Manchester City┬ásecured victory against┬áSunderland in the Barclays Asia Trophy thanks to a solitary first-half goal from┬áEdin Dzeko on a rain-soaked pitch in Hong Kong.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side took the lead through Dzeko’s unstoppable 10th-minute volley, smashing the ball into the back of the net, but the Bosnian missed a chance to wrap up the win from the penalty spot in the second half.
Paolo Di Canio named an unchanged side from the team that beat Tottenham in mid-week, while City’s Chilean boss fielded new-boy Alvaro Negredo from the start after a lively cameo against South China.
Sunderland, giving an early taste of of the high-pressing, tenacious style they are likely to employ this season, started the match brightly, with fit-again Wes Brown ÔÇô a goalscorer against Spurs ÔÇô flicking a header wide.
But it was the Premier League runners-up who took the lead. Yaya Toure’s scooped pass was cleared by Brown only as far as Dzeko who, on the edge of the box, unleashed a ferocious left-footed volley that flew past Vito Mannone.
City’s Spaniard’s then combined as David Silva, making his first appearance of the pre-season schedule, released Negredo, but the 27-year-old fired high and wide. The new signing from Sevilla had another sighter at goal at the half-hour mark, but lashed the ball over the bar.
The pitch, a major concern before the match, was becoming increasingly sodden and cut-up after more heavy rain, but Sunderland were unfazed. Jozy Altidore fed Emanuele Giaccherini, who forced Costel Pantilimon into a solid stop.
On the stroke of half-time, City almost doubled their lead as Silva curved a devilish free kick into the box which was headed onto the foot of his own post by right-back Craig Gardner.
A number of substitutions at the break, which included the introduction of Spain international Jesus Navas, coupled with the deterioration of the turf, saw the game dissolve as a spectacle, with a scrappy, subdued affair taking over.
Fernandinho, on in place of Yaya Toure, finally brought a spark to a lifeless second half. The Brazilian’s flick was handled in the box by El-Hadji Ba, but Dzeko blazed the resulting penalty over the bar.
The misery of that spot-kick miss was compiled by a serious-looking injury to centre-back Matija Nastasic, who had to be stretchered off the field of play ÔÇô the second major casualty of the showpiece tournament’s treacherous pitch after Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen.
Navas had a chance to guarantee the victory in the closing stages, but his shot, despite beating goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, was cleared off the line from beneath his own crossbar by Gardner.
Sunderland had a late chance to level the scores, despite Pellegrini taking a leaf out of predecessor Roberto Mancini’s book by bringing on Gareth Barry, when Sebastian Larsson fired a free kick towards goal. Pantilimon pawed it away and City held on to win.