City host emotional housewarming

Manchester City 2 Barcelona 1
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The Independent Online

On a day of high emotion for Manchester City supporters, this was no ordinary house-warming party. There was a mixture of excitement and anticipation as the club threw open the doors to the £120m City of Manchester Stadium.

But during an afternoon when there were farewell cheers for Ali Benarbia and Shaun Goater and a Manchester welcome of sorts for Ronaldinho, the proceedings were also tinged with sadness for Marc-Vivien Foé.

The City fans paid their respects to Foé - who died playing for Cameroon in a Confederations Cup match in June - with a minute's silence. The City manager, Kevin Keegan, had been hoping to sign Foé this summer after he spent last season on loan from Lyon.

That sombre note was in contrast to the receptions afforded to striker Goater and midfielder Benarbia shortly beforehand. Goater was given special dispensation by his new club, Reading, to say his farewells ahead of this match.

Benarbia, hailed by Keegan as a player "who has to be one of the best signings this club has ever made", was also allowed to captain the team as part of a specially-arranged goodbye appearance.

The Algerian, who moves on to a club in Qatar, recently made it clear he could not cope with the demands of another season in the Premiership but wanted the chance to play in the new stadium.

Benarbia was given that opportunity and he played the promised first 30 minutes before being replaced by Eyal Berkovic.

Nicolas Anelka then scored his seventh goal in as many pre-season games in the 38th minute, slipping home the opener between the legs of Turkey's international goalkeeper Rustu Recber.

The young Argentina international Javier Saviola cancelled out City's lead 13 minutes after the break with a fine left-foot shot beyond David Seaman.

But Trevor Sinclair, another of Keegan's five summer buys at a cost of £2.5m from West Ham, ensured the new ground was christened with a victory. He met Sun Jihai's 67th-minute cross with a perfect downward header which bounced in off the inside of Rustu's left-hand post.

It sparked a frenetic finish, with Paulo Wanchope hitting a post and Andres Iniesta seeing his shot cleared off the line by Richard Dunne.

Keegan will be hoping this is the sign of things to come, starting with Thursday's Uefa Cup tie with TNS as City play in European competition for the first time in 25 years.

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