Manchester City achieved a vital win against Club America in the pre-season friendlies
Julian Alvarez, Stefan Ortega Moreno, and Kalvin Phillips made their Manchester City debuts as we defeated Club America in the opening match of our pre-season tour of the United States.
Erling Haaland was an unused substitute in Pep Guardiola’s 2-1 win over the Mexicans at Houston’s NRG Stadium thanks to a brace from Kevin De Bruyne.
On the half-hour mark, the Belgian opened the score with a typical finish, riding two challenges on a run forward and curling a stunning 18-yard effort into the far corner.
Club America equalized 13 minutes later against the run of play, with striker Henry Martin latching onto a lofted pass over the top and checking inside Nathan Ake before squeezing the ball between Ortega Moreno’s legs.
On the stroke of halftime, De Bruyne ghosted in behind the opposition defense to collect Riyad Mahrez’s superbly weighted through ball and fire underneath Oscar Jimenez.
The tourists were good value for the win, and they could have won by more if Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva had converted from promising situations.
It all started in Texas, where Alvarez and Ortega Moreno were both given starts as Guardiola chose a strong XI, and the Catalan sprung his first tactical surprise of 2022/23 when Phillips was introduced as a centre-back at half-time.
The England international was one among seven substitutions in the second half, with 17-year-old Rico Lewis also making his senior debut, and the quantity of substitutions from both sides caused the game to stall in the dying moments.
City, on the other hand, will have no complaints after scoring two excellent goals in a competitive friendly that served as a great warm-up for the upcoming season.
A STRONG FRIENDLY
If the purpose of pre-season is to prepare players for the hard, physical rigors of the Premier League, then the first game of our US trip delivered.
Club America rarely threatened City, but their devoted effort certainly gave us something to ponder about, especially in the first half.
A mistimed tackle on Jack Grealish sparked the 15-minute span that resulted in all three goals, though it could have been more.
Joao Cancelo’s daisy cutter was deflected inches wide of the left post, while Bernardo Silva dragged wide on the angle shortly after Martin’s equalizer.
Alvaro Fidalgo had already tested Ortega Moreno from a distance, but it was an uncommon occurrence as the Mexicans attempted to halt City’s attack physically.
Grealish was the target of many strong challenges and was twice unhappy when the referee turned down what he felt were obvious penalties.
Our No.10 put in a lively effort, full of sprinting down the left wing, and he had a chance to score only for Jimenez’s chest to deny him from point-blank range.
That was the closest City came to a third goal, though the opposition goalkeeper made an excellent save down to his right to deny De Bruyne from completing his hat-trick with a low drive.
Before kickoff, Alvarez and Ortega Moreno’s names appeared on the starting XI, and the entrance of Phillips at halftime further added to the excitement.
It meant that fans got to see three of our summer signings at the first opportunity, and while Haaland was placed on the bench, there were plenty of positive signals from his teammates.
The decision to play Phillips at center-back in place of Nathan Ake was unexpected.
It could have been a case of giving the England player minutes, and it remains to be seen if he will play again, but the poise on the ball that will be necessary in midfield was there throughout.
Despite being upset by Club America’s equalizer, Ortega Moreno shown his worth despite a rather quiet evening.
He was put into action early on and had wonderful reflexes to scramble across his line and divert a header away from danger, while a raking forward ball to De Bruyne after the break demonstrated he has the technical quality demanded of a goalkeeper in this City team.
Alvarez was the most in demand of the new triumvirate. The Argentine drove the line-up forward and showed flashes of excellent link-up play, including a beautiful ball around the corner for De Bruyne and a wonderful crossfield pass for Grealish that nearly unlocked the opposition defense.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE, MAN OF THE MATCH
The Belgian continued where he left off last season, scoring two high-quality goals at Houston Texans Stadium.
He was the difference, as he so frequently is, and looked particularly sharp in his opening game of the tour.
His first goal was classic De Bruyne, bursting through midfield and giving the goalie no chance from long range, while his second was the result of great movement matched by Mahrez’s slide-rule ball.