City project starts to live up to its billing as Johnson pulls the strings

Manchester City 3 Liverpool 0

When manchester City's owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan came to town for the first time last night to check on his investment it would not be overstating it to say that the club felt obliged to deliver a result for their benefactor. Judging by the strained expressions around him in the directors' box this was one occasion that could not fall victim to the curse of the City cock-up.

In the end, the chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, Roberto Mancini, Garry Cook, City's CEO, and all the other suits who surrounded his excellency had nothing to worry about. Like an errant puppy, City have a nasty habit of disgracing themselves at the worst possible time but yesterday they came good when the occasion required.

Mancini's side played like a team of international superstars rather than the fractious individuals they have proved to be at certain times over the two years of the Sheikh's reign in east Manchester. They demolished a Liverpool team that looked totally out of sorts and without Javier Mascherano missed some of the familiar midfield bite.

Without the head-dress and flowing robes that he wears in the few pictures of him that existed before last night, the Sheikh, in a navy suit, looked disarmingly young as he took his place to applause from the crowd. There was more than a touch of amusement about him as he waved to a thankful Mancunian public and he seemed to watch with the good humour required to be a City supporter.

Perhaps this result indicates that things are changing at the club and, at long last, the home support will not have to watch games through their fingers in anticipation of the another calamity. Because if there was one team who looked liable to crumble then it was Liverpool for whom this game was over when City scored their third with 23 minutes left to play.

The presence of the Sheikh was a harsh reminder to Liverpool that the individual who might rescue them from their current decline has not yet surfaced yet. Kenny Huang and his China consortium is already just a memory and the prospect of a new owner coming in now to do a deal for Liverpool in time for Roy Hodgson to get any leverage in the transfer market before the end of the month are remote in the extreme.

Unfortunately, Liverpool are not just failing to buy, they are also becoming a selling club. Mascherano's absence was telling last night but it is the symbolism of his departure that is another blow to the status of the club. Once upon a time in the history of this club the notion that a player would not be "in the right frame of mind" to play for Liverpool – as Hodgson described the Argentine last night – would have been anathema.

Mascherano did not look like the only one at times. Martin Skrtel was badly-exposed by Adam Johnson, first when he drew the Slovakian into a foul that resulted in an early booking and then won a penalty from him in the second half. Fernando Torres was substituted before the end of the match having hardly made a mark on the game.

These are early days yet for Liverpool and, in Arsenal and Manchester City, they have hardly been blessed with the easiest two opening fixtures. Against Arsenal they played a half with 10 men, last night they had the inconvenience of Mascherano's absence to contend with. Even so these are the kind of clubs with title ambitions against whom Liverpool must measure themselves.

For City there are new characters emerging all the time as potential leaders. For Liverpool, with Joe Cole suspended last night it is the same old faces – Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt and Torres – upon whom they seem to be relying. City's £90m-worth of players on the bench cost almost as much as Liverpool's entire squad.

Johnson was one of six Englishmen who started in City's side, including James Milner on his debut. For all the money they have spent and all the people they have upset along the way doing so, at least some of the sheikh's millions have been used to assemble a team that is worth Fabio Capello watching. His assistant Franco Baldini was in the crowd last night to watch another great performance from Joe Hart in goal.

City's goal was worked well on the right wing starting with Yaya Touré and Nigel De Jong who played in Johnson. He committed three Liverpool players around him before he released Milner down the inside right channel. Milner's cut back was just out the reach of Carragher's lunge and Gareth Barry tapped the ball into the corner.

The six Englishmen included two full-backs – Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott – who both looked solid. Richards in particular has never been of much interest to Capello but he looked good last night. He was far too strong for Milan Jovanovic on Liverpool's left wing and he headed in City's second goal.

That goal came from a corner struck from the right by Adam Johnson that Richards won decisively over Daniel Agger. At first glance it looked as if Carlos Tevez had got a touch in front of Pepe Reina but the replays showed that the Argentine's attempt at a volley were nothing more than a distraction and the ball went straight in.

In the aftermath of Gerrard striking the post with a shot on 57 minutes there was an extraordinary response from Hart who had been a fingertip away from the original hit. As Kuyt played the ball back across the box, Hart sprung to his feet and kept out shots from first David Ngog and then Torres in a thrilling burst of action. Within 10 minutes it was all over for Liverpool.

Adam Johnson's run down the right side was interrupted as he stumbled past Agger but it was brought to a clumsy end by Skrtel's leg. It was not a nasty challenge and neither was it dangerous but it did invite a fall by Johnson. From the penalty spot Tevez buried the third goal.

Torres was substituted with 12 minutes to go, having barely made an impression on the game. City did not bring on Emmanuel Adebayor, David Silva, Patrick Vieira or David Silva. They did not need to but that was just one demonstration of the gulf between them and Liverpool last night.

Match facts

Manchester City (4-5-1): Hart; Richards, K Touré, Kompany, Lescott; A Johnson, De Jong, Y Touré (Zabaleta, 84), Barry, Milner; Tevez (Jo, 84). Substitutes not used Given (gk), Wright-Phillips, Adebayor, Silva, Vieira.

Booked Richards.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; G Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Agger; Kuyt, Gerrard, Lucas, Jovanovic (Pacheco, 85); Ngog, Torres (Babel, 78). Substitutes not used Jones (gk), Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Maxi, Poulsen.

Booked Skrtel.

Man of the match A Johnson.

Possession Manchester City 65% Liverpool 35%.

Shots on target Man City 2, Liverpool 5.

Referee P Dowd (Staffs).......... Attendance 47,087.

Match rating 7/10.

Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
life“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice