x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pellegrini's first win as Manchester City beat South China in Asia Trophy

Manuel Pellegrini celebrates his debut victory with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur suffer an injury worry against Sunderland in the Asia Trophy.

Edin Dzeko's header would be all the scoring Mancester City would need against South China to reach the final of the Asia Trophy tournament, where they will meet a familiar Premier League foe in Sunderland, who were 3-1 victors over Tottenham Hotspur.
Edin Dzeko's header would be all the scoring Mancester City would need against South China to reach the final of the Asia Trophy tournament, where they will meet a familiar Premier League foe in Sunderland, who were 3-1 victors over Tottenham Hotspur.

HONG KONG // Manuel Pellegrini celebrated his debut victory as coach of Manchester City as Edin Dzeko's first-half header was enough to defeat South China in the Asia Trophy on Wednesday.

Pellegrini had missed City's previous pre-season match to be at his mother's side before her death last week in Chile.

"It was important to see my mother before she died," he said.

"She was an old woman, and she was sick. Life must end sometime. I appreciate that I was able to see her.

"Now that is finished and I am here and I am thinking only about Manchester City."

The victory was City's first in three pre-season matches and puts them in the championship match of the four-team Asia Trophy tournament versus Sunderland, who earlier defeated Tottenham Hotspur 3-1.

"We are preparing the whole squad to arrive at the Premier League start in our best moment," Pellegrini, the 59-year-old Chilean, told the club's website. "So it is always important to win, but not absolutely necessary at this time of the year.

"I think it was a very useful game for us. It was necessary to improve, physically and technically. As we play more matches, the players are playing with more enthusiasm."

The match marked the unofficial debut of Alvaro Negredo, the Spain striker purchased from Sevilla for an estimated £20 million (Dh112.7m). He came on in the second half and nearly scored on an acrobatic effort.

"It was good to start and get some time to play with the lads. I really enjoyed myself," Negredo said. He conceded a goal would have been nice on his debut. "It was really, really close, a cross from [Aleksandar] Kolarov. It was close, but what is important now is to get fit for the league."

Pellegrini said he has high hopes for Negredo. "I know him very well from the Spanish league, and what he did today was no surprise to me. He is a very good striker and he will be very useful. Our target was to have him be an important forward because we need a competitive team, not just in league but in the Champions League."

Negredo expressed delight with his new situation.

"I'm overwhelmed," he said.

"It's a team with a lot of top players, and they have been extremely friendly to me and I'm very happy to be here."

Dzeko nodded in a James Milner cross in the 21st minute of the Asia Trophy match at Hong Kong Stadium to secure City's passage into the tournament's final.

Due to torrential rain, the Sunderland game with Tottenham began 30 minutes behind schedule, and was reduced to 40 minutes per half, a format then also adopted for the City contest.

Pellegrini, appointed as successor to the dismissed Roberto Mancini in June, included the midfielder Fernandinho, one of City's summer signings, in the starting line-up and saw his team look comfortable in the opening exchanges, with Dzeko firing into the side-netting and Yaya Toure then having a header saved.

City took the lead when Milner neatly evaded a challenge on the right and delivered a ball which Dzeko headed into the ground and past the goalkeeper from close range.

 

Sunderland 3 Tottenham Hotspur 1: Jan Vertonghen injures ankle at Hong Kong

HONG KONG // Jan Vertonghen faces a race to be fit for the start of the season after the Spurs defender suffered an ankle injury in a 3-1 loss to Sunderland.

A Tottenham side already without Gareth Bale - also injured - lost the influential Belgian international shortly after he came on as a substitute when he fell awkwardly on the wet surface.

The friendly, part of the Asia Trophy, had been delayed 30 minutes because of torrential rain at Hong Kong Stadium. Each half was only 40 minutes long.

"He might have sprained ligaments in his ankle so we obviously need the MRI to know the full extent of the injury," said Andre Villas-Boas, the Tottenham coach. "He has some range of movement, which gives us some indication that probably it may not be too long."

Asked if Vertonghen, a key man in the Tottenham defence last season, would be back for the start of Spurs' season on August 18, he added: "Depends on the extent (of the injury) from the MRI. I think because of the range of the movement that he has I think we have the possibility he will be back for the start of the season."

The Portuguese conceded that he had been concerned beforehand about the state of the pitch, which was heavily waterlogged in patches and had players slipping frequently.

"The choice of the venue is this one and the weather is unpredictable. The pitch is what it is and has always been like this in this trophy. It isn't great but nobody is going to change it for next time.

"Obviously the conditions are extremely poor and the players are vulnerable to this type of situation."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE