West Brom 0-3 Manchester City: Man City make perfect start to new season
Manchester City got their Barclays Premier League title bid up and running with a comfortable 3-0 win at West Brom thanks to their old favourites.
The spotlight was on new £49million man Raheem Sterling, but it was David Silva and Yaya Toure who stole the show to help ease City to three points.
Toure was influential in City's first two goals, first producing a shot which was flicked by Silva and then deflected off defender Craig Dawson on its way in, and the second a fine finish before the 25-minute mark. Vincent Kompany then completed a comfortable triumph for the visitors just before the hour.
City, and their old guard, were too strong for the Baggies, who saw Saido Berahino waste their best chance.
Sterling should have also marked his debut with a goal, but was denied by Boaz Myhill when clean through.
The 20-year-old started in support of Wilfried Bony, with Sergio Aguero on the bench, while Albion handed debuts to Rickie Lambert, James Chester and James McClean.
Albion's new £12million record buy Salomon Rondon was unveiled to the crowd hours after signing from Zenit St Petersburg, along with Arsenal loanee Serge Gnabry.
And the new boys would have watched in horror as City dismantled their hosts in the first half.
A very impressive performance from Manchester City. Silva is different gravy!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 10, 2015
They had threatened without testing Myhill but deservedly took the lead after nine minutes with a goal which happened almost in slow motion.
Silva had already gone close as his cross shot found the waiting Jesus Navas at the far post and he teed up Toure on the edge of the box. The midfielder was gifted time to shoot and his mis-hit effort was flicked on by Silva before hitting the helpless Dawson and crawling across the line.
City had settled and were toying with the Baggies, trying to find the perfect pass to carve them open.
Albion, in contrast, relied on hopeful long balls as Berahino and Lambert became increasingly isolated.
The visitors were in total control and they underlined their dominance in ruthless fashion after 24 minutes.
This time there was no doubt over the scorer as Toure swapped passes with Bony before unleashing an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 20 yards.
City kept Albion at bay until three minutes from half-time, when Berahino clipped over Joe Hart only to be ruled offside.
A minute before, though, Sterling should have marked his debut with a goal when Toure put him clean through, only for Myhill to save his low weak effort.
It would have ended the game but, instead, the hosts emerged for the second period with renewed belief.
First, Lambert's 30-yard free-kick whistled over before Berahino's tame finish fell to the under-worked Hart.
The striker should have done better and was left to rue the miss when City made it 3-0 on 59 minutes as Kompany glanced in Silva's corner with his shoulder.
The contest was over and the visitors had the luxury of bringing Aguero off the bench, while Samir Nasri also replaced Sterling.
Hart gathered James Morrison's header with 14 minutes left but there was no way back for the Baggies.
Aguero almost added a fourth with two minutes left, but his low six-yard effort was blocked by Myhill before the goalkeeper saved Aleksandar Kolarov's stoppage-time free-kick.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini told Sky Sports 1: "I'm always pleased when my team score with attacking football. I like to see good players playing in a technical way. I think we did really well. When you score already goals, it's important to try to score more goals but it's (also) important to have organisation and be a balanced team.
"I think our team have to be very focused and concentrate on going game by game. We won this game. Tomorrow we must start thinking about Chelsea - that's the next game (on Sunday). I always repeat, the Premier League is always very close. Every point when at the beginning is very important at the end of the season."
Albion manager Tony Pulis acknowledged he made an error in playing two up front, saying: "I take responsibility for the way we set up. The fact we had Saido and Rickie, who played really well together, pulled us away from really what we should do. I said to them afterwards, 'I take responsibility for that one'.
"Silva was controlling the game and looked really dangerous. We never got to grips with that. We had that great chance, if Saido scores, makes it 2-1, then we're back in the game. But you have to give credit to City - they were the better team tonight."
Asked if Berahino's miss was the turning point, Pulis said: "No. The pivotal moment was when I decided to play the two up front and not the extra man in midfield."
Boaz Myhill: 6 (out of 10)
James Chester: 6
Joleon Lescott: 6
Craig Dawson: 6
Chris Brunt: 6
James McClean: 5
Darren Fletcher: 6
James Morrison: 5
Craig Gardner: 5
Rickie Lambert: 5
Saido Berahino: 6
Claudio Yacob: 5
Callum McManaman 5
Victor Anichebe 5
Joe Hart: 6
Bacary Sagna: 7
Vincent Kompany: 7
Eliaquim Mangala: 7
Aleksandar Kolarov 8
Yaya Toure 8
Jesus Navas: 7
David Silva 9
Raheem Sterling 7
Wilfried Bony: 7
Sergio Aguero: 6
Samir Nasri: 6
Martin Demichelis 6
The midfielder was at the heart of everything the visitors did and was at his majestic best to pick West Brom apart. He flicked on Yaya Toure's shot in the opening goal and set up Vincent Kompany's header for City's third. Albion resorted to fouling the Spain international to stop him as he ran the game at The Hawthorns.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Toure's strike to put Manchester City 2-0 ahead lit up The Hawthorns and was in complete contrast to the visitors' scrappy opener.
There was no debate who the scorer was this time when Toure wrapped his foot around the ball to smash it into the top corner after swapping passes with Wilfried Bony. The midfielder will hope to have laid the foundations to a more consistent season this year.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Manuel Pellegrini knows he must deliver this season and City sent out a clinical message to their title rivals. They were too strong for the Baggies and will have harder games, but Pellegrini will be pleased with their ruthless edge.
Tony Pulis replaced debutant James McClean with Claudio Yacob at the break in a bid to stem the Manchester City tide, but it failed to rescue the game for the below-par Baggies.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Albion offered little resistance to City in the first half and it was over as a contest by the break. West Brom fans would have been looking for more fighting spirit from Pulis' side with the manager now crafting his own squad. But the Baggies never looked like getting back into the match once they fell behind.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Watford v West Brom (Premier League, Saturday 15 August)
Manchester City v Chelsea (Premier League, Sunday 16 August)
Raheem Sterling focus
The most expensive Englishman in footballing history made his competitive debut for Manchester City against West Brom on Monday night.
We assess whether Raheem Sterling began to repay any of his £49million transfer fee in the 3-0 City win at The Hawthorns.
Starting on the left side of City's attack, Sterling had few opportunities to get into the area in the first half but really should have scored when Fernandinho played a first-time pass to set him on his way five minutes before the break. However Sterling looked hesitant and tried to place his shot too close to Boaz Myhill. That was one of only two real sights at goal, with the other a shot straight at Myhill from a tight angle early in the second half, and he was replaced by Samir Nasri with City 3-0 up after 74 minutes.
City's tendency to camp in West Brom's final third and try to patiently break down the defence left little space for Sterling to exploit his pace. He linked up nicely with David Silva a few times but struggled to find a way through the deep-lying defence. He looked like a man still trying to find his exact role in City's evolving attack, although this was far from the finished article all around with Sergio Aguero starting the evening on the bench.
The West Brom crowd booed his every touch in the first half - before switching their attention to referee Mike Dean after the break - but that only encouraged the City fans to get behind their new man.
It was a fairly subdued debut for Sterling, who had one golden chance to crown it with a goal but otherwise operated as no more than a competent cog in a City machine which was operating very nicely indeed in the opening game of the season.
Belfast Telegraph Digital