The glass half-full view says this was Borussia Dortmund’s sixth pre-season outing to City’s second and they were missing many of their stars from the starting XI, so this draw in normal time against a team who defeated Manchester United 4-1 last week in Shanghai is a fine result.
The half-empty take is that City currently lack of rhythm, desperately need more game-time and, certainly before the break, showed an inability to heed one of Guardiola’s prime demands: not to hoof the ball sky- and goal-wards.
Fabian Delph, Fernando and the goalkeeper Willy Caballero were all guilty of doing what Guardiola does not want.
This should have been a third outing under Guardiola, but Monday’s cancelled derby with United in Beijing meant there had been only 90 minutes of play under the 45-year-old as this game began. That was last Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss against Bayern Munich, Guardiola’s former club.
Guardiola sent his side out with a three-man defence featuring Nicolás Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov and Tosin Adarabioyo. Gaël Clichy and Jesús Navas were the wing-backs, Fernando – the least advanced – Fabian Delph and Ferdandinho formed the midfield trio, with Olexsandr Zinchenko, a kind of floating No10 behind centre-forward Kelechi Iheanacho.
City’s opening was scrappy, with Caballero making a series of dodgy clearances and allowing a Marcel Schmelzer cross to squeeze under him dangerously.
Guardiola was unimpressed and during a drinks break after 25 minutes the manager headed straight for summer signing Zinchenko to give him a stern telling off. That may have been about the pass the Ukrainian failed to push into Navas’s path when the Spaniard had a chance to shoot.
Before that break in play City split Thomas Tuchel’s side open when fancy Iheanacho footwork gave the striker space for a shot but the effort lacked power. Delph, who would later drive Guardiola to despair with an aimless pass, also had an opportunity. He broke impressively into the area but, again, there was a lack of conviction about his attempt.
The derby was called off due to concern about the pitch at the Birds Nest Stadium and it did not take long for the Shenzhen Universiade Stadium surface to cut up, a factor that contributed to a first half low on quality.
With Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna and Kevin De Bruyne having a post-Euro 2016 rest and not with the squad here, Guardiola chose to leave David Silva, Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling, Yaya Touré, Samir Nasri, Nolito and Wilfried Bony out of the XI. They were on the bench, while Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta were not, though it is understood neither player is injured.
Guardiola introduced Agüero, Silva, Bony, Touré, Aleix Garcia, Jason Denayer, Pablo Maffeo and the goalkeeper Angus Gunn at the break.
The pitch continued to be an issue though with the better quality of player now on City were able to press higher and hunt the ball.
Bony, in the middle, Agüero to his left and Silva to his right were City’s new attacking trio in what was now a 4-3-3. They carried a threat absent in the first half with Bony latching on to one Silva pass and worrying Roman Buerki, the Dortmund keeper, with the attempt.
As with Dortmund’s match against United the crowd was disappointing: the 60,000-capacity venue was around a third full. What did not disappoint was City’s willingness to scrap and ensure Gunn’s goal was not breached: Maffeo making one impressive clearance when Dortmund threatened the City defence.
There was a major scare when Shinji Kagawa helped create a chance for Gonzalo Castro but the Dortmund player failed to finish. That miss was punished by Agüero’s 79th-minute opener, the Argentinian finishing a squared pass from Silva.
But with virtually the last kick of the game Christian Pulisic equalised to take the game into a penalty shootout, despite the cancellation of the derby meaning the ICC trophy was not at stake. City won the shootout 6-5 but, really, it was academic.
City’s next match is against Arsenal in Gothenburg on 7 August. Guardiola hopes to arrange an extra friendly for next week. His new City side need it.
Manchester City (3-5-1-1): Caballero (Gunn, ht); Adarabioyo, Otamendi (Denayer, ht), Kolarov (Celina, 78); Navas (Maffeo, ht), Delph (Touré, ht, Sterling, 85), Fernando (Aleix Garcia, ht), Fernandinho, Clichy (Agüero, ht); Zinchenko (Silva, ht); Iheanacho (Bony, ht, Nolito, 85).
Borussia Dortmund (4-4-1-1): Buerki; Ginter, Papastathopoulos, Bartra, Schmelzer; Leitner, Sahin, Rode, Dembélé; Mor; Ramos.
Referee: Fu Ming.
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