impressive on his City debut
No wonder Aston Villa tried to so hard to keep hold of Barry.
No wonder Liverpool bleated so much when he decided not to join them.
Here was the perfect example of a player blossoming on his release from an environment in which he perhaps had stayed too long.
His reading of the game on Saturday was exceptional and as precise as his passing.
No wonder he was so dreadful for England in Amsterdam last Wednesday. He was obviously saving himself for the important games.
Barry certainly looked as though he enjoyed this, as indeed did both teams and a full house of almost 30,000.
What a shame it can't always be like this.
City were fractionally the better team, but it was a marginal call. For all their impressive football on the counter, Hughes' team still look vulnerable at the back and will perhaps do so until two more defenders are purchased, ideally a centre half and a right-back.
But perhaps the key point for them here is that last season they lost tight games like this.
Stephen Ireland, scorer of City's second goal in injury time, said: 'Last year our away form was not too good but the training and the mental preparation we have done in the summer has already transferred itself in to our football.
'Hopefully that will keep seeing us win more games and playing like we have today. We are nowhere near the finished product but this was a good start for us.
'The difference between this season and the last is the team spirit.
'From the moment we arrived back for pre-season the manager has been drumming it in to us about how we had to be better and mentally stronger this season.
'He said we had to have a better attitude and he was right. There were some bad habits in this squad last season.
'What the manager has done this time is get players who have the right attitude.'
BLACKBURN: (4-4-2) Robinson 7; Johansson 7, Samba 7, Givet 7, Warnock 8; Diouf 7 (Hoilett 85mins), Nzonzi 7, Andrews 7 (Gallagher 74, 6), Pedersen 7; Roberts 6 (Di Santo 64, 6), McCarthy 6. BOOKED: Warnock, Gallagher
MANCHESTER CITY: (4-4-2) Given 8; Richards 7, Toure 7, Dunne 7, Bridge 7; Wright-Phillips 7, Barry 9, Ireland 7, Robinho 7 (Tevez 68, 6); Bellamy 8, Adebayor 8. BOOKED: Richards
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gareth Barry
REFEREE: Mike Dean
City go to Barcelona on Tuesday for a friendly on Wednesday.
Blackburn, meanwhile, have a free week until they play at Sunderland at the weekend.
Allardyce's team were certainly competitive against City's millions and may have found a way in to the game had their two strikers Jason Roberts and Benni McCarthy been a little more penetrative.
The Blackburn manager said: 'I think Shay Given was City's best player. The secret of lots of successful teams has been to pick up points when you don't perhaps deserve them and that is what City have done today.'