x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

City pass their character test

Emmanuel Adebayor takes three minutes to get his Manchester City career up and running, and usher in an exciting new era for Mark Hughes's side.

BLACKBURN // Emmanuel Adebayor took just three minutes to get his Manchester City career up and running, and usher in an exciting new era for Mark Hughes's side. It was the perfect start for the striker, a £25million (Dh152m) signing from Arsenal, in what promises to be a year to remember for the men from Eastlands. Shaun Wright-Phillips found space on the right wing and left Stephen Warnock bemused with his pace and trickery before cutting inside the left-back to tee up Adebayor, who drove home from 20 yards.

Then, with stoppage time at the end of the game approaching Stephen Ireland put the icing on the cake for City when he scored the second. Wright-Phillips again supplied the final ball, although Ireland still had plenty to do to beat Paul Robinson at his near post. Like the rest of the club's faithful who had made the trip, the rock star Noel Gallagher will have been delighted by the opening day success, but the Oasis singer will hope his team do not Slide Away after manager Hughes's £100m summer spending spree. Kolo Toure and Gareth Barry also made their competitive debuts for the Blues.

And there was also room for Craig Bellamy as Hughes sprang a surprise against a Rovers side containing two summer signings, Lars Jacobsen and Steven Nzonzi. With expectations high at City, there will be little margin for error and defensively Hughes will know there is definite room for improvement. With their emphasis on wingers Morten Gamst Pedersen and El-Hadji Diouf and a barrage of long balls to feed their aerial threat, Rovers constantly unsettled the visiting backline, just like they had done when Hughes was in charge at Rovers.

City had been looking for Toure to bring some composure at the back, but miscommunication, and perhaps nerves, were evident. Sam Allardyce's side had their moments, particularly in the first half when a cool head might have brought rewards. Shay Given, the City keeper, was called upon to beat out headers from first Chris Samba and then Jason Roberts. In attack, City's pace and quick breaks will be troublesome for even the best teams this season.

Rovers were indebted to Robinson in keeping Robinho off the scoresheet, tipping over a rasping 20-yard drive superbly before a right hand pushed away a low, skidding effort. Carlos Tevez made a belated debut for City, replacing the Brazilian in the 67th minute. The Argentine almost marked his debut with an goal 13 minutes later when he ran on to Wright-Phillips' return pass, but Robinson proved equal to the effort..

Ireland finally sealed City's first win at Ewood for six years to ensure they were off to a flying start. With only two away wins last season, Hughes was particularly pleased to come away with the three points from Ewood Park. He said: "There's a real shift in the qualities in terms of what we had and what we have to show in standing up to the challenge and come out on top. "Blackburn will always ask questions of you, but I thought we handled it well. "It was important we made a statement because a lot of people were watching us to see how we would do. "To break into the top four is no easy task. The current ones are among the leaders in world football, but it's a challenge we have set ourselves. It's a long journey, but we are encouraged by this. "We got off to the perfect start with Emmanuel Adebayor's goal. I thought he was excellent with his attitude." akhan@thenational.ae