MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City grimaces in pain after sustaining an injury during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton at Etihad Stadium on August 19, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
There is nothing quite like the anticipation and excitement of the seasons opening fixture and a Sunday afternoon match versus Southampton provided all the thrills and spills that has maintained the Premier League as the most entertaining brand of football worldwide.
For City, take the money and run. For Southampton, consolation will come from their bright display here which confirms that they can trouble top flight defences and that they won't be overawed by dining at the top table of the domestic game.
The early stages were marked by a potentially serious injury for Sergio Aguero. Stretchered off with a knee injury, the severity of which is as yet unclear, the door opens for Edin Dzeko to reiterate his desire to establish himself at the club and for Mario Balotelli to confirm that he is serious about football this year and less so about on pitch misdemeanours and headline generating antics off it.
With City returning to the fluid 4-4-2 of last season the surprise name on the teamsheet was that of Jack Rodwell, selected ahead of Nigel de Jong, who like Adam Johnson, appears to have a limited future at the club. David Silva, despite his long summer with Spain and lack of pre season with the club was restored to the starting line up, although it would prove to be a game to forget for the Spaniard, spurning the opportunity to give City the lead from the spot, missing a great opportunity to extend the lead early in the second half and generally lacking the brightness and precision passing that one has come to expect.
With Balotelli benched and Aguero on a stretcher, penalty duties could have been expected to fall to the reformed Tevez, despite his previous failings from 12 yards. Silva stepping up was a surprise and his tame spot kick was comfortably saved by Davis diving to his left. The miss seemed to set City back a little and epitomised the air of complacency around the stadium in general.
However, City regrouped and began to build momentum as the half drew to a close. With Nasri again demonstrating that he is now bedded into the system, Tevez, despite appearing to be marginally offside, finished clinically at the near post following a smart pass from the Frenchman and City were away. Or so we thought.
A second half that was notable for missed opportunities was blown wide open with the introduction of Richie Lambert who scored his first Premier League goal, finishing well just inside the area after capitalising on some lacklustre Blues defending. When Rodwell tainted his promising performance by undercooking a pass on the edge of the Saints box, a swift counter attack climaxed with Steve Davis firing in a debut goal to put his side 2-1 up and pose some serious questions of the champions credentials.
The response was gritty. Dzeko levelled soon after following a half cleared corner and Nasri expertly found the top corner with ten minutes remaining after a naive defensive clearance fell into his path, securing the goal to reward his overall display.
It was all a bit too much for the opening match after the heart palpitations of 13th May 2012 and was the third 3-2 City victory on the spin. Missed chances and a below par performance by the defensive unit almost proved costly and whilst it is premature to talk of dropped points and title ambitions in August, a title winning season is a long sprint with little room to manoeuvre as last season proved. Eyes are now cast to Merseyside as Everton host United, with half of Manchester adopted Scousers for the evening, before City take on Liverpool at Anfield next Sunday.
For that fixture and beyond City will undoubtedly need to tighten up. This game was a microcosm of the challenges reigning champions can expect especially when facing fearless opposition with nothing to lose and with complacency in danger of becoming a new enemy. Football is back, City are back and the drama is undoubtedly back.
Man of the match: Sami Nasri