Edin Dzeko put Manchester City in the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy after an unconvincing 1-0 win over South China in Hong Kong.
City largely dominated the match but – aside from an impressive debut cameo from Alvaro Negredo – it was a fairly uneventful affair, and the 2011-12 Premier League champions will have to improve to see off Sunderland in Saturday’s final.
Due to torrential rain in Hong Kong, kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes and the match shortened to two 40-minute halves.
The pitch was a mess but that did not stop City dominating possession with a short, ground game typical of Pellegrini sides.
South China, meanwhile, struggled to get out of their half. When they did, the likes of Lee Wai Lim and Mamadou Barry struggled to test Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott.
Milner was impressive on the right wing as new rival Jesus Navas – and Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic – watched on from the stands.
City twice went close through Dzeko as the Bosnian latched on to excellent balls from the England midfielder to hit the side netting with a rasping drive and force a smart stop from Zhang Chunhui with a header.
Dzeko also failed to connect with a fantastic low ball from Milner, with any contact surely a tap-in.
But he finally found the back of the net with a pinpoint header from another Milner cross, Dzeko helped this time by some slack marking from a South China defence that contained two English-born players in Sean Tse and Jack Sealy.
That came midway through the half and, while there were few clear-cut chances up to the break, City continued to dominate possession as new signing Fernandinho pulled the strings alongside Yaya Toure.
The local side were more enterprising early in the second half, but City went closest as Toure dragged his finish just wide after shrugging off two defenders.
South China substitute Dhiego Martins was giving the Premier League giants – and Aleksandar Kolarov in particular – a torrid time, but fine defending from Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho spared City any embarrassment.
Just before the hour mark Negredo came on for his City debut, and the Spaniard almost had an immediate impact, sending an acrobatic half-volley over the bar, and releasing Dzeko with a delightful outside-of-the-boot pass, the Bosnian denied by a fine Zhang save.
But for all their huff and puff City failed to add a second, and while they controlled most of the match it was ultimately a disappointing performance, even by pre-season standards.
- Sports & Recreation
- James Milner
- Edin Dzeko
- Vincent Kompany
- Manuel Pellegrini