Wednesday 24 July 2013
Manchester City reached the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy – where they will face fellow Premier League side Sunderland – after a comfortable 1-0 victory over South China.
Like the earlier semi-final, the match was reduced to 80 minutes given the heavy rain that fell earlier in the day, and Edin Dzeko – City’s leading scorer in the Barclays Premier League last season – was the match-winner, scoring with a close-range header after 21 minutes.
The Bosnia striker only needed to apply a simple finish on James Milner’s cross, after the midfielder cut inside from the right. That assist marked a lively first-half performance from Milner who, before helping to break the deadlock, manufactured space near the by-line by twisting and turning away from two South China defenders before delivering a pin-point cross for team-mate Yaya Toure, whose header was well-saved by Zhang Chunhui.
Given their monopoly of possession in the first half, City manager Manuel Pellegrini may have wanted a greater lead than the solitary goal his team enjoyed and, after the interval, South China nearly made the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League champions pay with some slick passing and movement that brought about some half-chances for the hosts.
South China raised the tempo and became more adventurous in their outlook after mostly looking to contain their opponents in the first half, but City soon established their dominance in the game again despite not threatening the South China goal regularly.
The organisation and structure of the Hong Kong champions was at least partly responsible for City’s performance, but the club will be encouraged by the first appearance of new signing Alvaro Negredo, who replaced Yaya Toure on 56 minutes and showed glimpses of skill that will have City fans anticipating a bright future.
Five minutes after his introduction, Negredo took up a position in the box and executed an acrobatic effort at goal with a flying volley that went over the bar while, some minutes later, the recent signing from Sevilla turned provider for Dzeko, finding his strike partner with a lofted pass from the outside of his left boot. The Spain international could yet play a more prominent role in Saturday’s final against Sunderland.