City mark their return to Europe by hitting five

Manchester City 5 TNS Llansantffraid

By Phil Shaw
Thursday 10 October 2013 05:18

Even the Total Footballing Enigma that is Manchester City could not mess it up against Total Network Solutions. In the first competitive fixture in the City of Manchester Stadium, Kevin Keegan's side overran last season's League of Wales runners-up to ensure that the second leg of their Uefa Cup qualifying-round tie, to be staged in the Millennium Stadium, will be a formality.

The honour of scoring the first "official" goal at City's new home went, appropriately, to a Mancunian and lifelong fan of the club, Trevor Sinclair, early in the first half. Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jihai Sun added further goals soon after the break, with David Sommeil, from close range, and Nicholas Anelka, with a cross-shot, adding late goals to bring City level with their best win in Europe.

On paper, there had never been a greater disparity in nearly 50 years of European competition: Manchester is more than 600 times the size of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, the rural hamlet in mid-Wales where the romantically named TNS play to an average of 271 people against the likes of Flexys Cefyn Druids and Caersws.

On the pitch, it took a little time for the chasm in sporting cultures to show through. TNS, fielding eight Englishmen to City's four, were quick to mass behind the ball, with Nicholas Ward their lone nominal striker. The plan worked well initially, with the crowd strangely becalmed and City unsure, after a quarter of a century away from continental competition, of whether to go for the jugular or show patience.

City made the breakthrough after 14 minutes. A left-wing corner was cleared only as far as Sinclair, lurking 20 yards out in in the D. The former West Ham midfielder met the dropping ball on the volley, leaving TNS' Northern Irish keeper, Gerard Doherty, helpless as it flew into the net.

David Seaman might have brought along a deck-chair for all the action he saw as City went in search of further goals. The effervescent Wright-Phillips seemed determined to mark the occasion with a goal, only to drag one shot wide after a fine diagonal pass by Michael Tarnat and see Doherty put his fingertips to another.

TNS could have folded. Instead, they kept packing midfield, where Simon Davies showed glimpses of the quality that once won a place in Manchester United's Champions' League side. They also tackled and harried as if they genuinely believe their manager, Ken McKenna, when he talked of "keeping the tie alive until Cardiff".

After City had ended the first half with a penalty appeal following the dubious blocking of a Robbie Fowler shot, TNS raised a sardonic jeer when Davies tested Seaman from 30 yards. They were punished for their audacity when City swept upfield, and made it 2-0 in the 50th minute.

The ball was worked patiently to Wright-Phillips on the right. His shot from 22 yards was well hit and ought to have presented a routine save to Doherty, who instead let the ball squirm through his grasp.

TNS promptly brought off Ward, who, starved of service, had endured a frustrating battle against the odds. On went the club's record scorer, John Toner, but it seemed a forlorn gesture given that the tactics remained as determinedly negative as they had been from the start.

City added a third on the hour. Fowler, commendably pursuing a lost cause, managed not only to keep the ball in play but also deliver an excellent cross. Jihai Sun bravely put his head in the path of Jimmy Aggrey's boot and headed in from point-blank range.

The atmosphere remained surprisingly flat. So much so that when the South Stand sought to stir their side with a rendition of "Blue Moon", Seaman turned round and applauded his new club's supporters. He drew the line, however, at "Get your hair cut for the lads".

Keegan, recognising that his team required an injection of energy, sent on Joey Barton and Paulo Wanchope, the Costa Rican receiving an especially warm reception after missing the whole of last season.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Seaman; Jihai Sun, Sommeil, Distin, Tarnat (Tiatto, 80); Wright-Phillips, Berkovic, Bosvelt (Barton, 65), Sinclair; Fowler (Wanchope, 72), Anelka. Substitutes not used: Huckerby, Wiekens, Dunne, Weaver (gk).

Total Network Solutions (4-5-1): Doherty; Naylor, Taylor, Aggrey, King; Leah, Bridgewater (Wood, 80), Brabin, Davies, Ruscoe; Ward (Toner, 55). Substitutes not used: Wilde, Perry, Beck, Evans, Williams (gk).

Referee: A Tiumin (Russia).

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments