Manchester City rue 1-0 Barclay's Asia victory after Matija Nastajic is injured
Ace defender Matija Nastajic is stretchered off with apparent ankle injury, but Pellegrini insists it was result of a kick not disgraceful ground
Manchester City won the Barclays Asia Trophy last night, but may rue participating after the disgraceful pitch seemed to claim another victim.
City beat Sunderland 1-0 thanks to a superb first-half volley from Edin Dzeko, but Matija Nastajic, the 20-year-old who was the best young defender in the Premier League last season, was stretchered off, clearly in considerable pain.
"I can't tell you [how bad the injury is] now, the doctor has to see him tomorrow when he arrives in Manchester," said City manager Manuel Pellegrini. "We are concerned, it is his ankle and the doctor is looking at it, but we won't know until tomorrow."
Pellegrini refused to blame the pitch, insisting the injury was the result of a kick, not a twist like that suffered by Spurs' Jan Vertonghen on Wednesday. "I don't think so," he said when invited to blame the surface. "It was part of the game and it could have happened on any pitch."
Perhaps, but Manchester United are not taking any chances. They cancelled today's planned open training session at the stadium, denying fans the chance to see their heroes up close; reports in England yesterday even claimed they were examining their contract with Kitchee to see if they could get out of the friendly, with manager David Moyes admitting he was worried.
The pitch deteriorated almost immediately upon kick-off between Tottenham and South China; a fresh downpour that started during that game continued for much of the final. Both teams escaped unscathed until the 72nd minute, when Nastajic went down.
City's goal came in the ninth minute, Dzeko volleying in viciously from 25 metres out after a Sunderland defensive header bounced perfectly. That seemed to set the match up perfectly for the crowd of 40,000, but there was not a great deal to keep them entertained as the rain got heavier and heavier, and the pitch muddier and muddier.
City were comfortably the better team. They could have doubled their lead when Sunderland's Craig Gardner headed against his own post just before half-time, in the 65th minute when Dzeko punted a penalty over Hong Kong Sevens-style (then glanced accusingly at the pitch - as if there were something wrong with it?), and when Gardner cleared impressive debutant Jesus Navas' shot off the line in the 77th minute. One goal was all the fans got however, although they enjoyed booing Samir Nasri, for no apparent reason, every time he touched the ball.
Pellegrini has been told he must win five trophies in five years at City; his Abu Dhabi paymasters will not count this one. "For me I'm very happy," he joked. "It's a relief for me, I just need four more!"
For Hong Kong, the event turned into something of an embarrassment, with television viewers worldwide amused, amazed and angry that hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of players were being put at risk.
You wondered what Moyes and his players Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were thinking as they watched from the stands. "What are we doing here?" perhaps.