Manchester City's 'second team' shines against Timisoara
Manchester City 2 Timisoara 0 (Manchester City win 3-0 on aggregate): For Jo, Patrick Vieira, Dedryck Boyata and even Shaun Wright-Phillips, all of whom were members of what could be described as a Manchester City Second XI, not even a qualifier for the competition can be treated lightly, given the company they wish to keep.
Nevertheless, Shay Given did not feature in this play-off round second leg last night and, although you wonder if he ever will keep goal for City again, the club still believe he has a role in the group stages and the Carling Cup.
Manchester City duly made it through to the competition proper in considerable comfort and, given the fact that Timisoara's entire squad cost roughly the same as Jo, it would have been a scandal had they not. Now, all they have to do is win the trophy in Dublin in nine months' time.
For Boyata, a 19-year-old from Brussels who had come to Eastlands in the grim, near-penniless days when Stuart Pearce was manager, it was a night to remember. Not only did he start, he scored, providing proof that the products of City's youth system have not been entirely forgotten. There were five on display last night – a neat riposte to those who believe that Manchester City under Abu Dhabi can only be talked about in terms of money.
However, perhaps it was as well that the club's owner, Sheikh Mansour, did not extend his stay in Manchester to take in this game. However comfortable City were, Eastlands was half-full and the evening had little of the drama or the long-term significance of Monday evening's dismissal of Liverpool in the Premier League, when the sheikh had been in attendance. The spadework had been done in the first leg amid the lavender-coloured seats of the Dan Palitinsanu Stadium and this should have been a night to avoid the self-inflicted wounds that have become woven into Manchester City's history.
The Timisoara manager, Vladimir Petrovic, who played for Arsenal in the early 1980s when Highbury's glamour was thoroughly eclipsed by Tottenham's, had remarked that his team were a lightweight going into the ring to face one of the Klitschko brothers. However, the days when Manchester City possessed one of football's most famous glass jaws are receding fast and the Romanians, for all their neat play in midfield, appeared reluctant to throw any kind of punch.
The home side, too, showed a marked lack of aggression until 10 minutes before the interval when Jo – perhaps the most unlikely survivor of Sven Goran Eriksson's regime at Eastlands – saw his header tipped over the bar by Costel Pantilimon.
It marked the start of a brief, decisive flurry of activity. First, Emmanuel Adebayor cut into the area and slid his shot just wide of the post. It was a good move but better was to follow as Patrick Vieira demonstrated that his instinct for a pass was still intact.
The great Frenchman was some yards from the edge of the Timisoara area and, after suggesting he would send his pass to the left, changed his mind and slid it surgically between two defenders for Wright-Phillips, who ran on to the ball and shot into the corner of Pantilimon's net. When, on the hour mark, Boyata headed home David Silva's free-kick at the far post for the second of the night the tie was over – as in truth it had been for a week.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Richards, Zabaleta, Kompany, Boyata; Vieira, De Jong (Cunningham, 72); Wright-Phillips, Silva, Jo; Adebayor. Substitutes not used Given (gk), Johnson, Barry, Lescott, Tevez, Y Touré.
Timisoara (4-4-2): Pantimilion; Burca, Luchin, Mera, Sepsi; Contra, Bourceanu, Alexa ( Chiacu, 82), Curtean (Goga, 58); Axente, Magera (Zicu, h-t). Substitutes not used Taborda (gk), Tames, Scutaru, Poparadu.