For anything it lacked in competitiveness, a match Sunday between Manchester City and AC Milan made up for it with lots of goals and even a little bit of star power.
Manchester City thrashed their Italian foes, 5-1, in an International Champion's Cup match in front of an announced crowd of 34,347 at Heinz Field, the largest to watch a soccer game in Pittsburgh.
While Manchester City kept its five World Cup players on the bench, fans were treated to some familiar faces as Mario Balotelli and Michael Essien made their preseason debuts for AC Milan, coming on at halftime as their team tried in vain to make up the massive deficit.
Soccer fans ready for match at Heinz Field
Thousands of fans are expected to attend an international soccer match between Manchester City and A.C. Milan at Heinz Field. (Video by Nate Guidry;7/27/2014)
"I think it was a very good game for our team," Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "It's important to win and also important to score five goals. Not only that, I feel like we played with a good pace and that for me is important."
Stevan Jovetic scored two goals to lead Manchester City, opening the scoring in the 12th minute and closing it in the 58th. In between, the English team got goals from Scott Sinclair, Jesus Navas and Kelechi Ihenacho.
AC Milan actually looked more dangerous going forward in the first 10 minutes, but Jovetic put Manchester City on the board first in the 12th minute when he took a pass from Navas on a well-timed run and beat Milan goalkeeper Michael Agazzi to the near post.
"The first 10 minutes, [we] started off really well but then every time Man City entered the penalty area, they scored," AC Milan manager Filippo Inzaghi said via a translator. "Part of that falls on [me]. The focus in training hasn't been as much on the defensive side of the ball and playing without the ball. The focus has been on possession and when they have the ball."
Sinclair made it 2-0 just two minutes later when he corralled a pass from Gaël Clichy in the penalty area and slotted it past Agazzi's right side.
Navas scored probably the best goal of the game in the 23rd minute, when he took a diving side-volley attempt that deflected off an AC Milan defender into the back of the net.
Three minutes later, Ihenacho turned it into a rout when he beat a diving Agazzi from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Milan got its only goal in the 43rd minute, when captain Sulley Muntari, who played for Ghana in the World Cup, poked home a bouncing ball in the box.
Inzaghi brought on Balotelli and Essien at halftime in hopes of inspiring an offensive comeback. Balotelli did put the ball in the back of the net, but was flagged for being offsides.
Balotelli and Essien did not play in AC Milan's ICC opener Thursday, but Inzaghi said their fitness levels coming off the World Cup dictated a 45-minute performance Sunday.
Instead of an AC Milan comeback, though, Jovetic put an exclamation point on Manchester City's romp with a one-touch goal on a feed from Aleksandar Kolarov in the 58th minute.
"Stevan I think that he had very bad luck last year," Pellegrini said. "He had a lot of injuries for the whole year. For a player, it's very difficult to come and really have an important performance when he cannot play three games in a row.
"I think that now that he is continuing every day, he will demonstrate why he is here at Manchester City. I think he's a very good player."
AC Milan actually outshot Manchester City, 11-9, but the teams were even with six shots apiece on target, and Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero obviously had the edge with five saves to just one for Agazzi.
Balotelli's biggest involvement came just before the final whistle, when two fans in AC Milan jerseys ran onto the field and took a selfie with him before they were escorted off by security.
After the match, Inzaghi said it was evident that there was a significant gap in terms of how prepared each team was for its upcoming season.
"It's very clear in this sort of tournament, you look at the British teams, some of the German teams, some of the Spanish teams, they're pretty far ahead of the Italian clubs," Inzaghi said. "That's something that the Italian clubs need to work on in the coming years."
And while the on-field result was obviously disappointing, Inzaghi said he was very pleased with the atmosphere and fan support his team received in the United States.
Despite a 25-minute weather delay at halftime, most fans stayed for the second half.
"It was a great atmosphere," Inzaghi said. "Usually when AC Milan comes to the U.S., they get a lot of support from their fans here. He hopes that on Saturday [we're] able to give them a better result on the field."
Pellegrini, too, said his club benefits immensely from preseason tours in the United States.
"It's important for a lot of things," Pellegrini said. "Sports things, marketing things. I think that we can play against important teams. In 10 days, we can play four games. For us, that's also important in preseason."
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG First Published July 27, 2014 12:00 AM