Raheem Sterling’s Manchester City debut was overshadowed by the old guard as Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany made the decisive contributions in an impressive 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
Having seen rivals Chelsea and Arsenal both slip up over the weekend, Manuel Pellegrini’s team took full advantage as they provided an early glimpse of their Premier League title credentials with a dominant display at the Hawthorns.
Toure and David Silva combined to hand City the initiative just nine minutes in, with the Spain international flicking home his teammate’s shot with the aid of a deflection, although the Ivory Coast midfielder was credited with the goal.
Toure doubled City’s advantage 15 minutes later and Belgium defender Kompany added the third after halftime to cap a confident opener for last year’s runners-up, who sit top of the table after the first round of fixtures.
Sterling, signed in contentious circumstances from Liverpool for a club record ￡49 million (US$76 million) over the off-season after his attempts to force a move from Anfield, should have joined his new teammates on the scoresheet.
The England winger spurned a glorious opportunity during what was an encouraging, however far from flawless, competitive bow for his new club, which lasted 74 minutes before he was substituted.
Deployed on the left side of a three-pronged attack, Sterling’s pace, trickery and movement posed problems for Albion, but he lacked the finishing touch in front of goal City would expect for their investment.
West Brom manager Tony Pulis will hope the arrival of their own record signing, ￡12 million Venezuela forward Salomon Rondon, will signal a marked improvement from them after his capture from Zenit St Petersburg hours before what was a disappointing start to the season.
That his side lost the initiative so early on will have been of particular frustration to Pulis.
Jesus Navas’ cutback was met by Toure, on the edge of the area, and his shot was, with typically textbook technique, flicked goalward by Silva, only to take a further deflection off Craig Dawson and dribble over the line beyond the wrong-footed Boaz Myhill.
Given the speed at which the ball traveled, Myhill, who remained rooted to the spot, may feel he could have been quicker to react.
Albion were penned into their own half by City and looked bereft of attacking ideas.
That City doubled their advantage came as no surprise and it was a goal made in the Ivory Coast as Toure played a neat one-two with Wilfried Bony — handed a start with Sergio Aguero left on the bench following his Copa America exploits — before wrapping his foot around an superb curling shot that flashed into the top-right corner.
Sterling then fluffed his lines as he spurned a glorious chance of a debut goal just before the interval when played clean through by Toure, only to give Myhill a chance to block his shot.
Myhill foiled Sterling again from a tight angle soon after halftime.
Whatever Pulis said at half-time roused West Brom, though, and there was immediately more purpose to their game upon resumption.
One of Sterling’s colleagues at Anfield last season, Rickie Lambert, almost marked his competitive Baggies bow in style with a brilliant free-kick that whistled agonizingly over.
However, any home hopes of a revival were stopped in their tracks when Kompany met Silva’s corner at the near post to beat Myhill with a looping effort that appeared to come off his shoulder.
The last thing the Baggies wanted to see was the introduction of Aguero, who replaced Bony for the final third of the game, but the Argentine did not need to get out of first gear with the points already in the bag.
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