Class tells, but even as champions City keep on doing it the hard way


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The Independent Online

No Premier champions had ever lost the next term's first game but City were trailing with 20 minutes left

When Manchester City came from behind to beat QPR on the thrilling final day of last season, we knew they were creating history. However, on yesterday's evidence it would seem that Roberto Mancini's team were also establishing a tradition.

Thus City again came from behind to win. It will take something special to beat Sergio Aguero's 93rd-minute winner against QPR 14 weeks earlier but this was not a bad start. Take the lead, throw it away, come back in style, put your own supporters through sheer torture and win the match: it must be the new City way.

No Premier League champions have ever lost the first game of the following season, but with 20 minutes of this match left and a goal behind, the home crowd was wondering if the club's capacity for huge bullet-in-own-foot moments was back with a vengeance.

City were trailing to goals from Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis, both substitutes who scored soon after coming on. Aguero was long off, with a nasty-looking knee injury, and in his place Edin Dzeko, and others, had missed a few – including a 19th minute penalty fluff by David Silva.

This was a brilliantly spirited Southampton performance, though. With three debutants in the team and the 17-year-old James Ward-Prowse in midfield, they could never have expected to go so close.

Now that they are champions, however, there is more certainty to Mancini's team; however much they wobbled there was always a sense they could put it right. Carlos Tevez was inspirational, as was Samir Nasri, the scorer of the winning goal. And the indefatigable Yaya Touré really does have the power to change games on his own.

All that meant little when Aguero was carried off after 16 minutes. Nathaniel Clyne reached across the striker with his left foot to make clean contact with the ball but the damage was done in Aguero's fall. His right knee flexed unnaturally as he went over Clyne's legs. There is no hard evidence on the extent of Aguero's injury yet but Mancini admitted later that he was "worried".

Tevez, in truth, was offside when he ran off Jose Fonte on to Nasri's through ball on 40 minutes to beat Kelvin Davis at his near post. But though the Saints subs responded brilliantly to make in 2-1 on 68 minutes, City levelled with a finish from Dzeko at close range – after Vincent Kompany's shot was blocked – and then Danny Fox's poor clearing header fell to Nasri to score with 10 minutes left. Job done, in City style.