City’s pre-season preparations got off to a positive start at the Academy Stadium as goals from Riyad Mahrez and substitute Sam Edozie secured a friendly victory over Preston North End.

With several members of the first team squad still on their summer breaks after their Euro 2020 and Copa America duties, manager Pep Guardiola selected a starting eleven that blended youth alongside experience for the visit of the Championship side.

With Zack Steffen deployed in goal, Fernandinho, Riyad Mahrez, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy were all handed starts while youngsters Iker Pozo, Ben Knight, Morgan Rogers and Cole Palmer were afforded opportunities too.

And the craft and know-how of Mahrez was evident as the Algerian executed a brilliant curling 25th minute free-kick to open the scoring.

There was a new look City after the break with the boss making 10 outfield changes to hand a host of other youngsters their big chance.

One of the new faces, Edozie, capped a fine night’s work with a superb close-range finish after an inviting assist by James McAtee to set the seal on an impressive opening outing.

The only negative on the night was a worrying injury to City substitute keeper Cieran Slicker after an accidental clash with Preston sub Tom Bayliss which saw the youngster stretchered off after a lengthy delay.

Everyone will wish Cieran a speedy recovery.

STRIKE ONE: Riyad Mahrez fires home his first-half free-kick
STRIKE ONE: Riyad Mahrez fires home his first-half free-kick

What happened

It may have been 59 days since our last action – last May’s Champions League final loss to Chelsea – but City soon looked to slot straight back into our familiar, fluid groove.

And though four of the starting eleven – Steffen, Ake, Dias and Cancelo - had only returned to training yesterday, City’s movement and possession was soon evident.

Indeed, Mahrez had the ball in the North End 90 seconds in only for the effort to be disallowed for offside.

Preston keeper Conor Ripley had to be alert on 16 minutes to deny Ben Knight after a slide rule pass by Iker Pozo had put the 19-year-old clear in the box, Ripley diving low to smother Knight’s goalbound shot.

However, City’s patient pressure eventually told on 25 minute thanks to a quite exquisite free-kick from Mahrez.

After Morgan Rogers had been upended 20-yard out, the Algerian captain stepped up and executed a superb curling free-kick into the top left corner of the net to open our account in fine fashion.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic, however. Steffen then had to be alert as he raced to superbly intercept the ball away after Barkhuizen latched onto a long ball that had evaded the City back line.

ACTION STATIONS: Iker Pozo takes the fight to Preston
ACTION STATIONS: Iker Pozo takes the fight to Preston

The City keeper then produced another crucial interception, diving to cut out a low cross with the unmarked Barkhuizen waiting to apply a tap-in.

A sublime City move featuring Mahrez and Mendy then saw the French full back set up Palmer from just eight yards out, but the youngster’s shot was too strong.

There may have been a completely new look to City’s outfield ten after the break but the familiar touchstones of patient, possession-based attacking football were evident in abundance.

Edozie – one of the stars of our EDS and Under-18 title winning squads of last season was unlucky to be denied by Ripley after ghosting past the North End backline.

But there was no denying the teenager and, after some sublime skill from James McAtee, Edozie latched onto a 64th minute through ball and despatched a fine finish inside the near post.

City could have further extended our lead but all told it was an excellent way to kick off preparations ahead of the new campaign.

First footing

It was a more than usual opening pre-season assignment for Pep Guardiola’s players.

After a week’s work on the CFA training field, the examination of a proper match against testing and talent.

NO GO : Ben Knight is denied by the Preston 'keeper
NO GO : Ben Knight is denied by the Preston 'keeper

And there were numerous positives for the boss to draw upon.

Aside from his goal Mahrez and Joao Cancelo dovetailed to great effect down the right channel in the opening 45 minutes while Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias also partnered impressively.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen also impressed both with his handling and distribution as well as his all-round alertness.

Young guns shine

Any opportunity to experience first team action under the guidance of Guardiola is a priceless lesson and all of the City youngsters acquitted themselves with distinction.

Palmer, Pozo, Rogers and Knight all worked tirelessly for the cause in a competitive first half and the 10 outfield youngsters who then saw action after the break looked equally at home.

Comfortable in possession and eager to express themselves, it was another reminder of the exciting talent evident throughout the Club.

And Sam Edozie’s sublime strike from McAtee’s fine through ball capped a night none of the youngsters are likely to forget.

NO ENTRY: Nathan Ake puts the squeeze on Preston
NO ENTRY: Nathan Ake puts the squeeze on Preston

Pep reaction

“All of them (the young players) were really good. The team is in a good condition, they were committed, they did really well.

“For everybody after a tough season, it was so demanding, and rest is important.

“Mentally, a lot of the players were in the Euros and Copa America, and they didn’t have time (to recover), which is why they have to rest.

“I know we will have time, we have the Community Shield and we are going to try.

“The more games we play the better we will feel. We’re going to have the feeling day by day that we feel better. Tomorrow, we train again.


CITY X1: Steffen (Slicker 65, Steffen 78)), Cancelo (Moreno 45), Dias (Sandler 45), Ake (Edozie 45), Mendy (Couto 45), Fernandinho (Gomes 45), Pozo (Burns 45), Rogers (McAtee 45), Knight (Bolton 45), Palmer (Roberts 45), Mahrez (Smith 45)
Subs: Egan Riley; Charles; Hamilton.

PRESTON: Ripley, Van Den Berg, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Earl, Ledson, Whiteman, Potts, Barkhuizen, Evans

Subs: Hudson, Bauer, Rafferty, Cunningham, Bayliss, Browne, Leigh, Harrop, Sinclair, Thomas, Walker, Maguire, Riis

What’s next

City step up our pre-season preparations this Saturday with our second summer friendly when we play host to Barnsley at the Academy Stadium.

For COVID-19 safety precautions, the game will again be played behind close doors but CITY+ subscribers will again be able to watch all the action live on our channels.

Kick-off against the Championship side is pencilled in for 6pm.

DOUBLE STRIKE: Sam Edozie makes it 2-0 for City
DOUBLE STRIKE: Sam Edozie makes it 2-0 for City

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