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city too slick 
for red

Manchester City striker Stevan Jovetic ensured former club favourite Mario Balotelli's return to England was relegated to a sideshow as the Barclays Premier League champions ruthlessly brushed aside the team who ran them so close last season.

While all the pre-match talk was of Liverpool's new £16million striker - watching from the directors' box just hours after finalising his move from AC Milan - it was another forward who had previously made the move from Italy who took centre-stage.

The Montenegro international endured a miserable maiden campaign dogged by illness and injury but is now reaping the benefits of a full pre-season with City's first two goals either side of half-time in a 3-1 victory.

In 153 minutes this season he has scored as many times in the league as he did in his first nine matches 12 months ago.

Sergio Aguero, his main rival for a starting spot up front, added a third less than 20 seconds after coming off the bench to wrap up victory before Pablo Zabaleta's late own goal offered Liverpool some consolation.

City went top of the fledgling table thanks to a clinical cutting edge which Liverpool need to rediscover - presumably with Balotelli at the forefront - having lost the mercurial talents of Luis Suarez.

While not exactly cagey in the early stages both sides seemed to be lacking the surety which so often defines these encounters between the top sides.

Raheem Sterling's penetrating runs looked like they could be a profitable avenue to exploit for Brendan Rodgers' side but City's vastly-experienced defence proved too canny for the youngster.

With centre-half Dejan Lovren playing only his second game and left-back Alberto Moreno making his debut there was maybe not the same understanding in Liverpool's back line and that inexperience saw them undone just before half-time.

He was fortunate his lunge at Zabaleta did not concede a penalty but the Spaniard's next missed connection - from Lovren's weak defensive header - allowed Jovetic to steal the ball from under his nose and blast past Mignolet.

Jovetic proved his first was no fluke with a second in the 55th minute, converting Samir Nasri's cut-back from David Silva's nifty flick and should have had a hat-trick but bundled a shot wide from possibly his best position of the night. Aguero's strike - a clinical finish exploiting past Mignolet at his near post - showed rather pointedly that City have well and truly moved on from Balotelli.

Liverpool's final substitute of the night Rickie Lambert provided a small crumb of comfort by following in his own header which Hart had brilliantly saved only for the final bounce to come off Zabaleta before it crossed the line.


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