A new wave of optimism filled Manchester City fans in August 2007. After an awful season of struggling and awful financial pressures being placed on the club, everything had changed from top to bottom. Former chairman John Wardle had sold the Blues to controversial new owner Thaksin Shinawatra, Sven Goran Eriksson had replaced Stuart Pearce as manager, and the playing squad had seen a considerable number of new signings to freshen it all up.
That made an away match at West Ham on the opening day of 2007-08 one that many were looking forward to, when in the past it might have signalled the start of another tough year. Thousands made their way to Upton Park hoping for a good performance and a positive result. They weren’t disappointed.
It was a much changed line-up for City that started 2007-08 to the one that finished 2006-07. Eight players made their debuts that afternoon; seven of them were new signings and six were in the starting XI. One of the debutants came in goal – where the Blues were facing something of a problem.
Nicky Weaver had left in the summer on a free transfer, amid uncertainty about what was happening to the club and whether he was going to be the first choice between the sticks. Meanwhile, Andreas Isaksson and Joe Hart had both been injured in training, and that left Kasper Schmeichel as the club’s only fit goalkeeper. The 20-year-old went on to keep a clean sheet in his first ever appearance.
City were in their new third kit for the opening day of the campaign – a classy white and light blue number, with a mini-sash over one corner of the top – and on a sunny day in London, they put on a fine display. If anything, it looked like the home side were the ones who had been hastily-assembled, when it was actually the visitors.
The deadlock was broken on the counter-attack inside the first 20 minutes. A tough challenge from Michael Johnson presented the ball to Elano inside his own half. The Brazilian carried it into the opposition penalty area, where his low cross was missed by everybody and slid into the net by the debutant striker Rolando Bianchi.
Despite the away team’s dominance, though, it wasn’t until the closing stages they made the game secure. Nedum Onuoha had a mad minute as he seemed to take on a beat half of the West Ham team after picking up possession on the right flank near to the half way line. Having driven his way into the box, he cut back past one defender, nutmegged another and then poked the ball to the late-arriving Geovanni.
The Brazilian steered the ball onto his right foot and belted it across Robert Green, into the bottom corner of the net. With three minutes to play, it secured maximum points for City on the opening day of the campaign.
You can watch the goals right here:
New City boss Sven Goran Eriksson was very impressed with his team:
“I’m delighted. My first match in the Premier League and three points away – that’s really good. We played some really good football – not for 90 minutes because we suffered as well but we started well and the last 15 minutes we did very well again. If we are talking about points then it was the perfect start but we won’t get carried away.”
West Ham manager Alan Curbishley was disappointed his side couldn’t be more of a match for City:
“I am massively disappointed. That was an unbelievably flat performance considering it was the start of the season. City started well. They got their goal then sat back and we had no answers. Apart from Robert Green in goal I don’t think too many of our players can come out of the game and say to themselves ‘we did alright’.”
City: Schmeichel, Richards, Corluka (Onuoha 62), Dunne, Garrido, Elano (Geovanni 80), Hamann, Johnson, Petrov, Ireland, Bianchi (Bojinov 61)
Unused: Hart, Gelson
It’s well known that footballers have a terrible taste in music. Perhaps the song that could have been heard from City’s dressing room after the win was the song by Timbaland (ft. Keri Hilson, DOE, Sebastian) that was sitting pretty at Number One in the UK Chart – The Way I Are.
Families celebrating the victory with a trip to the cinema would have been able to see the absolute non-classic that was The Simpsons Movie – and would leave disappointed that it never got near to the level of quality displayed by the early years of the cartoon that so many of us still yearn for.
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Written by David Mooney.