Manchester City’s 2019/20 campaign started as the previous one ended, as we edged Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield after an enthralling and tight contest at Wembley. Claudio Bravo was the hero, denying Georginio Wijnaldum to give City a 5-4 shootout win which ensured our 125th anniversary season began with a victory that gave Pep Guardiola the seventh trophy of his tenure. Raheem Sterling had given City an early lead in a high-tempo game in which attacking play thrived and the intensity of the competition reflected 2018/19’s battle for supremacy. Both sides created a host of chances and Joel Matip’s header levelled and sent the game to penalties where all City's takers held their nerve. What happened Both teams returned to action as they performed last season, at full throttle. Leroy Sane had fired wide and Roberto Firmino straight at Bravo inside five minutes. The unmarked Mohamed Salah dragged wide from six-yards and it proved costly as Sterling profited from a well worked free-kick, prodding home a volley after David Silva flicked on Kevin De Bruyne’s header across goal. Liverpool’s response was instant, but Salah, having ridden Zinchenko’s challenge, shot wide. Sterling stung Alisson’s palms by way of a response and then Liverpool’s talisman sent a third chance over the bar after the Ukrainian’s weak clearance. The contest settled before the break, but a breathless encounter went up a notch in the second period. The post denied Sterling and Salah, while City were also grateful for the crossbar as it kept out Virgil Van Dijk’s clipped effort before our No.7 missed a glorious chance. Set free by Kyle Walker, Sterling was one on one with Alisson, with his full-back arriving in support, but he neither shot or passed, instead allowing the Brazilian keeper to smother the ball. Opportunity missed and then Liverpool were level. Like City’s opener, Van Dijk sent a free-kick back across goal and Joel Matip headed home from six-yards to set up a frantic final 15 minutes. Jurgen Klopp’s side had their tails up and City were thankful for the Yorkshire duo of John Stones and Walker, with the former at full stretch to block Salah’s goal-bound strike and the latter clearing the rebound off the line with seconds remaining. And so to the lottery of penalties where a trademark Bravo display, producing when it matters, sealed the win along with excellent spot kicks from Gundogan, Bernardo, Foden, Zinchenko and Jesus. Laying down a marker City and Liverpool were the runaway top two last season, playing some exceptional football in a ding-dong battle for the title that created a 25-point gap between third-placed Chelsea. It added an additional layer of intrigue to the latest instalment of English football’s annual curtain raiser, as a rivalry settled by the finest of margins resumed. In his programme notes, Guardiola labelled Klopp’s Liverpool one of the best sides he’s ever faced and this was another keenly contested clash between the two sides. That City prevailed at the expense of team the Catalan expects to again challenge for honours is a welcome confidence boost and will no doubt have buoyed the City squad ahead of the new campaign. And that sets us up nicely for the kind of fast start which has characterised our two most recent title triumphs. This team usually beautiful, but they can do gritty side of the game when required. It’s why they’ve bene so successful in recent seasons and it was why they were again at Wembley. Superb last ditch stuff, showcasing an incredible desire for victory.
Man of the Match Claudio Bravo. There were plenty of impressive displays but this game went to the wire and it was the keeper who won it for us.
Up next City’s Premier League campaign begins next Saturday, when we travel to West Ham United for the day’s early kick-off at 12.30pm. Guardiola’s side will be hoping they can pick up where they left off last season and an opening day victory would be City’s 15th consecutive league win.