August 2003
City v Barcelona 2-1 August 10th att. 36,500
Manager Kevin Keegan says to Nick Anelka - just score the first goal and I'll just love it!
After an 'over-the top' burst of music that would have broken any environmentalist's decibel reader the teams emerged with a minimum of fireworks - budget constraints - I expect!
Ali Benarbia is presented with a special award on his last appearance in City colour's before 'retiring' to Qatar in the Gulf.
When they announced that there would be national anthems I half expected we might also get the Marseillaise with so many French players in the City team!
The lack of video screens at the ground was compounded by the poor timing and variable quality of the 'tannoy' system. Announcing the teams just when there was likely to be a lot of noise from the crowd is just poor communication. Why wait until the teams come out before giving the teams. Oh someone will say - "it will give more impact" - pointless if you can't hear what is being said -or read too quickly to note in the progamme- which incidentally gave no numbers for the Barcelona players.
Apart from a photographer who wandered around the ground oblivious of the moment, the crowd observed the minutes silence for Marc-Vivian Foe perfectly.
Ronaldinho was given a warm welcome by the City fans - and I certainly would not be put out if we swapped Fowler for him!
With Barcelona putting out a strong side it was no surprise to see them put early pressure on the City defence - Kluivert missing an early chance - left
Yet another chance for Kluivert. This time Seaman makes a good save - right
Left - Turkish keeper Rustu Recber saves with Anelka hoping the visiting keeper will spill the ball. Guarding the keeper is Michael Reiziger who nearly came to City in the summer. Is he still a target I wonder!
New City keeper David Seaman punches clear from a corner- right
While transfer listed ( for how long ?) Berkovic waits in the wings, Ali Benarbia says his farewells to rapturous applause from his many City fans. A standing ovation for a player that played a vital part in City's present position. He had enjoyed his 29 minutes in City's magnificent new stadium
Where is the ball I wonder as Ronaldinho tries to get past a brick wall in the guise of Bosvelt, Sommeil and Distin.
A free kick in a goal scoring position ( didn't I see some Real Madrid player score from a similar position recently - his name escapes me!) for Barcelona and Ronaldinho to take. However with David Seaman already moving to his right the ball hits the City wall and goes for a corner.
Berkovic soon made his presence felt when with his expertise. Here giving the Barcelona defence a fright with keeper Recber helpless

It was not long before City took the lead .After 35 minutes Berkovic bustled Reiziger into giving the ball away to Anelka who gratefully slid the ball past the Barcelona goalkeeper- left.

The first goal to be scored in the new Stadium and City were deservedly in the lead.

Anelka accepts the plaudits of the City faithful after his goal.
Sinclair clashes with Recber ending with the Turkish keeper requiring treatment
Number 18 Saviola turns away after equalizing for Barcelona in the 58th minute . Patrick Kluivert provided the through pass
Ronaldinho again breaks through but is thwarted by Seaman.
A good ball from Berkovic to Sun and a cross met by Sinclair and Repkar is beaten for a second time and City are back in front. The time - 67 minutes. It was a stunning header and a well deserved winner.
Paulo Wanchope - on for Anelka - nearly made it three when his header rebounded off the post.
Our first look at new signing Sibierski - heading , who made an excellent cameo performance in the latter stages
With the old gasometer in the distance the gentle circular walk down makes a change from the old staircase at Maine Road.
Down 'Blue Camp Way' they streamed all smiles at a good start to life at the new home. Not so happy were the many motorists stuck in the car park - apparently locked in until all the pedestrians had passed ! A blip to be sorted. Ideally a bridge or tunnel would have prevented this holdup. Fortunately my car was easy to get away from a private car park some ten minutes walk away.
So are we any nearer guessing the City lineup for Charlton. The defence looked pretty solid with Distin and Sommeil the men in possession at the centre of defence. The full back positions are open though. Though personally would prefer the missing ( I wonder why?) Tarnat to Tiatto though the latter played well. Sun played OK but sometimes his lack of experience at this level lets him down and Keegan might go for someone with more experience. The midfield especially if Berkovic stays ( I hope he does) looks quite strong while up front the only problem is the abysmal form of Fowler. Wanchope has yet to partner Anelka ( in public) so if Fowler does not score against Total Networks in midweek then I expect Wanchope to be given the nod. After all there must be limit to Keegan's patience.
Seaman 7: Sun 7, Sommeil 7, Distin 8, Tiatto 7: Wright-Phillips 8, Bosvelt 7, Benarbia 6, Sinclair 7: Fowler 5, Anelka 8
subs - Dunne 6 - Sibierski 7 - Berkovic 8 - Wanchope 7 - Macken 6 - Barton 6

City v TNS 5-0
August 14th att. 34,104
It seems an eternity since I last saw City play in a European competition and although the opposition on this occasion was not of the highest - remember City have fallen to minnows before - so nothing was taken for granted. From the first whistle the Welsh League runners-up defended in depth so it was not going to be easy to score. Noting some of the criticism's leveled after the Barca game, the PA system had been improved and it was possible to hear the announcements - at least where I was.
With new signing Bosvelt watching skipper Distin wins an early heading dual.
An early shot by the electric Wright -Phillips just flies past the far post with TNS keeper Doherty raises his hands in surrender!
A TNS defender saves on the line from Sinclair put through by Anelka and the ball goes for a corner.
The Berkovic corner is headed out by a defender straight to Sinclair at the edge of the box and he volleys the ball past the diving Doherty for the first competitive goal scored in the City of Manchester Stadium or 'The Blue Camp'. 14 minutes it took for the first of City's goals.
The visiting supporters with a distinct lack of daffodils or welsh cakes which is not surprising as they come from Oswestry - in the League of Wales ? Hope they didn't leave a virus when they left!
A great cross by Anelka ended with a defensive header which ran to Fowler whose goal bound shot was stopped on the line by Naylor - or was it hands - the City players thought so. Half time and 1-0 to City.
Sommeil to Wright-Phillips and the effervescent City midfielder let loose a late dipping shot from just outside the area that beat Doherty for the second City goal 6 minutes into the second half.
After 60 minutes Anelka sent Fowler away and his late left foot cross from just on the line was headed in from under the bar by Jihai Sun who had followed up his initial pass in midfield. Three nil to City
Wanchope, on for Fowler, forced a corner . The resultant Berkovic corner was fisted out by Doherty but only to Barton who whipped in back at goal where it was deflected by Sommeil (just out of picture) past the despairing keeper for number four for City after 74 minutes
With only three minutes left Berkovic passed to Wright-Phillips who pushed the ball forwards into space for Anelka to run onto the ball and bang it past Doherty who will remember his evening at the City of Manchester Stadium. Five nil for City which equals their highest win in Europe.

The ground is ideal for the ' Mexican Wave ' and so we had several efforts around the ground at all levels and even the 'posh set' joined in the fun on this special evening at City's first competitive game at the City of Manchester Stadium. The light blues did not really have to put much of a sweat on to beat TNS who really came to keep the score down. So the five goal buffer has made the return in Cardiff a formality but it was a useful run out prior to the game on Sunday at Charlton when the season really starts.
I liked the cross field passing of Tarnat , the solidarity of Bosvelt, the pace and work rate of Sinclair and Wright-Phillips, the energy of Anelka, and the probing of Berkovic. The defence didn't have much to do - Seaman for the most part could have read a magazine and the back four looked solid though in truth their defensive qualities were hardly troubled
Team :- Seaman 7: Sun 7, Distin 7, Sommeil 7, Tarnat 7: Berkovic 7, Wright-Phillips 8, Bosvelt 7, Sinclair 8: Anelka 7 Fowler 6:
subs - Wanchope 7, Barton 7, Tiatto 7

City v Portsmouth 1-1
August 23rd att. 46,287
On this opening of the Premiership season at the new stadium we were greeted with a new electronic scoreboard and a hike on the progamme price up to £2.50 now - so much for inflation! Pity the quality of the City performance didn't go up as well. After the win at Charlton I suppose it was too much to hope for a second win in succession. Half the team were well off the boil - poor inaccurate passing and a distinct lack of penetration against a hard working Pompey team was the order of the day. There were times in the first half when City were being outplayed - by a side we were supposed to be beating easily! Such is life being a City supporter. I really thought this situation was going to end now we were starting a new 'life' .
As promised the great Bert Trautmann was here to greet the crowd and accept a special award from Chairman John Wardle.
The teams enter the field on this special occasion -the first league game at the City of Manchester Stadium.
Fowler holds hands with a Pompey defender during this City attack
Fowler nearly scores early on but is adjudged offside. He was injured shortly before and was substituted at half time by Wanchope.
The first league goal at 'Eastlands' came to the visitors and not the home side. A long ball from defence - was it offside I wonder - the over weight linesman didn't think so - caught Sommeil napping and the speedy young Nigerian striker Yakubu skipped round Seaman (left) to score. In all honesty in this first 24 minutes Portsmouth looked the better side and City appeared jaded in all departments. Minutes earlier a poor back pass by Distin was cleared by Seaman right at Yakubu . The rebound came as such a shock he put it out for a goal-kick.
The new scoreboard is up and running and now instead of the old clock we have a digital minutes to go display. Damn - that makes my stopwatch redundant. I hope they put a matching board in the opposite corner. The PA system had also improved since last time so as usual with City the management had listened to moans from supporters.
The second half showed a slight improvement and this fierce free kick by Tarnat hit the post.
A good run by Wright Phillips ended with him shooting just past a sprawling Heslop and the far post. Maybe a pass to an unmarked Anelka might have been a better option.
With time running out City equalized. A free kick taken by Joey Barton deep on the left was headed home by David Sommeil (no. 2 ) from the edge of the six yard line. Phew! The extra time played provided a couple more chances for City to win but the Pompey defence held out.
Portsmouth continued to dominate the first half although Seaman didn't have any difficult saves to make. Too many City passes were going astray and little pressure was put on the Portsmouth goal. Half time 1-0 to Pompey.

As the evening sun glints on the stadium roof the City faithful make their home no doubt grateful for the point but wondering how on earth their team could have performed so poorly against an average but hard working Portsmouth side and it's Arsenal at home next!
So what went wrong? The four P's - Passing , Possession ,Penetration and Pace for a start. The quality of the passing was below Premiership standard. Possession was often lost through lack of concentration or poor control. An off day by Sibierski limited the creativity needed to penetrate the solid Pompey defence and a general lack of pace until the final few minutes City never gave the impression they were running this game.
I am sure this display will act as a warning . creativity improved when Berkovic came on for an injured Sibierski. He should have been on from the start! We saw a longer spell of Wanchope with Anelka up front and with Fowler injured we should see them together for a full game on Monday against Blackburn. Bosvelt is likely to return at the expense of Barton and how long will the manager persevere with the in and out Jihai Sun. The transfer deadline approaches with talk about Ferguson (Rangers) McManaman (Real Madrid) but these are midfielder's and I would have thought a class right back and another younger striker should be high on the shopping list. Much as I would love Fowler to start scoring, all the body language so far suggests otherwise and while Macken I doubt is real Premier class ,the fitness of Wanchope has some question marks, Vuoso is playing down Mexican way , Huckerby is in the reserves and may be heading for Leicester to join Paul Dickov, I don't believe we have a Rooney languishing in the junior sides.

Seaman 6: Sun 5, Sommeil 6, Distin 6, Tarnat 7: Wright-Phillips 7, Sibierski 5 (Berkovic 6), Barton 7, Sinclair 6, Anelka 6, Fowler 5 (Wanchope 6):