'The expendables' step up for Manchester City as impressive start continues… and there's more to come

Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure were quiet but with Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri popping up to score it bodes well for an impressive City team with Kevin De Bruyne on the way


GOALCOMMENT  By Sam Lee

Manchester City’s results at Goodison Park tend to reflect their fortunes over the entire season, so it will come as a great relief to Manuel Pellegrini that their lesser lights stepped up here to to provide an impressive victory in what has been a traditionally bruising and often damaging fixture.

In late 2013 it was a 2-0 defeat which all but dashed their chances of winning the Premier League; in late 2014 it was a thrilling victory which moved the title closer to the Etihad Stadium; last season it was a 1-1 draw: not too good, not too bad.

But this 2-0 victory was as close to routine as has been possible in this corner of Merseyside in recent years and it was thanks to some unlikely heroes.

It was an early season clash which was always going to provide a big examination of City’s title credentials, and it must be said they passed with flying colours. Even with Sergio Aguero strangely quiet after going close to scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes, and Yaya Toure largely static until his late flash of brilliance, the visitors still had enough about them to win comfortably.

After a summer of criticism, the resurgent performances of Toure, Aguero, David Silva and Vincent Kompany in the back-to-back 3-0 victories this season have been music to the ears of City fans.

But here it was the expendables who proved to be the difference, even if Silva and Kompany did provide a solid foundation for the win.

Aleksandar Kolarov has been rotated in and out of the side over the past few seasons but he is enjoying some continuity and he too has started this campaign brilliantly; the goal he scored with an hour gone here had been signposted long before today.

And with Kevin De Bruyne expected to arrive before the end of the transfer window, a signing sure to add yet another dimension to a dangerous attack, Samir Nasri was given just 13 minutes to show that he can still provide the killer touch after a difficult 2014-15 season. He duly obliged, linking up with Toure to ghost into the box and clip a delightful finish past Tim Howard to wrap up the victory.

Kolarov’s defensive colleague Bacary Sagna has barely been given the chance to shine during his time at the Etihad Stadium so far either, but Pablo Zabaleta’s injury has given him another month to prove his worth and he continued here with another solid display at right-back. Eliaquim Mangala, too, showed once again that he will not simply be cast aside to make room for Nicolas Otamendi.

These are signs that things are coming togther for City this season. If cynics say West Brom provided little resistance in the opening game and Chelsea’s deficiencies were ruthlessly exposed last Sunday, a tough trip to Everton would always provide a completely different challenge.

But Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku, who have started the season well themselves and will cause many more teams problems this season, were kept at arm’s length for the most part and even with Aguero and Toure not enjoying their finest afternoons City had enough to ride out the storm and keep playing their game.

That was thanks in no small part to David Silva, the protagonist as always, but it was the interventions of Kolarov and Nasri which proved decisive.

Pellegrini, in his understated manner, acknowledged the importance of victory at Goodison but insisted, as is his wont, that only the next game matters.

Asked whether the early season praise means anything, he replied: “We do not care about that, we care just about beating Everton and now we must care about Watford. What people think about our team is not our problem, we need to prove that we are a consistent team until the end. That’s why it was important to win here because Everton are a difficult team and in the last seasons it has been difficult here.”

City equalled a club record nine consecutive victories in the process and it would be a brave man to back against another for Pellegrini’s side against the Hornets next Saturday.

With Raheem Sterling finding his way into the team slowly but very surely, Silva prompting and probing as ever and Toure and Aguero sure to bounce back, that would ordinarily be enough for a serious title challenge.

But with the back five – protected by the astute Fernandinho – yet to concede a goal this season and players like Kolarov and Nasri chipping in with important goals in tricky circumstances, things really could not be going much better for Manchester City right now.

Fernandinho could have seen red against Chelsea, insists Mark Halsey

REFEREE’S COLUMN: The Brazilian only received a booking for the use of an elbow against Diego Costa, while Francis Coquelin miraculously escaped a red card at Selhurst Park


GOALBy Mark Halsey of You Are The Ref.com


Title clashes, whenever they happen in the season, are always difficult occasions but as a referee you go out to manage the event and manage the players. Overall, Martin Atkinson had an excellent game, his movement and positioning was good and he started very well which set him up for the rest of the afternoon.

Chelsea have questioned whether Fernandinho should have been shown a red for leading with the elbow in a challenge with Diego Costa. It could have been – it was a very difficult decision.

It’s a very fine line between a reckless use of the arm (free kick and a yellow card) and violent conduct (red card). I don’t think there would have been many complaints had Fernandinho been sent off, but I wouldn’t criticise Atkinson for opting to caution the Manchester City midfielder in that situation.

Jose Mourinho also suggested that Yaya Toure was perhaps fortunate to stay on the field near the end for stopping a promising attack. Strictly speaking, it was a yellow card but those are the situations late in the game that you manage, Atkinson did the right thing.

Atkinson has stated the season well having followed up a commanding display in West Ham’s 2-0 win over Arsenal with another assured performance at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. He looks fitter, he looks stronger, he’s been working with a nutritionist to improve his diet and it’s helped him to remain as one of the top referees in the Premier League.

COQUELIN ESCAPES RED CARD AT SELHURST PARK

One of the worst moments for a referee is watching a player get substituted off because the manager knows he’s lucky to have escaped a red card. That’s exactly what happened to Lee Mason on Sunday.

How on earth Francis Coquelin managed to stay on the pitch is beyond me. He was let off after being cautioned before the break but the challenge from behind on Yohan Cabaye in the second half should have been Coquelin’s second yellow.

That was Mason’s chance and he missed it. Had he sent off the Arsenal midfielder, the referee would have been given some credit for attempting to manage the player and the game. There would have been no arguments.

Sometimes a player does not heed the warnings and you are left with no choice but to show the red card. Inevitably, Arsene Wenger did the smart thing and replaced Coquelin just a few minutes after he clattered into Cabaye. An opportunity lost for Mason, and the respect from the players would have gone with it.

Mason was all over the place at Selhurst Park. He lacked the bravery to dismiss Coquelin, he was inconsistent and his recognition was poor. He’s experienced enough to know better, he’s been in the Premier League since 2006 but he’s never given the A-class games – Chelsea vs Arsenal, Manchester United vs Liverpool, for example. His performance on Sunday tells you that the PGMOL will not trust him with fixtures of that magnitude this season.

SHOULD REFS SPEAK OUT?

Earlier this month, a Swedish referee, Mohammed al-Hakim, started his own Facebook page to give fans an insight into the life of a referee.

Last week, the 30-year-old revealed he was closing down the page because the attention it received made it too much work for him to handle.

Given the fact that I still receive messages on Twitter over decisions I made during my career, you can imagine that an active referee with a social media account would be a bad idea.

Premier League officials are not allowed to be on social media but there should be an outlet for them to speak after a match, should they wish, with a press officer in attendance. But under the current PGMOL regime, a system like that won’t be introduced any time soon.
 

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey was speaking to Chris Davie on behalf of You Are The Ref. For detailed referee analysis from the experts visit www.you-are-the-ref.com
 

Toure and Silva in tug-of-war over Manchester City goal

The opener in Monday’s 3-0 win over West Brom was claimed by the 32-year-old but appeared to be purposely deflected by the Spaniard… prompting confusion and arm wrestling


GOALEXTRA TIME     Follow Goal UK

Yaya Toure and David Silva have chosen a novel way to decide who scored Manchester City’s first goal of the new Premier League campaign.

Last season’s runners-up comfortably beat West Brom 3-0 at the Hawthorns on Monday night, with the Ivorian credited with the opening two goals before captain Vincent Kompany wrapped up the win by the hour mark.

Toure’s first, however, was a side-footed effort from the edge of the area that appeared to take a purposeful deflection off Silva before spinning through Craig Dawson’s legs and past Boaz Myhill.

The midfielder was quick to lay down his claim to the goal on Monday night and challenged his team-mate to an arm-wrestle if he wanted to dispute it.

Me and @21LVA will have an arm wrestle to settle who scored the first goal!! Hope you guys enjoyed my second!

— Yaya Touré (@YayaToure) August 10, 2015

Silva stood his ground, however, thanking Toure for his “assist” with tongue in cheek as the two continued their playful back-and-forth.

@YayaToure the goal is mine, thanks for the assist, I will assist you hopefully many times during the season!!!

— David Silva (@21LVA) August 12, 2015

Looks like someone has stolen my friend @21LVA’s phone… Or he’s just got very brave! #FindSilvaPhone

— Yaya Touré (@YayaToure) August 12, 2015

The club have since challenged fans to vote on Twitter for which player they think deserves credit for the goal.

Toure’s second 15 minutes later was far more conclusive, with the 32-year-old curling a first-time shot into the top corner from the edge of the area, while Kompany headed home to round off a commanding display.

Yaya Toure hits back at critics after Manchester City demolish West Brom

The Ivory Coast international was singled out for below-par performances as Manuel Pellegrini’s men surrendered their title to Chelsea but insists he pays no attention


Manchester City star Yaya Toure has brushed off criticism of his performances last season after beginning the new campaign in prolific fashion against West Brom.

Toure scored twice in the first half as City swept aside the Baggies 3-0 at the Hawthorns, with Vincent Kompany sealing a comfortable victory with an emphatic header after the break.

Both Kompany and Toure were singled out for below-par performances last season as City allowed Chelsea to claim their first Premier League title since 2010 at a canter, but the Ivorian insists he was satisfied with his achievements.

“I think last season people are talking all the time,” he told reporters. “For me I’m quite surprised. Last season was not the best season for us, but second in the table I think is not bad at all.

“There’s been a lot of criticism about me but it’s not been a bad season. Twelve goals and I won the [Africa Cup of Nations] for my country; it’s not bad at all. I know what I want, I know what I have to do, I don’t care what people are saying about me.

“I’m not back – I’m always there. People have to understand football is not talking about one player, it’s about the team. The team did a massive job [against West Brom], we played very well, against a difficult side. West Brom have a good manager, good players and experience in the Premier League and the team played brilliantly. Full credit to the team.

“Sometimes people have to understand we are human beings. Things can go wrong [even] when you are fully focused in your job, you love your job and want to win all the time. My job is to make people happy and myself happy as well.

“Sometimes people criticise you unfairly. But we don’t care what they say. I love my job, I love playing football and I don’t worry about what people are saying about me.”

City’s first home game of the season is against champions Chelsea, and Toure is adamant that Manuel Pellegrini’s men are fully focused on regaining their title.

“Now we have a massive game on Sunday against a direct rival. I hope it will be a good one for us,” he added.

“The Premier League is very tough, there’s a very long way to go. There’s 37 more games. Sunday is going to be tough again, and after that we have Everton. I think it is a strong start.

“We are fully focused this year. We want to do it for the fans, for the chairman and [owner] Sheikh Mansour, who are doing a lot to make this club great.

“It was a great start. I hope this year is going to be fine for us. The important thing is we have a target. That is to bounce back like we did two seasons ago. We have to keep working hard.”

Toure & Silva 'to have arm wrestle' over Man City goal

The opener in Monday’s 3-0 win over West Brom was claimed by the 32-year-old but appeared to be purposely deflected by the Spaniard… prompting confusion and arm wrestling


GOALEXTRA TIME     Follow Goal UK

Yaya Toure and David Silva have chosen a novel way to decide who scored Manchester City’s first goal of the new Premier League campaign.

Last season’s runners-up comfortably beat West Brom 3-0 at the Hawthorns on Monday night, with the Ivorian credited with the opening two goals before captain Vincent Kompany wrapped up the win by the hour mark.

Toure’s first, however, was a side-footed effort from the edge of the area that appeared to take a purposeful deflection off Silva before spinning through Craig Dawson’s legs and past Boaz Myhill.

Me and @21LVA will have an arm wrestle to settle who scored the first goal!! Hope you guys enjoyed my second!

— Yaya Touré (@YayaToure) August 10, 2015

Toure’s second 15 minutes later was far more conclusive, with the 32-year-old curling a first-time shot into the top corner from the edge of the area, while Kompany headed home to round off a commanding display.