Belfast Telegraph

Unlucky Paddy McNair gifts Pep Guardiola first Man City victory with late own goal

Man City 2 Sunderland 1

By Andy Hampson

Pep Guardiola was satisfied with what he called "the first step" after launching his Manchester City reign with a victory.

But the Spaniard admitted his side would have to improve on their season-opening 2-1 defeat of Sunderland.

Guardiola arrived in the Premier League with a bang as he left England goalkeeper Joe Hart on the bench, omitted Yaya Toure altogether, threw in £47.5m man John Stones and introduced a new playing style at the Etihad Stadium.

The resulting performance was not spectacular but a laboured win, secured with an 87th-minute Paddy McNair own goal, was at least deserved and got the new regime up and running.

Guardiola said: "That is the first step and after we can talk about the tactics, the performance, (whether we) play good or play bad.

"We made a really good build-up process with John, Kola (Aleksandar Kolarov) and Fernandinho, and then Gael (Clichy) and Bacary Sagna.

"In those moments we should attack quicker, but this (so far) is normal in the moment that we are in, our condition. These kind of things must happen to learn what we have to do better but for the first game there were so many good things."

It may take time for Guardiola's blueprint to become fully apparent during the 38-game league season, but City's change of approach was noticeable in the running the likes of Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling did off the ball.

Fernandinho also dropped back from midfield into defence on numerous occasions while full-backs Sagna and Clichy were encouraged to move inside and upfield. Centre-backs Stones and Kolarov came forward with the ball, with any sweeping up being done by the goalkeeper.

It was for this reason Willy Caballero was selected ahead of Hart, with Guardiola pointing out the England number one had spent less time in training on the new system as a result of his involvement at Euro 2016.

That was an attention-grabbing selection but Guardiola repeated - as he was probed regularly about it in his post-match press conference - that it was "a decision for today".

He added Hart could easily return in the Champions League play-off at Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday.

Guardiola's side got off to a flying start as Sterling was felled by Patrick van Aanholt on their first attack and Sergio Aguero converted the resulting penalty.

City then dominated possession but paid the price for a lack of incisive attacks as Sunderland, responding well to their new manager David Moyes, crafted an excellent equaliser for Jermain Defoe 19 minutes from time.

City needed to respond and it was substitute Jesus Navas who forced the winner with a run and cross that McNair, making his debut after moving from Manchester United earlier in the week, turned in.

Man City: Caballero, Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy, Fernandinho, Silva, Nolito, De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero. Unused subs: Hart, Zabaleta, Fernando, Jesus Navas, Delph, Otamendi, Iheanacho.

Sunderland: Mannone, Love, Kaboul, Kone, Van Aanholt, Rodwell, O'Shea, Gooch, Watmore, Borini, Defoe. Subs: Djilobodji, Khazri, Pickford, Lens, McNair, Januzaj, Asoro.

Referee: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire)

Man of the match: Raheem Sterling

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph


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