CITY 3 WATFORD 0
Nationwide Division One
11th August 2001
scorers Goater(59), Berkovic(64), Pearce(87)
City Nash, Dunne, Pearce, Howey, Charvet, Wiekens, Berkovic, Tiatto, Granville, Goater, Wanchope – subs Whitley(75), Dickov(89), Huckerby(89), Colosimo(unused), Murphy(unused)
Watford Baardsen, Blondeau, Vega, Galli, Robinson, Nielsen, Vernazza, Hyde, Hughes, Gayle, Smith – sub Helguson(65), Ward(74), Fisken(83), Foley(unused), Chamberlain(unused)
STUART PEARCE PUTS THE ICING ON THE CAKE WITH A GREAT FREE-KICK TO MAKE IT 3-0
What The Press Said
THEY’RE OFF AT A GALLOP
Berkovic Takes Command as Thoroughbreds Get Into Stride
The Blues boss saw the first three points roll off the conveyor belt on Saturday night and the paying customers revelled in both the way they were packaged and the quality control.
Twelve months from the very day that the Manchester City chief captained a British horseracing team to victory in the Shergar Cup, Keegan was back in the managerial saddle, cajoling the best out of Maine Road thoroughbreds who had been unfairly and unjustly labelled selling platers last season.
Patchy warm-up form had led some to think the Blues might be a gallop or two short of their best for this blockbuster of an opener
But Keegan and his staff had trained them to the minute and the players knew their jobs to perfection.
Keegan has cracked the whip both on and off the field since he ended his self-imposed managerial exile in May and everyone has responded accordingly.
And it was the jockey-sized Eyal Berkovic who stole the show in front of the opening day’s biggest crowd.
Quick thinking allied to quick feet are potent weapons at any level and Berkovic possesses both. He is also eager to get in front of the ball, something the City midfield palpably failed to do for most of last season.
It was, however, not a one-man show and without the industry and energy of Danny Tiatto and the stoicism and solidity of Gerard Wiekens alongside him in a new-look three-man midfield, Berkovic’s glittering talents would not have had the platform from which to dazzle and bewitch Maine Road.
Further back, too, there was much to be admired with Laurent Charvet revelling in the role of right wing-back and showing why four different managers – including Keegan – not to mention most of the players he has worked alongside, regard him as a Premiership player.
Shaun Goater is proof positive that it is possible to cajole critical City fans into a different way of thinking and Charvet, after his nightmare first season, looks well on the road to doing the same.
Had it not been for Keegan’s persuasive tongue, the former England skipper might have been back on his stud farm now breeding horses instead of hoofing home trademark free-kicks from the edge of the box and giving his fellow defenders a good old fashioned tongue-lashing.
The whole team revelled in the manager’s confidence in their ability to go out and express themselves and they did just that in the final 70 minutes of an uneven contest.
Given the huge changes in personnel at Vicarage Road this summer it is perhaps surprising that Watford gelled so well in the opening quarter.
Even so they are likely to get much better under the tutelage of Vialli and Wilkins and the opening day was probably as good as any to face the stingless Hornets.
Carlo Nash, in the City goal, will surely never have an easier 90 minutes with hardly a save of any note to make.
Not so his Watford counterpart Espen Baardsen.
The Norwegian pulled off stunning first-half stops from a low Tiatto drive and Berkovic’s Wiekens-inspired, cheeky 28th minute chip, although on the first occasion he was fortunate to see the Israeli sky the rebound over an open goal.
Baardsen produced more heroics to prevent Goater finishing off an eye-catching 36th minute exchange between Tiatto and Berkovic.
And when the goalkeeper was not being employed to perform in his one-man show it was the central defenders on whom Vialli relied with Ramon Vega pulling off the best tackle of all on the lively Paulo Wanchope after Berkovic had again provided the opening.
The half-time ovation thus had more to do with City’s style of play and intent than it did the score-line but that was soon put right in a devastating post-break display of power and precision.
The goal opened the floodgates and five minutes later when Wanchope climbed to head Danny Granville’s cross against the bar and Berkovic eagerly seized his chance rounding Vega and doubling the lead.
Down to ten men it was a case of damage limitation for the Hornets, who were never in the game.
There was a standing ovation for the Blues at the end and it was deserved.
Now, of course, the trick is repeating that dizzy level for the next 45 games.
FROM MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS BY CHRIS BAILEY AND PAUL HINCE