Manchester City cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory away at West Bromwich Albion last night, largely thanks to the majestic David Silva.
The Spanish playmaker, who was one of City’s outstanding players last season, conducted the City orchestra masterfully for 90 minutes.
Silva, Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany were the goal scorers for the away side who dominated all aspects of the game.
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Tony Pulis - famed for producing well disciplined, defensively strong teams – decided to begin the match with both Saido Berahino and new signing Rickie Lambert up front.
The decision to play 4-4-2 – one which Pulis admitted afterwards was a mistake – meant that City’s midfield, and Silva, in particular, were finding plenty of space to operate, particularly in West Brom’s defensive third of the pitch.
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City in the mood
It took the away side just nine minutes to break the deadlock. Jesus Navas laid the ball back to Yaya Toure, who tamely struck an effort towards the West Brom goal. The shot took two deflections – off Silva and West Brom’s Craig Dawson - before eventually rolling into the net. Toure claimed the goal, although it will surely be awarded to Silva.
City continued to dominate possession and went 2-0 up after 24 minutes. Fernandinho played the ball forward to Yaya Toure, who turned, played a give and go with Bony, and then beautifully caressed a strike into the top corner.
The away side thoroughly deserved their two-goal advantage. To limit any further damage, Pulis switched to a 4-5-1 formation after 25 minutes, putting Craig Gardner in the middle and Berahino on the right wing.
The next clear-cut chance of the half fell to Raheem Sterling. Fernandinho won the ball in midfield and played a fantastic pass through the West Brom defence which found City’s new man. Sterling’s finish, however, was weak. He attempted to roll it past Boaz Myhill, but the keeper saved comfortably down to his left.
At the other end, Lambert almost created a chance after dropping off and finding some space between City’s defence and midfield. His pass towards Gardner though, who had made a great run from midfield, was too powerful and the chance was wasted.
In the 41st minute, Berahino showed his class with a deft left-footed angled finish past the onrushing Joe Hart. The young forward, however, was half a yard offside when James Morrison played the ball through and the goal was rightly disallowed.
Moments before the first half came to an end, David Silva produced a magnificent through ball to Aleksander Kolarov. The attacking full-back had surged into the West Brom box, but he miscued a wayward attempt over the bar.
At the halftime interval, Pulis replaced the ineffective James McLean with the combative Claudio Yacob, in an attempt to sure up the central midfield area and nullify the brilliant David Silva.
West Brom started the second half at a much better tempo; they pressed City higher up the pitch and were making it more difficult for the away side to play through them.
After 49 minutes, Lambert hit a curling free kick from 30 yards just over Joe Hart’s goal. This, however, was the closest West Brom came to testing Joe Hart for some time.
Just before the hour mark, Silva, who had been the best player on the park by some distance, won a corner after evading Yacob with some wonderful footwork.
The Spaniard took the resulting corner from the left-hand side. His out swinging delivery was met with great determination by Vincent Kompany, who headed into the top corner from an acute angle to put his side 3-0 up.
West Brom’s best chance of the game fell to James Morrison on 77 minutes after some delightful work on the left-hand side from Chris Brunt and Berahino. Morrison’s header, however, was poorly directed and Hart saved comfortably.
City brought on last season’s top scorer, Sergio Aguero, towards the end of the game and the Argentinian came close to scoring after a sharp left-footed effort was well saved by the feet of Boaz Myhill after 86 minutes.
Myhill made another smart save in the dying moments of the game, this time to deny Kolarov’s well-directed free kick down to his left-hand side. In truth, the game could have ended with City five or six up had it not been for Myhill’s impressive display.
After the game, Pulis was refreshingly honest in reflection, he said: “I have to take responsibility for this one. I played Saido and Rickie and that left the midfield too open. It went against the principles I have always worked to and it has given me a rude awakening."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini summarised: “We have something to prove. Last season was below what we're used to doing. It was a good way to start the first game."
He later added: "It's important to start with a win. In the Premier League normally you are going to win or lose the league by one point, so it's important to start strongly."
WBA: Myhill, Chester, Dawson, Lescott, Brunt, Morrison, Gardner, Fletcher, McClean, Lambert, Berahino. Subs: Olsson, Yacob, Ideye, Anichebe, McManaman, Sessegnon, Rose.
Man City: Hart (GK), Sagna, Kompany (C), Mangala, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, Silva, Sterling, Bony. Subs: Zabaleta, Nasri, Aguero, Caballero, Demichelis, Denayer, Iheanacho.
Man of the match: David Silva (Man City)