Patrick Vieira took charge of his first match as City EDS manager on Day Four in Croatia.
The opposition couldn’t have been much more familiar, however, as two City EDS/U18 XIs locked horns in Novigrad.
Alex Henshall scored the game’s only goal at the start of the second third and Angus Gunn saved a George Glendon penalty in an entertaining, technically sharp encounter.
Here’s how the teams lined up:
Team 1 (Blue): Lawlor, Drury, Adarabioyo, Plummer, Leigh, Intima (sub: Hardy), Glendon, Byrne, Ntcham, McHale (sub: Bryan), Trialist.
Team 2 (Bibs): Gunn, Horsfield, Evans, Bossaerts, Marin, Hutton, Fofana, Bytyqi, Henshall, Barker, Rusnak.
It was an opportunity to see City’s new system for the first time in a game scenario and it was interesting to see if the players could transfer their tactical work from the training field to the pitch.
Vieira divided the game into three 20 minute periods and used each segment to experiment with a few formations and systems.
Kean Bryan, Brandon Barker, James Hardy, James Horsfield, Tosin Adarabioyo, Jack Byrne, Jorge Intima, Dominic McHale were all drafted in from the under-18s but they were far from making up the numbers on the field as opportunities were seized to impress the new boss.
The pace of the game was set from the early exchanges and the blue team had a great chance to take the lead after Glendon was pulled down in the area by Mathias Bossaerts after George got on the end of a great pass from McHale.
Glendon picked himself up to take the penalty but Gunn was equal to the task, flinging himself to his left to make the block with his legs.
The impressive Horsfield then cleared off the line from an Olivier Ntcham shot to maintain parity at the end of the first third.
Henshall broke the deadlock in the early minutes of the second period in style after sprinting in from the left side and slotting a shot across Ian Lawlor into the far corner.
It was a reminder of the Swindon-born winger’s promising talent after his spell away from the club on loan at Chesterfield last season.
Both sides showed plenty from the drills we’ve seen through the first few days but I won’t risk the wrath of Patrick Vieira by saying too much and doing other Premier League clubs' scouting jobs for them!
Ellis Plummer had the final third’s best chance for an equaliser for the blues but his improvised volley from the edge of the area just whistled past the post with Gunn scrambling.
The crowd of spectators grows with each passing day and there was a full stand for this game, showing that word has got around that City are in town.
This was supplemented by the under-17s who came down to support the teams and to get a first-hand look at what is on offer if challenges are met.
I must say that the team spirit on evidence across all of the age-groups so far is incredible with so much respect and good humour on display between the younger players up to the coaching staff.
There’s a tangible sense of excitement at what’s on the horizon, not just with Patrick’s appointment but with the upcoming move to City Football Academy and the hugely encouraging words of Manuel Pellegrini in his first interviews about youth been given its chance to flourish at the club in his reign.
Coaches have printed off newspaper articles with these quotes on for each squad member on the trip to motivate and inspire them to take the incredible opportunity they have at City.
Tomorrow the boys are having a recovery session in the morning and will then enjoy a first trip off the complex to visit one of the last standing coliseums in the world.
Although the players have their hands full with getting fit and sharp for the new season, boredom is always something the coaches are eager to avoid, so it’s hoped that this recreational afternoon will keep cabin fever at bay.
City EDS take on the Croatian u20 champions NK Osijek on Tuesday in the bigger stadium just down the road – their first “proper” game of pre-season.
We’ll bring you a report from that game, as well as half-time and full-time updates on Twitter.