In Pictures: Manchester City 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Whatever the bookies may have thought – by their estimation Manchester City were 1-4 to win their first home game of the season – it was never going to be easy for the hosts. It never is.
But after nearly £100 million expenditure on new players this summer their fans had a right to hope, if not expect, that their side would win with a little bit more in hand than this against newly-promoted opposition.
In fact, this was exactly how City used to win home matches before all the Arab money came along. The fans had reason to think they had been short-changed, but they did not show their displeasure. After all, a win is a win.
Mark Hughes reckons the rest of the country is waiting for his side to fall flat on their face and on the evidence of this match they may not have long to wait. Wolves could consider themselves a little unfortunate not to come away with a point to go with the three they got at Wigan in midweek. And had they been a little less in awe of old moneybags and gone 4-4-2 a little earlier than after half-time, they might have got it.
Privately, Mick McCarthy may have thought so, but the Wolves manager is far too magnanimous to say so. "No, we didn't deserve a point," he said, "but I thought we nearly had a point – there's a big difference. I'd be barmy if I said we deserved one."
Be that as it may, City hearts were firmly in their mouths in the 69th minute when a long goal kick from Wayne Hennessey saw Kolo Touré head the ball straight to the feet of Andrew Keogh, Wolves' midweek match-winner. His shot was good enough to beat Shay Given but it rebounded back into play off the bar.
Of course, had Stephen Ireland scored as he should have done 11 minutes earlier when the excellent Robinho played him in with a return pass with just Hennessey to beat, City would have been smoking a cigar. And how Craig Bellamy, who came on for Carlos Tevez in the second half, missed a cross from the Brazilian with 10 minutes remaining, only he will know. But there was no getting away from the fact that for an attack-minded side it was not particularly impressive. Then again, City are a work in progress.
It is not often that the City manager finds himself taking succour from clean sheets (Blackburn, Barcelona and yesterday), as he did afterwards. "On chances created we should have put the game to bed quite early on," he said, "but I'd be more concerned if we weren't creating chances."
Reports that Emmanuel Adebayor and Robinho were doubtful proved about as well-founded as Merseyside theories that Everton will continue to resist City's stringent overtures with regards to Joleon Lescott. On the latter subject, according to Hughes, the two clubs were "speaking, which is a positive sign". It was just as well for City that the pair were fit to play.
Adebayor will no doubt get the lion's share of the plaudits for his second goal in two games for his new club, but it was the Brazilian's outrageous left-wing trickery that really did for Wolves in the first half. So concerned were they about the little man's skills that Wolves usually detailed two men to watch him. All that did, of course, was free up the space for others.
Robinho's handiwork was at the root of City's goal after 17 minutes, although by the time the ball reached Adebayor's feet, courtesy of Wayne Bridge's cross and Tevez's first-time pass, it was probably long forgotten. Even so, it was a fine contribution from the man from Togo who turned to beat Hennessey at his near post. If the Wolves keeper is any kind of perfectionist he probably would not have been too happy with his part in it.
It was just the kind of goal, coming at just the kind of time, to help dispel any first-night nerves on the part of City in front of their hugely expectant fans. Had they followed up quickly with a second, as they could have done through Adebayor again and Robinho, they may have turned on the style. As it was, they were gripped by a developing panic, that was probably kick-started by Matthew Jarvis when he forced Given into a full-length save. It almost did for them.