City clip Chelsea in season's dress rehearsal
BIRMINGHAM, England (AFP) — Manchester City underlined their determination to retain the Premier League title as the champions warmed up for the new season with a hard-fought 3-2 win over 10-man Chelsea in the Community Shield yesterday.
Roberto Mancini's side will kick off their title defence against Southampton next weekend and this was the ideal preparation as City came from behind to win in a fiery encounter including a red card and eight bookings at Villa Park.
Fernando Torres had given Chelsea the lead in the 40th minute, but the dismissal of the Blues' Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic moments later proved crucial.
City duly capitalised with fine strikes from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez soon after half-time turning the game around before Samir Nasri got their third on 65 minutes.
Although Chelsea substitute Ryan Bertrand pulled one back 10 minutes from the end with his first goal for the club, City held on to record their first win in the traditional curtain-raiser to the English top-flight season since 1972.
The build-up to this glamour friendly had been overshadowed by Mancini's grumbles about City's transfer policy, but the Italian still has a fine squad and beating the European champions was the ideal preparation for another season of high expectations at Eastlands.
City had started well with Tevez's free kick saved by Petr Cech, who then made another good stop to keep out a stabbed effort from Nasri, while Vincent Kompany's flick from James Milner's corner was straight at the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Despite naming new signing Eden Hazard in their starting line-up, Chelsea looked sluggish early on and Frank Lampard fired straight at City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, only playing because regular number one Joe Hart had a back injury.
Roberto Di Matteo's side took the lead against the run of play when Ramires clipped a pass towards Torres, who finished with a delicate left-footed shot.
But the Blues were down to 10 men two minutes later as a lunge from Ivanovic on Aleksandar Kolarov resulted in referee Kevin Friend producing a straight red card.
Cech saved well from a Milner free kick shortly afterwards as Chelsea made it to half-time with the lead.
But the second half was a different story as City made their numerical advantage count with a stylish performance.
Toure, such a major player in City's title triumph, equalised in the 53rd minute after John Terry's clearance fell straight to the Ivory Coast midfielder on the edge of the area.
Then Tevez struck to put City into the lead with a fine individual goal. The Argentine ran along the edge of the penalty area before planting an unstoppable shot beyond Pantilimon.
City made it three as Kolarov's cross from the left was volleyed home expertly by Nasri.
Mancini's men continued to produce the better moments but Chelsea were given a lifeline when they reduced the deficit in the 80th minute.
Daniel Sturridge's shot from 25 yards was spilled by Pantilimon and Bertrand tapped in the rebound.
But City, who scored twice in stoppage-time against QPR to win the title on the final day of the season, had no need for any last-gasp heroics this time.
It was Mancini's side who nearly made it four when David Silva's scrambled effort was held by Cech before Aguero sidefooted wide with the goal at his mercy.
The win completed an encouraging day for City after they earlier had a bid accepted for Everton's England midfielder Jack Rodwell.