By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
It wasn’t the ideal start to Manchester City’s pre-season on Friday night, but with more games to come and not a whole lot at stake, it can be neatly brushed under the carpet. City lost to Al-Hilal of the Saudi Premier League on Friday night in Innsbruck. That’s in Austria to save you the hassle of scrambling for Google Maps. Roberto Mancini’s side featured such superstars as Vincent Kompany and Carlos Tevez, but they got sucker-punched 1-0 thanks to a Alabid Nawaf Shaker goal.
On the same night, Newcastle also suffered a 1-0 defeat, to Chemnitzer FC who ply their trade in the third tier of the German league. The Magpies started with a team of familiar names, but with enough squad players to call it far from full-strength and therefore not get too worried about it. As the game went on, Alan Pardew introduced some of his big guns, but despite creating a few chances, they couldn’t equalise. No-one was too bothered.
It’s been so long since it happened, the Arsenal players looked bemused when someone tried to hand them a trophy after their games with Southampton and Anderlecht. Courtesy of a win over the Belgian outfit and a draw with the Saints in two 45 minute games at St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, they claimed the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup. It will now take pride of place in the Arsenal tophy cabinet. If anyone can remember where they left the keys. The Gunners were far from full strength in both games, a fact emphasised by the fact Marounne Chamakh was playing, but Henri Lansbury impressed with his work-rate and goal against Anderlecht and Gervinho was the biggest eye-catcher against Southampton.
Aston Villa looked awful in Paul Lambert’s first game in charge. Thankfully that was more down to the awful luminous green/yellow away jersey they were sporting because they actually played quite well against Burton Albion. The Villains won 2-1, but the return of Darren Bent and promising showing from new signing, Brett Holman that will have the over-optimistic outlooks flowing. The Australian scored a delightful low-curling shot to win the game. Lambert even had the luxury of making 10 changes at half-time, giving the majority of his squad a leisurely run-out.
Reading bulldozed AFC Wimbledon 7-0 in an exercise that – in terms of preparing you for a return to the Premier League – was probably about as helpful as sipping Pina Coloda’s on a Mediterranean beach. Simon Church grabbed a hat-trick within 15 minutes of coming on and manager, Brian McDermott got to give 23 of his players pitch time during the course of the cakewalk.
Everton gave Morecambe a sound 4-1 trashing on the Lancashire coast. The result was nice, but the performance of former Portuguese youth international Francisco Junior was more encouraging. The 20 year old signed for the Toffees on a free last February and he impressed with a goal and energetic display. Leon Osman was pulling the strings for David Moyes’ men, which is probably an indication of how seriously you should take this game, but it was good to see Jack Rodwell get on the scoresheet with a tidy lob on his return from injury.
West Ham continued their hectic pre-season programme by beating Southend 3-0 at Roots Hall. Sam Allardyce named a fairly strong team and goals from Jordan Spence, Nicky Maynard and Sam Baldock were enough as much of the squad got to stretch their legs.