In the first preseason game, Man City defeats J-League champion Yokohama F-Marinos with goals from Haaland, Stones, Alvarez, and Rodri.
With the help of two fantastic strikes from Erling Haaland, Manchester City secured an impressive comeback victory against Yokohama in their first game of the Tokyo pre-season campaign, defeating them 5-3.
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Celebrating his first-year milestone with Man City, Haaland, the top scorer of the 2022/23 Premier League season, found the net just seven minutes into halftime.At the National Stadium, he made a quick move inside the penalty area and struck a crisp shot into the far corner, giving City the lead for the first time.
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Man City fell behind when Brazilian Anderson Lopes emulated Haaland’s celebration after scoring, but his early shot was clinically saved by goalkeeper Stephen Ortega, turning it into a medical save for the Yokohama player.
In the midst of their Japanese tour, Yokohama displayed their attacking prowess when they defeated Celtic 6-4 in the J1 League, with Ken Matsubara converting an excellent break to double their lead.
Before the break, City responded with two quick-fire goals – the first one by Julian Alvarez and the second by John Stones – to level the score. However, Nathan Ake’s header in between struck the crossbar.
After manager Pep Guardiola made a full outfield team change at halftime, City increased their tempo and dominated the flow of opportunities. Rodri’s long-range effort made it 4-2, reminding everyone of his technique and composure, which he showcased in the UEFA Champions League final in June.
Midfielder Kenta Inaue utilized the mix-up between Ortega and defender Rico Luis to draw Yokohama level by tapping the ball into the net on his 24th birthday. But in additional time, Joao Cancelo’s enticing cross was tapped in by Haaland, as Guardiola kept Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, while the midfielder continued his recovery from a hamstring issue.
Riyad Mahrez, who is rumored to be on the verge of joining Saudi Pro League team Al-Ahli, wasn’t part of City’s team for their Asian tour. However, Kyle Walker was named as captain amid persistent rumors of his move to Bayern Munich.
Man City will progress to face Bayern – their opponents from a year ago in that first game for Haaland – in the same setting and play Atletico Madrid in Seoul on July 30. The Premier League titleholders will then face Arsenal in the FA Community Shield at Wembley Stadium on August 6 before kicking off their league season five days later against Burnley.
Kovacic made his City debut
New signings Mateo Kovacic, Kelvin Phillips, and young James McAtee and Cole Palmer were the standout inclusions in City’s starting lineup for their first game, having sealed a treble of the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League with a 1-0 win over Inter Milan in Istanbul on June 10.
Kovacic returned to City 17 days after leaving for Chelsea and impressed with a 45-minute appearance in front of over 60,000 fans at the stadium. He exhibited a lively role, often resembling that of a support striker, and brilliantly blocked an explosive shot from Yokohama’s skillful Yoko Hama in the Tokyo sky.
Due to Kovacic’s foolish error in returning the ball to Yokohama, they were able to launch their offensive and gain a 2-0 advantage.
However, left-back Katsuya Nagato sprinted and swung a superb cross to score.
Having returned from his loan spell with Sheffield United, McAtee was deployed as the central figure in the midfield, providing the creativity to allow Stones to finish off his comprehensive movement in style.
With a display of self-confidence, Palmer countered Walker’s run down the right with a well-timed backheel pass inside the penalty area, enabling Alvaro to bring Yokohama level. His reward was the Tokyo fireworks display.
Philipps undoubtedly could have done more to stop Lopes from reaching and scoring from Ortega’s parry, perhaps being cautious about accepting a penalty when he tracked the winger, who was picked pocketed by 32-year-old Argentine.
One of the stars of the recent Premier League season, Alvaro nearly caught Ichimori with an expanded penalty area, and shortly afterward, Philipps pocketed the 32-year-old Argentine to bring him level.
Haaland fitter than last season – Guardiola
Erling Haaland’s fitness compared to the previous season has improved, according to Guardiola. One other player, Oscar Bob, displayed a fantastic performance in the second half with several useful crosses. However, Haaland’s Norwegian teammate seemed dissatisfied later when asked by City’s TV channel if he was happy with his performance, to which he replied, “Not really.”
“It was a little difficult, but it’s going,” he remarked. I can’t say it was easy. Winning and starting the season on a high note makes everyone happy. Taking against a top-tier team was a great test.
After winning seven games in the league, Yokohama was only one point behind their division’s top position before their first goal. They seized the opportunity to test
Haaland’s arrival has made his job challenging, and his desire to score more goals has increased after only netting one goal in nine appearances across all competitions in the previous season for his club.
Guardiola claimed, “Compared to the previous season, he is fitter. Ever since his arrival, notable progress has been evident in his performance.”
“Yokohama played really well on changes. It was good for us. The potential for enhancement is vast, presenting numerous opportunities for growth.
Fortuitously, everyone remained injury-free, underscoring the paramount importance of physical well-being.
Guardiola said that Bob played well in three or four positions and praised Kovacic’s performance as “really, really good.”
The Spaniard responded, “He feels much, much, better,” when questioned about De Bruyne, who had been working out separately on a bike during the pre-match training session.
As of now, the details regarding Bayern Munich or the upcoming match are uncertain, as he still needs to undergo training, but it’s evident that he’s on the brink of making a comeback.
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