23rd August 2010
Scorers Barry(13), Tevez(51 & 67 pen)
Ref Phil Dowd
City Hart, Richards, Toure Kolo, Kompany, Lescott; Toure Yaya, DeJong, Milner, Barry, A Johnson, Tevez – subs Jo(85), Zabaleta(85), Given(unused), Wright-Phillips(unused), Silva(unused), Adebayor(unused), Vieira(unused)
Liverpool Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Carragher, Jonvanovic, Lucas, Gerrard, Kuyt, Torres, Ngog – subs Babel(78), Pacheco(85), Cavalieri(unused), Aurelio(unused), Kyrgiakos(unused), Rodriguez(unused), Poulsen(unused)
GARETH BARRY CELEBRATES PUTTING CITY 1-0 UP
|WHAT THE PRESS SAID|
Shortly before the kickoff at Manchester City’s stadium on a wet Monday night, the 47,000 people in the audience were invited to put their hands together for a stranger. The cameras focused on a man in a gray business suit. “He’s here for his first ever game,” the announcer said. “Your owner, Sheik Mansour!”
And the people did applaud this trim, smiling, youthful-looking 39-year-old who is a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, the son of its former ruler and half brother of its current emir. They were still applauding after the final whistle. City beat Liverpool, 3-0, in the English Premier League, and you might say the United Arab Emirates beat the United States in terms of ownership of England’s sporting heritage. Liverpool is, or was, a British institution, but its season is already in disarray. Had its major shareholders, the Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett, flown in, they might have faced something closer to a lynching than polite applause.
They are attempting to auction off Liverpool. The sheik bought City lock, stock and oil barrels two years ago. This is the first time he has jetted in to see how his $1 billion investment is shaping up. The Americans never had that kind of cash; they borrowed the money to make the purchase and loaded the interest charges from the bank loans onto the club. Now, they wait to see who, if anyone, meets their price. Kenny Huang, the sports entrepreneur of mysterious Chinese connections, used news media sources to make his bid and the same sources to withdraw it late last week. Either or both of Huang’s actions might be posturing; he might be playing for time until the price is right. Or a Syrian might buy. Or the banks might call in the debt, forcing a fire sale of the two great playing assets Liverpool has: Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. While Liverpool disintegrates, Manchester City accumulates. Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan has the family wealth to toy with everyone else in the world game.
His apparent joy in the stadium Monday was in seeing a third of the players recruited on his behalf. City was led by the effervescent, impish Argentine Carlos Tévez. A three-goal margin exaggerated the difference between the teams, but without a doubt, City’s path is upward, while Liverpool’s, alas, is downward. The first goal involved something rare in England’s top league. Adam Johnson set the ball rolling with a sharp, incisive move and pass down the right side. James Milner read the situation, darted between defenders, and picked out a colleague in pale blue. Gareth Barry side-footed the goal. A goal worked by three Englishmen is uncommon in the Premiership. Johnson is a lean athlete, a throwback to the English wings who would hug the touchline before taking on opponents and creating scoring chances. The other two goals were claimed by Tévez, a poacher preying on Liverpool’s indecisiveness. It was Tévez to whom the sheik spoke after the match. There were times when the owner wore an air of quiet bemusement. And there were moments when, like an excited child, he caught the arm of Khaldoon al-Mubarak, the man he has appointed as his emissary to run the club. Khaldoon was able to show the boss roughly one-third of the playing riches amassed for him over the last two seasons at a cost of some $530 million. Another third of the investments — seven players whose combined transfer market value is $140 million — sat on the bench, waiting to be summoned. The final third — including the Italian Mario Balotelli, the Serb Aleksandar Kolarov, the German Jérôme Boateng, the Englishman Wayne Bridge, the Brazilian Robinho and the Welshman Craig Bellamy — were absent. Four of them are injured. But Robinho doesn’t like Manchester’s weather and is on loan back to his boyhood club, Santos. Bellamy spoke too much about his disaffection with life on the bench and has also been dispatched to his hometown team, Cardiff, with Manchester City paying the bulk of his salary. Money can soothe most things for Abu Dhabi City. Last season, the team’s No. 1 goalie was Shay Given. He now sits in reserve to the younger Joe Hart, and City’s coach, Roberto Mancini, says he will understand if Given decides to leave. The caveat is that City will sell Given only to a club that is not competing to finish at least in the top four of the league. His choice is to step down to a lesser level or to accept City’s offer to stay with a pay hike above his current $120,000 a week salary. Liverpool, by contrast, is in limbo. It has a new team manager, Roy Hodgson, but Hodgson’s choices are limited.
How can he persuade new stars to join a club living on reputation while the club is up for auction and its investment portfolio bare? Liverpool’s squad traveled Monday without the Argentine national captain, Javier Mascherano. He is a key player for Liverpool, but it seems his wife has no intention of settling in England. Her man has the opportunity to join Barcelona, and he was promised by previous management last year that he would be allowed to leave this August. Time is running out. Barcelona is trying to play cute and to get him on the cheap, and to offer in part exchange Aleksandr Hleb. Liverpool wants straight cash because Hodgson wants to buy players he needs rather than one Barcelona wants to offload. On Monday, Mascherano either withheld his labor or was told to stay away until the deal was done. “I don’t know where Javier is,” Hodgson said. “But he’s not with us here anyway. I’d like the chance to pick him again, because he’s a good player. But tonight would not have been a good time to select him because at the moment his mind isn’t right. His head has been turned by another club, but until the offer matches our valuation, he stays with us.” ROB HUGHES WRITING FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES 24TH AUGUST 2010
CARLOS TEVEZ OFF THE MARK WITH A BRACE