Dubai: After all the drama of the World Cup and countless pre-season friendlies, competitive football in England’s top flight returned as Manchester City and Sergio Aguero outclassed Chelsea 2-0 in the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
The traditional curtain-raiser for the Premier League in England saw league champions City take on the FA Cup winners Chelsea, who now have Maurizio Sarri at the helm, having taken over from Antonio Conte during the summer break.
While many of the friendlies involving Premier League teams over the past few weeks have been criticised for their lack of top names on show — many marquee players were resting up after their World Cup exertions in Russia — both sides at Wembley had no shortage of talent on the pitch.
Club record 60 million pounds signing Riyad Mahrez started for City while Chelsea include new signing Jorginho as the mercury reached 30˚C in London.
Sarri also included 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi in his side, while City boss Pep Guardiola put teenager Phil Foden into the action from the start.
The traditional curtain-raiser for the Premier League in England saw league champions City take on the FA Cup winners Chelsea, who now have Maurizio Sarri at the helm.
Despite poor form and no place in the Spain squad at the World Cup, Alvaro Morata was up front for Chelsea, and the impressive Ross Barkley also lined up in midfield alongside Cesc Fabregas.
City started on the front foot as Chelsea looked nervy to begin with. Jorginho gave the ball away cheaply before Mahrez saw an attempt blocked.
City’s Sane was next to try his luck for City from distance after five minutes as Chelsea continued to lose possession cheaply.
The chances kept coming for City and they found the breakthrough after 13 minutes thanks to all-time top scorer Aguero.
The Chelsea defence backed off Foden, who was allowed to advance to the edge of the penalty area. From there he laid off to the Argentine striker who fired past former City goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
The strike was Aguero’s 200th for City, further stretching his lead as the club’s greatest goal-getter.
Morata was the first to threaten for Chelsea after 26 minutes, but his shot was way off target.
The remainder of the first half continued in a similar pattern, with the Chelsea fans venting their frustration at the inability to stay in possession.
However, an old problem for City made an appearance just before the break as Claudio Bravo almost allowed a long-range wallop from Marcos Alonso to bounce over his head.
After the interval, Aguero almost immediately made it 2-0 but Brazil defender David Luiz stood up and denied him. At the other end, Morata was persevering and almost had a chance before the big John Stones dealt with him comfortably.
Aguero was played in by a magical Foden after 52 minutes and the mercurial striker rounded Caballero but only to find the side-netting.
All the good work done earlier by Luiz was undone five minutes later when Aguero polished off a Bernardo Silva that had the Brazilian chasing shadows.
That made it 201 and counting for Aguero.
Time was ticking away for Sarri’s men and the flow of the game was disrupted by a series of substitutions.
Still Aguero was at the heart of every attack for City and playing like it was 2008, not 2018. His old teammate Caballero denied him a hat-trick on 75 minutes when he kept his close-range attempt out.
The Argentine took a well-earned rest on 80 minutes when he was replaced by another City veteran Vincent Kompany.
City were still hungry for more and Caballero produced a great save to deny first teenager Brahim Díaz and then Gabriel Jesus.
In they end, Guardiola had to settle for 2-0, but this result spoke greater volumes than the scoreline.
It is early days, but City still look a level above their rivals on this showing.