Rock legend Freddie Mercury was a ‘virtual’ impresario at the closing ceremony of London’s glorious 2012 Olympics on Sunday night, but his vocals would have been just as appropriate at the Community Shield clash up the M6 in Birmingham.
Queen’s classic ‘We Are The Champions’ theme could easily have boomed out at Villa Park as the Royal Blue Champions of Europe stepped out against the Sky Blue (albeit in maroon) Champions of England.
As it transpired another Mercury classic ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ was equally apt as Chelsea and Manchester City battled away in high humidity, rising temperatures and tempers.
The traditional pre-season warm up became heated as this feisty and tetchy encounter unraveled amid sunshine and a deluge of showers.
An under strength starting XI saw City – minus Hart, Richards, Lescott, Barry, Silva and Balotelli – went in as underdogs against Roberto De Matteo’s escapologist eleven – well they had ‘escaped’ with unexpected ‘victories’ at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich to steal the Champions League title.
But appearances can be deceptive, despite the apprehension among City fans at Stefan Savic’s appearance in Mancini’s new-look back three. With Kompany marshalling his troops and keeping Costel Pantilimon insulated from Chelsea’s lack lustre attack, City’s swarming forward play was all over the opposition like a summer heat rash.
Nigel De Jong was in dominating form sitting in front of City’s defensive trio continually winning tackles and disrupting Chelsea’s possession.
A combative Chelsea clocked up a catalogue of persistent fouls, as referee Kevin Friend produced more cards than a close-up magician at an up market dinner party.
Eight yellows – five to Chelsea and three to City – were supplemented with a straight red for Branislav Ivanovic’s crude crunching lunge at his fellow Serb, City’s Aleksander Kolarov.
The sending off just 120 seconds after Fernando Torres’ 40th minute opening goal – against the run of play – was later cited by De Matteo as a crucial turning point.
In truth it made little difference as City’s dominance continued to prevail throughout the second half, as it had done the first.
Yaya Toure was orchestrating the midfield with Nasri, Aguero and particularly Tevez looking razor sharp from a productive pre-season, but a defensive lapse allowed Torres to poach the opener with a close range effort past City’s giant Romanian keeper.
Chelsea’s new £32m winger Eden Hazard’s main contribution was to leave Ramires’ pass alone as it went through to Torres. The Belgian speedster – who had seemed destined for a summer switch to the Etihad – drew boos and catcalls from City fans followed by laughter and derision when he fell over a clumsy back-heel attempt.
Half time came and the question was, were Chelsea going to steal another high profile encounter against seemingly superior opposition?
With the hapless Savic substituted after being fortunate not to have seen red himself for two bookable offences, City set about the creaking Cockney defence.
In a dozen minutes of Manchester mayhem, goals from Yaya, Tevez and Nasri had Chelsea reeling amid a feast of incisive fleet-footed interplay. First the Ivorian master drilled home a weak John Terry clearance in the 53rd minute low into the bottom right corner of Petr Cech’s net.
The best was yet to come. Six minutes later a marauding Tevez cut in from the left, weaved along the 18 yard box past a desperate David Luiz, before hammering home a thunderous strike.
The rejuvenated Argentinian – now fully rehabilitated in the Mancini fold – turned provider for City’s third, working the ball to Kolarov who whipped in a trademark cross for Nasri to connect.
3-1 game over or so it seemed.
But Pantilimon marred what was an otherwise highly competent showing when he spilled a shot from Chelsea sub and ex-City Academy graduate Sturridge. Young full back Bertrand reacted fastest to prod the loose ball home.
Aguero contrived to miss a sitter and anxious City fans momentarily feared a Community Shield capitulation like last season’s comeback by Manchester United
Nasri and Tevez gave way for Silva and Dzeko – both to rapturous applause from City’s lively and vociferous 20,000 following – before the men in maroon closed out a thoroughly deserved but hard fought victory.
Maine Road legend and modern day MCFC Ambassador, Mike Summerbee, presented the Community Shield to skipper Vincent Kompany as City started their silverware collection on the first day of the new season – as opposed to the final minute of the last one.