A scintillating new sky blue strike-force has replaced Liverpool’s much lauded, but now defunct, ‘SAS’ pairing in the Premier League sharpshooting stakes.
With the Scousers’ attack looking decidedly ‘gummy’ after Luis Suarez scurried off to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge rendered largely ineffective, it was Manchester City’s ‘Sergio and Stevan’ who plundered the goals, and with it the spoils of war, in this combative encounter.
Rejuvenated and now injury free, Man of the Match, Jovetic, has added a new dimension to an attack that scored 156 times last season. He bagged a right foot-left foot brace to set City en-route to a deserved 3-1 win.
But it was that man, Aguerrroooooo, who you just can’t keep down, as his phenomenal goal-scoring exploits continued apace in City’s colours.
It took just two touches and 23 seconds for Sergio to gobble up his second score of the season in the 69th minute, having replaced the injured Dzeko.
Introduced as an 83rd minute sub at Newcastle, Sergio’s banging them in at a rate of one goal every 14 minutes this season…yes I know that’s a daft, unrealistic statistic, but it’s still indicative of his place as the Premier League’s most efficient striker of all-time.
He’s scored 54 goals at a rate of one every 113 minutes, putting him ahead of Thierry Henry (122 mins) and Ruud Van Nistelrooy (128 mins). Edin Dzeko merits a mention with his 46 goals coming at a rate of one every 137 minutes.
Despite being blighted by a series of muscle tears and pulls in his hamstring and calf, Sergio’s most recent goal-getting achievements are even more impressive – 29 in his last 32 overall appearances and 18 in 21 PL games.
The Champions picked up, more or less where they left off last season, scoring three goals, just shy of the prolific rate that generated 63 home scores in 19 PL matches.
City’s comfortable win belied much of the first half action, where Liverpool looked the sharper, more incisive side, albeit they lacked bite up front.
It gave City’s established and well drilled defence the platform to show Liverpool’s unfamiliar backline the art of defending.
A slightly ‘rusty’ Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis and the excellent Clichy kept Liverpool at bay with relative ease, aided and abetted by a turbo-charged armoured truck, masquerading as defensive midfielder, Fernando.
Just two games into his PL career, the ex-Porto destroyer is doing what City had once hoped Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell would have done – protect the backline and play the ball out from the back.
The Brazilian is already a pivotal fixture in the team thanks to his tough tackling, ball-winning and a willingness to keep it simple. At £12m he looks a bargain as he breaks up opposition play and releases the ‘flair’ players.
Liverpool’s latest signing – a certain Mario Balotelli who knows all about ‘flares’ – was easily spotted watching the game from the ‘posh seats’ in the Director’s Box. The City fans signalled him out for some ‘playful’ banter, but let him off (no firework pun intended) comparatively lightly.
Mario looked suitably glum when his old employers took the lead.
The visitors deserved a share of the half time spoils, but were denied by Jovetic’s energy, desire and calm finishing in the 41st minute.
As left back debutant, Moreno dallied in the penalty box, the eager Montenegrin whipped in a rasping right foot shot through Mignolet’s legs.
1-0 and a sense of relief among the home supporters, who were previously displaying signs of anxiety at Liverpool’s levels of possession.
The second goal of the game was going to be crucial and it was Jovetic who started and finished the move that extended City’s lead.
After a skilful flick of the ball to Nasri, Jovetic peeled away from the flat footed Liverpool rearguard, found space and took his chance first time with his weaker left foot. No hesitation, but much jubilation for the livewire striker-cum attacking midfielder.
Desperately trying to grab a foothold in a game that had inexplicably slipped away on a wretched Manchester evening, Liverpool were stretched, exposed and ultimately exploited when Aguero wrapped up the win.
An unfortunate 83rd minute scrambled Zabaleta own goal was a small consolation for a team who have pretensions to City’s crown. Those claims would have strengthened had Rickie Lambert scored, instead of bottling an opening to make it 3-2, just 120 seconds later.
City closed the game out against Liverpool’s bedraggled and beaten troops – reduced to 9.5 men at the final whistle – Johnson having gone off injured and sub Markovic hobbling, after Rodgers had used all three subs.
Pellegrini had his own injury concern after Edin Dzeko had left the fray following heavy contact on his left thigh.
What remained healthy and intact was City’s impressive start to the season, without the Blues ever having to get out of third gear.
It was a slightly less than magnificent seventh straight Premier League win for City, whereas Liverpool missed out on a 10-out-of-10 undefeated PL away run during 2014.
It must be a worrying prospect for opponents that City are winning, and yet so much remains untouched in the tank.
City’s title defence circa 2014/15 promises to be as far removed from the insipid 2012/13 campaign as one can imagine.
Pellegrini’s professionalism percolates through every layer of the Etihad set up and, even at this early stage of the season, it’s shaping up as a title fight between the Engineer and the not-so Special One.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu