Thursday 16 August 2018

City rip Chelsea apart to throw down gauntlet

Man City 2 Chelsea 0

Sergio Aguero reacts after scoring his 200th goal for Manchester City. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Sergio Aguero reacts after scoring his 200th goal for Manchester City. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Jason Burt

On another baking hot summer's afternoon, Manchester City certainly did not look under-cooked.

The Premier League champions set the standard for the new season as they comprehensively outplayed Chelsea to win the FA Community Shield.

City laid out the challenge. They threw down the gauntlet, albeit steel inside a velvet glove, such was the beauty once more of their thrillingly smooth football, with the added dimension of a lovely performance from 18-year-old Phil Foden and an impressive display from Bernardo Silva, which Pep Guardiola even called a "masterpiece".

The City manager had said he was "starving" for more success, and his team looked utterly ravenous.

Another trophy has come their way, the fifth in terms of importance that they will contest this campaign, but the resonance went far beyond that, as the jubilant celebrations showed.

The frightening thing for the rest of the League league is that they could be even better than they were last season when they broke all kinds of records.

Manchester City celebrate winning the community shield with the trophy. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters
Manchester City celebrate winning the community shield with the trophy. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

The result did not really matter. The nature of the performance did.

There were two goals for the predatory Sergio Aguero, the first being the 30-year-old's 200th for City, but it was the manner of their construction that was so impressive. On both occasions, City carved through Chelsea.

Foden, so young but achingly ready for this stage and surely a future England international, created the first and also released Aguero with the pass of the match - a wonderful ball through with back-spin to bring it back to the striker - and rightly received a standing ovation when he was substituted.

Imperious

Chelsea's David Luiz in action with Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters
Chelsea's David Luiz in action with Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

John Stones continued his imperious form from the World Cup and even ended up being pushed into midfield in the dying minutes.

Afterwards, Guardiola revealed that the England defender could be an option there should City fail to sign the holding player he wants to back up Fernandinho before Thursday's transfer deadline.

Bernardo looked like a player trying to prove a point, which he is, and the other working parts all slotted into place - not least the fit-again Benjamin Mendy, who adds a different dimension with his power and pace down the left flank.

As is his wont, Mendy later took to Twitter with the hashtag "#wekeepeating" and no one can doubt City's appetite. They are far from sated as they attempt to become the first team since Manchester United in 2009 to retain the Premier League title.

Chelsea's Willian in action with Manchester City's Kyle Walker. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Chelsea's Willian in action with Manchester City's Kyle Walker. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

And there is more to come - not least Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling.

The only disappointment was a meek performance from £60m signing Riyad Mahrez, who appeared nervous, and the confirmation - if any were needed - that Claudio Bravo is not going to be challenging Ederson for the goalkeeping place.

It might be cruel, but beyond 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi, Bravo was probably Chelsea's biggest attacking threat, even if he did well to deny substitute Tammy Abraham late on.

For Chelsea's new manager, Maurizio Sarri, this was a sobering experience.

A bit like the oversize T-shirt he wore, Chelsea did not look like a good fit. His marquee signing of Jorginho struggled to impose himself, and Ross Barkley was barely involved.

It was also an utterly miserable day for striker Alvaro Morata who was taken off before the end to apparent cheers from some supporters.

Jorginho turned down City, of course, to join Chelsea for £57m (€64m) but this was not a glimpse of what got away.

The Italian will get better and so will Chelsea, not least when they have their World Cup players - N'Golo Kante and, should he stay, Eden Hazard, in particular - back, but there is work to do for Sarri to impose his bold style. He knows it.

There is mitigation. The former Napoli coach has had less than three weeks, has still not even met six of his players and admitted it had been a "crazy" pre-season. But that is of Chelsea's own creation.

The goals said it all; they said it all about the daunting gap between these two sides which Chelsea are trying to close.

For the first, City built from the back with the ball eventually fed to Foden, who strode forward and laid it off to Aguero.

Antonio Rudiger anticipated the return pass and moved to his left, and the space opened up for Aguero to drive a low left-foot shot through the defender's legs and into the corner of the net.

Good finish; bad defending, with Chelsea sitting far too deep.

For Aguero's second, Stones intercepted a pass - in a fashion that so few England defenders do - and surged forward, with substitute Ilkay Gundogan then laying the ball off to Bernardo, who threaded it through to Aguero.

He had darted in behind David Luiz - who was an uncomfortable element of an awkward back four - and unerringly side-footed home.

It should, in fact, have completed a hat-trick for Aguero who had earlier been released through on goal by Foden's brilliant pass, but the Argentinian hesitated, rounded goalkeeper Willy Caballero only to then put his shot into the side-netting.

Soon after, he drew a smart block from his compatriot, playing in the absence of Thibaut Courtois, whose future is up in the air, with a fierce volley.

There could have been more. Substitute Brahim Diaz missed a couple of chances of his own quicksilver creation, and Bernardo's goal-bound shot was deflected narrowly wide, with Sarri conceding Chelsea were "not in control of the match".

On a day when the temperatures again hit 30C, City turned up the heat on their rivals.

The season has got off to a scorching start, with more sure to follow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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