Man City 4-1 Blackpool: Kevin Stewart an injury worry as Seasiders are comfortably beaten by Premier League champions
Kevin Stewart suffered an injury blow on the eve of Blackpool’s league campaign as Premier League champions Man City recorded a comfortable victory against the Seasiders in their final pre-season friendly.
The midfielder was unable to continue after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury during the first-half of Pool’s defeat.
Stewart is now likely to be a doubt for Saturday’s league opener at Bristol City on Saturday, a far from ideal situation for Neil Critchley who is already missing a host of other key first-teamers.
Demetri Mitchell was forced to watch on from the stands at Man City’s Academy Stadium, wearing a knee brace after suffering a knock during the friendly at Morecambe at the weekend.
Riyad Mahrez was the standout performer for Pep Guardiola’s star-studded side, while Ilkay Gundogan scored two of the host’s four goals.
The Seasiders competed well in the opening 45 minutes after a nervy start, but the Citizens took over in the second period as both sides made a raft of changes.
Critchley suggested after Saturday’s game at Morecambe that he would make changes for this encounter and give players short on minutes a chance to impress.
Pool’s head coach stuck to his word, making a raft of alternations and opting to rest club captain and number one Chris Maxwell ahead of Saturday’s curtain raiser at Ashton Gate.
Demetri Mitchell missed out through injury having taken a knock to his knee against the Shrimps at the weekend.
Elsewhere, Daniel Gretarsson (shoulder), Matty Virtue (ACL) and Gary Madine also remain sidelined through injury.
Kenny Dougall, who is making good progress on his return from a knee problem, was left out, while Teddy Howe, Bez Lubala and Joe Nuttall still aren’t featuring.
There was a surprise start for Sky Sinclair, the son of former Pool and Man City winger Trevor. The defender, who is only 18, recently signed pro terms with the Seasiders.
There were also starts for Stuart Moore, Oliver Casey, Josh Bowler, Oliver Sarkic, Sonny Carey and Shayne Lavery.
Man City, meanwhile, named a strong side despite being without a host of internationals that featured at Euro 2020 and Copa America.
Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez were among the starters.
Kevin de Bruyne recently returned from his break to rejoin City in training, but he took no part in this outing.
The Seasiders, as you might expect, were straight onto the back foot, as Man City built up possession patiently from the back and played through the thirds.
Whenever Pool did get on the ball, they were closed down within a split second and had no way of getting out.
The last thing the Seasiders needed to happen was concede an early goal, but unfortunately that proved to be the case.
Just three minutes were on the clock when Cole Palmer beat Stuart Moore to a loose ball before lifting home after Ilkay Gundogan’s shot had deflected into his path.
City maintained their bright start and almost added a second just two minutes later, Palmer inches away from tapping home Sam Edozie’s threatening ball in from the left.
Pool’s first venture forward saw Josh Bowler run at Nathan Ake with a penetrative, direct surge, but the hosts recovered to scramble clear.
The men in tangerine continued to stick to their guns by playing out from the back, which only invited intense pressure from the hosts.
Nevertheless, it’s clearly a tactic Critchley wants to adopt in the Championship this coming season and he encouraged his players to keep faith.
The Seasiders wasted a golden chance to level just 10 minutes in when Shayne Lavery was set free down the left.
The striker looked up and noticed Josh Bowler was in acres of space in the centre of the pitch.
Lavery’s ball into the middle was a good one, but Bowler’s first-time effort was too high and flew well over the Man City bar. The winger simply had to hit the target as a minimum.
Stuart Moore in the Blackpool goal was struggling to find his intended targets with the ball at his feet, the backup keeper guilty of two or three stray passes early on.
Moore was left scampering in the 17th minute when Mahrez’s goalbound shot deflected towards the bottom corner, but thankfully for Pool the winger’s effort dropped just wide of the far post.
Lavery was Blackpool’s standout performer early on, the striker causing havoc with his constant harrying and closing down.
The striker’s tireless had work paid off when he robbed Ruben Dias of the ball before being hauled down in the penalty area - giving the referee no option but to award a spot kick.
Luke Garbutt was the man tasked with levelling from 12 yards and he did so with aplomb, picking out the top corner with a side-footed effort.
Man City looked to regain the lead immediately, Joao Cancello sending a fierce drive just over the bar from Mahrez’s tee-up.
Pool remained a threat though, continuing to offer a threat in attack. A ball across goal reached Bowler on the edge of the box, but his touch let him down - otherwise the former Everton man would have been in a prime position to threaten the City goal.
Garbutt almost turned provider on the half-hour mark, his inviting corner almost getting a decisive touch from Oliver Casey at the near post.
Mahrez continued to cause Garbutt problems on the right flank, the Algerian using his pace to good effect to create space for himself before pulling the ball into the danger area.
The winger’s delivery beats everyone in the centre, but it still falls to Edozie who cuts inside and forces a good save out of Moore - albeit a comfortable one.
The last thing the Seasiders needed on the even of the league season was another injury, especially one to a key first-team player.
But those fears became a reality when Kevin Stewart was forced off the field after receiving treatment from the physio. Cameron Antwi was the man to replace him.
The Seasiders really ought to have found themselves 2-1 down five minutes before the break when Cancelo was sent clear on the overlap, but his drilled effort flew the wrong side of the post.
Pool made four changes at the interval, introducing Daniel Grimshaw, ames Husband, Grant Ward and Tyreece John-Jules for Moore, Garbutt, Reece James and Oliver Sarkic.
Grimshaw was picking the ball out of his own net within three minutes of his introduction against his former employers.
There wasn’t a great deal he could have done about it though, as Mahrez drove the ball past him with a pinpoint effort on his right foot.
The winger, the thorn in Blackpool’s side throughout the evening, was allowed far too much time and space though to take the ball down before unleashing his shot, Husband struggling to get out to meet him.
Mahrez almost turned provider when his cross from the right deflected and looped up towards the back post, where Ilkay Gundogan stooped down to head the ball back into the six-yard box - but thankfully Ekpiteta was there to clear.
There was little Pool could do to stop City adding a third just before the hour-mark, Gundogan sweeping home with a sublime finish from Mahrez’s pinpoint cross.
Grimshaw did well to get a touch to the German’s first-time effort, but it wasn’t enough to stop Guardiola’s men adding to their tally.
Grimshaw then did well to rearrange his feet to claim a deflected Fernandinho effort, which looked to have wrong-footed Pool’s substitute shot stopper.
It didn’t get much easier for the Seasiders as Guardiola introduced Portuguese international Bernardo Silva off the bench.
Pool could have reduced the deficit though when they broke at speed with Bowler, the winger pulling the ball back into the path of John-Jules whose effort was deflected harmlessly into the keeper’s grateful hands.
Critchley switched things up midway through the second-half, introducing Richard Keogh, Callum Connolly, Keshi Anderson, CJ Hamilton and Jerry Yates off the bench. Sinclair, Ekpiteta, Carey, Bowler and Lavery were the five to make way.
Gundogan added insult to injury when he added a fourth 16 minutes from time, tapping home a bouncing ball in the box.
The German appeared to have blatantly pulled back substitute Callum Connolly, but referee Oliver Langford let it go.
City substitute Morgan Rogers should have added a fifth with six minutes left on the clock when he blazed over, failing to capitalise on James Husband’s wayward pass.
Mahrez then forced a good save out of Grimshaw, the keeper getting the slightest of touches to the winger’s rising effort to send it over the bar.
John-Jules should have added a late consolation for the visitors when he was picked out in the six-yard box by strike partner Jerry Yates.
The Arsenal loanee swivelled well to create space for himself, but he still failed to miss the target with the goal at his mercy.
Man City continued to pepper the Blackpool goal in the final stages, but the Seasiders saw out the remaining minutes to avoid an embarrassing scoreline ahead of their curtain raiser.
Man City: Steffen, Cancelo, Dias, Ake, Mendy, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Palmer, Mahrez, Edozie, Knight
Subs: Van Sas, Bernardo, Sandler, Roberts, Couto, Moreno, Doyle, Rogers, Gomes, McAtee, Lavia, Burns
Blackpool: Moore, Sinclair, Ekpiteta, Casey, Garbutt, James, Stewart, Bowler, Sarkic, Carey, Lavery
Subs: Grimshaw, Connolly, Husband, Keogh, Antwi, Ward, Anderson, Hamilton, John-Jules, Yates
Referee: Oliver Langford
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