Silva and Jo prove a point as City claim composed victory
Manchester City 2
As first David Silva and then Jo bounded into the area and struck the ball past Red Bull Salzburg goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel, Roberto Mancini stood stock-still, his face never even twitching. But you could feel the relief.
The Italian has been forced to stand up for Silva and Jo in recent days -- how gratifying it must have been to watch the two of them do the heavy lifting, justifying his support with two well-taken goals and getting City's Europa League campaign off to a perfect, professional start.
Jo exhibited signs of rust, but he created Silva's goal and generally made a nuisance of himself, scoring his first goal for City since September 2008 (his fourth goal in total), but it was Silva's performance which will have been the one on supporters lips last night.
Even though he has only been in the England since July, the 24-year-old has already been criticised as too lightweight for the Premier League. Not a bit of it -- his eyes, like a lizard, permanently on a swivel, make his size inconsequential.
On this evidence he will soon challenge those stick-in-the-muds who think you must be built like a baobab tree to cut the mustard in English football. "He is a fantastic player, he can play in every position," Mancini said.
The Spaniard should by rights have had two. Tevez slid him through into the area with five minutes of the first half left and only Tremmel to overcome, but rather than slam it away with his right boot Silva opted to cut back inside and use his stronger left, with unimpressive results.
Nevertheless, the City fans stood when he was substituted with five minutes remaining. In the Red Bull arena, their support and the goal will have given him wings.
Megastar City arrived in Salzburg to much local excitement, desperate to prove that they are not sheep dressed in wolves' clothing. Hart had trumpeted the need to start quickly and they did, the newly shorn Tevez and Jo leading the line, Silva in the pocket, and both Pablo Zabaleta and Wayne Bridge hugging the lines and making regular incursions deep into the Salzburg half.
It was a tactic which brought immediate rewards. In the 8th minute, Zabaleta crept up the right and floated the ball into the area, where Ibrahim Sekagya, the burly Salzburg centre-back, was being harassed by Jo. His only recourse was to head towards the corner, where the ball was picked up by Bridge. The left-back's cross was low and Jo, again holding off Sekagya, poked back to Silva, who massaged the ball around Gerhard Tremmel. Textbook.
A goal to the good, City were able to relax, Bridge and Zabaleta content to be less adventurous. The City defence have now conceded just once from open play in seven matches, and they were composed under the sporadic threat from the home side.
Salzburg came close a matter of minutes after the resumption, when they were given a free-kick in dangerous real estate and the wall disintegrated. The shot went a whisker wide.
City shook it off, extending the lead when Tevez shot from distance and Tremmel parried away. Jo was left with the relatively simple task of putting the ball away. "Jo has scored an important goal and I hope that he continues to play like he did tonight," Mancini said.
The pre-match notes had predicted that this would be the "game of the year" -- that would be laying it on a bit thick, but it was a coherent performance. It has now been 40 years since City's single European trophy, the Cup Winners' Cup in 1970, also in Austria. Sound of Music territory seems to suit City, but sterner challenges await them in Group A -- Juventus are next. (© Daily Telegraph, London)