Wednesday 24 July 2013
Manuel Pellegrini expressed his satisfaction as his Manchester City side recorded their first victory of the pre-season, beating South China 1-0 in the semi-finals of the Barclays Asia Trophy. The City manager had overseen two defeats in South Africa this month but a first-half headed goal from Edin Dzeko proved the difference against the spirited Hong Kong champions.
"The fans will have gone home happy having seen a few goals"
Asked why his team were able to earn their first win since he took over from Roberto Mancini, Pellegrini said: “We improved from the last match we played [against AmaZulu] in South Africa, which is very important”.
“It was a very useful for us. It was important for us to improve not just the result, but physically, technically and mentally. The more we play the more, logically, the players are playing with enthusiasm. I had some doubts if we could play before the match, but we were able to play normally and with a lot of people in the stadium, so it was very nice for us.”
For Dzeko, the match was an enjoyable experience, not only because he scored the crucial goal, but also because he played in front of a near-capacity crowd who defied the heavy rain to generate a lively atmosphere.
“It was nice to play in a stadium that was almost full and the fans will have gone home happy having seen a few goals,” the Bosnia striker said.
In the second half City’s new forward Alvaro Negredo made his debut for the club and almost scored with a spectacular volley before linking up well with Dzeko, giving his attacking partner a clever through-ball from which the Bosnian’s shot was saved. Dzeko is looking forward to linking up with the Spaniard in the Barclays Premier League but appreciates that there will be competition to play up front at City.
"I learnt many things from this game tonight, but I am also grateful for so many people coming tonight"
Cheung Po Chun
“It is always good for a forward to have the players around him like our other strikers,” Dzeko said. “We have four good strikers and everyone wants to play.”
For South China manager Cheung Po Chun despite the defeat the chance to test his team against top stars from the Barclays Premier League in front of a lively crowd was a useful experience.
“It was difficult for us because we usually play more attacking football but we had to defend for most of the time,” he said. “The difference from our usual matches in Hong Kong was that City were so strong and the speed in their transition from defence to attack. That was how we lost the goal, originating from our attack.”
“I learnt many things from this game tonight, but I am also grateful for so many people coming tonight.”
South China’s Brazilian player Joel said the big crowd and the opposition helped to inspire him and his team-mates. “Every player wants to play to a full house and against some of the best players in the world,” he said.
"Every player wants to play to a full house and against some of the best players in the world"
While City go on to play Sunderland in the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy on Saturday, before that match South China will face Tottenham Hotspur, who had lost 3-1 to Paolo Di Canio’s team, in a match that, like City’s, was shortened to 80 minutes because of the rain. It will be another tough match for South China but Joel is not daunted.
“It will be difficult but it will be a good test and we will try to be organised,” he said. “It will be a good test for us to prepare for the league. We will try our best.”
Cheung is hoping that having no silverware on offer to the winners might encourage the quality of the fare for a sell-out crowd.
“It is not the final so both teams will be playing with more freedom,” he said. “Hopefully it will be a good game.”