Manchester City cruise to opening win over West Brom

Manuel Pellegrini’s side hardly break sweat at The Hawhorns

West Brom 0 Manchester City 3

These are only the embryonic stages of the new Premier League season so perhaps there should be a note of caution attached among all the superlatives that Manchester City’s performance otherwise deserves.

They have certainly set a high bar, and nobody can surely expect them to play with so much style and panache every week, but at the same time it was difficult not to take away the firm impression that Manuel Pellegrini’s team are in a hurry to get their title back.

When they pass the ball with this kind of expertise, with Yaya Touré and David Silva at the hub of everything, they certainly make it tempting to believe they must have an outstanding chance.

They were two ahead inside the first 24 minutes and, if anything, it was probably just a surprise there were no more goals after Vincent Kompany had added the third just before the hour. Silva was exhilarating and there was also the hard evidence why City were so determined Touré should remain at the club.

His goal was a beauty and when Touré plays with this kind of almost nonchalant brilliance it makes it seem slightly bizarre that his involvement was ever in doubt. Touré looked jaded at times last season, undoubtedly a legacy of back-to-back tournaments in the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations, but he appears to have been rejuvenated by a lengthy summer break and City always look a much more rounded side when he is playing at the top of his ability.

Silva was not far behind as the game's outstanding performer while Raheem Sterling and Jesús Navas flitted in dangerously from the wings. Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna pushed forward from the full back positions and Tony Pulis, West Brom's manager, must have been startled how straightforward it was for City during those moments when his team looked in need of smelling salts and the statistics showed the away side had 80 per cent of possession.

West Brom were demoralised by the superiority of their opponents and it must have been a sobering evening for Salomón Rondón, watching from the stands after becoming the club’s record signing, at €17 million from Zenit St Petersburg, earlier in the day.

The breakthrough came after nine minutes when Navas cut the ball back into Touré’s path and the resulting shot flicked off two players – one from either side – before trundling past Boaz Myhill in West Brom’s goal almost by slow motion.

The public announcer was too quick to declare Touré as the scorer. Silva had applied the subtlest of touches as the shot flew under his foot and that slight change in trajectory took the ball through Craig Dawson’s legs, with a deflection that wrong-footed Myhill. The Premier League’s dubious goals panel will presumably award the goal to the Spaniard.

The only thing that was dubious about the second goal was West Brom's defending and, in particular, the way James Morrison stood off Touré as he advanced into the kind of range, 20 yards from goal with the ball on his right foot, where he can be so lethal. Touré's clever little pass, with the outside of his boot, to set up the one-two with Wilfried Bony, was played exquisitely. His shot was curled into the top corner and even at that early stage, just past the midway point of the first half, it felt like the night had already become an exercise in damage limitation for West Brom.

There was at least an improvement from the home team in a 10-minute spell after the interval but there were only fleeting moments when Saido Berahino's new partnership with Rickie Lambert threatened their opponents.

Instead the game quickly returned to the same theme of almost unremitting City pressure and Silva's influence scarcely waned even though Pulis removed the peripheral James McClean and brought on a holding midfielder, Claudio Yacob, to perform a man-marking role.

Silva continued to weave his magic, always sizing up his angles and looking for the killer pass. Touré strolled around imperiously, making everything look so preposterously easy, and the only minor disappointment for City, perhaps, was that Sterling could not finish one of his chances to score a debut goal. The most expensive Englishman in the league ran behind the home defence late in the opening half but Myhill kept out his shot with a fine one-handed save.

Sterling will also reflect on his chance early in the second half when he cut in from the left only for Myhill to deny him again. City’s new signing had, however, experienced a night that quickly made it clear he has had a summer upgrade.

Kompany’s goal went in off his shoulder, having shaken off his old team-mate Joleon Lescott to get to Silva’s corner, and Myhill had to make a string of other saves to prevent it being an even more emphatic defeat.

(Guardian service)

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