Blackburn 0 Man City 2: Adebayor grabs debut goal as City burst out of blocks
Emmanuel Adebayor got the so-called Manchester City 'project' off to a flying start with his first goal for his new club after only 145 seconds. The £25million former Arsenal striker finished off City's opening attack in dazzling style and you could have heard the relief from the north-west of England to the Middle East. And if City were not entirely convincing after that, the three points - wrapped up in injury time by Stephen Ireland - will be priceless for manager Mark Hughes, who would have found himself under immediate pressure if he had lost following last season's below-par 10th-place finish, which included only two away wins. Thousands of Manchester City fans overcame problems on the M61 to be at Ewood Park for the dawn of a new era. Their expectations, already high after a £100m summer spend by Hughes, reached the stratosphere in the third minute when their expensive signings combined to mesmeric effect. True, the move was started rather awkwardly when Richard Dunne just about cleared a Benni McCarthy header away with his knee. But from then on it was pure joy for the fans who are dreaming of a top-four finish this season. Shaun Wright-Phillips ran with abandon down the right-hand side while Stephen Warnock, no mean defender, struggled for breath as he tried to catch up and eventually fell over. Robinho made a clever forward run appealing for the pass. Sensing the Rovers defenders had spotted it, Wright-Phillips checked at just the right moment and rolled the ball gently into the path of Adebayor, who marked his City debut with a thumping shot from 18 yards. It showed what you can get for £76m-the combined price paid for the three forwards involved. But if that was the good side of the City 'project', as it is fashionably called now, the rest of the first half showed why the sceptics, including Sir Alex Ferguson, doubt the club can finish in a Champions League qualification place, let alone challenge for the title. Rovers manager Sam Allardyce predictably used the long ball to unsettle City and to a large extent it worked. While new signings Gareth Barry, Adebayor and Kolo Toure toiled and Carlos Tevez watched from the bench - just like being at United, eh Carlos? - City relied on two Premier League stalwarts to survive. Dunne, who probably would not have even been playing had Everton let Joleon Lescott leave, got his head and body in the way of everything. On one occasion, he even got his right arm in the way of a bullet shot from Keith Andrews. The Rovers man protested loudly that it was a penalty but referee Mike Dean, correctly, decided Dunne could not get out of the way. Behind Dunne, Shay Given was in superlative form. As a former Newcastle United goalkeeper, he is used to being the coconut in a coconut shy. Things were not that bad for him yesterday, but he was kept busy to deny Chris Samba and Jason Roberts in particular with worldclass saves. The one from Samba after 27 minutes was outstanding. Worryingly for City, the big Congolese defender completely lost Toure to meet El-Hadji Diouf's outswinging corner. The header was as towering as Samba himself but Blackburn were denied by the outstanding reactions of Given, who threw himself low to his left and palmed the ball away. Given pulled off a nearly identical stop in the second half from Roberts. The Rovers striker, though, had nobody to blame but himself when he blazed wildly over the crossbar when fed by strike partner McCarthy. If City looked rocky at the back, they showed flashes going forward of elegance and class. Robinho stung goalkeeper Paul Robinson's fingertips from 25 yards while Wright-Phillips was perpetual motion, back in his own half helping out Micah Richards one minute, scampering up the wing the next. Their strength in depth was illustrated after 68 minutes when the Premier League's most expensive player, Robinho, went off and Tevez replaced him, getting a hero's welcome from the City fans. He came close to a debut goal in front of those supporters but his shot, after scampering away from the Blackburn defence, just lacked the power to beat Robinson. Hughes, who knows a thing or two about Lancashire weather having managed Blackburn, must have feared how his stars would react once the heavens opened dramatically and a nice day turned into a monsoon. But if anything, it was City who got stronger as the conditions worsened. And the win was sealed when Rovers were caught on the break by Ireland. He dummied to go around Robinson one-on-one, but coolly stepped inside and slotted it past him instead. If City can continue to show style and power, as well as strength in depth, they may surprise a few cynics this season.
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