Manchester City delivered an early statement of intent as the Premier League champions comfortably overcame last season’s runners-up Liverpool at Etihad Stadium.

Stevan Jovetic scored either side of half-time to punish Liverpool, who dominated much of the first half without creating the opportunities to go with their excellent work-rate and approach work.

And as Liverpool’s new £16m signing Mario Balotelli watched from the directors’ box against his former club, any hopes of a comeback were snuffed out when Sergio Aguero slid home the third 23 seconds after coming on as substitute for the injured Edin Dzeko.

Pablo Zabaleta’s own goal at least got Liverpool on the scoresheet but the last 20 minutes were played out as a formality, such was City’s control.

Jovetic’s first season at City was hampered by injuries but he has form for tormenting Liverpool after scoring twice against them in Fiorentina’s Champions League win in 2009 and he showed his quality again here.

Liverpool are in a period of transition with nine new signings this summer following the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

And, while they were the better side for the first 40 minutes, they never recovered from an error by debutant Alberto Moreno that allowed City to take the lead just before half-time.

The pleasure for Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will not just come from the victory, but also from the fact that it was achieved without ever truly hitting the heights against the team who pushed them to the final day of last season’s title race.

For City, without needing to be at their best, this was very much business as usual for the reigning champions.

Liverpool will obviously miss a player of Suarez’s world-class calibre but Rodgers must also be given time to bed in his reshaped squad, and these early days of the season will represent a work in progress.

Rodgers will also be hoping the maverick Balotelli will provide the sort of X-factor Suarez provided without the accompanying unsavoury headlines once he gets down to business after completing his move from AC Milan.

Liverpool’s greater strength in midfield numbers and intense pressing posed problems for City until the deadlock was broken after 41 minutes in a manner the visitors’ manager would have found hugely unsatisfactory.

Dejan Lovren attempted to find Moreno with a header in the area but the £12m signing from Sevilla hesitated, allowing Jovetic to pounce and beat Simon Mignolet.

If Jovetic’s first goal owed something to a Liverpool lapse, his second, 10 minutes after the restart, was a superb team goal started and finished by the talented Montenegrin.

Jovetic’s brilliant flick set Samir Nasri free and he continued his run into the area to end a prolonged period of City passing with another emphatic finish.

City wrapped things up in remarkable fashion with 21 minutes left. Aguero made his entrance to replace Dzeko and, within seconds, he was running on to Jesus Navas’s perfect pass to beat Mignolet from a tight angle.

Liverpool pulled a goal back when Zabaleta turned into his own net after a far-post scramble with Rickie Lambert, but there was no consolation on offer here, only the concern of defender Glen Johnson limping off with what looked like a groin injury.

Rodgers will hope Balotelli can help bridge the gap between the sides over the course of a season but this was an impressively understated win from City.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: “We worked the whole game and played a very good team. We worked without the ball for 95 minutes and with the ball we made enough danger to score three goals.

“When you play against a strong team you have to concentrate and our concentration and intensity was good. Liverpool are an important team and one that will be fighting for the title. It’s so important to get six points from our first two games as it was a very difficult start for us.

“Stevan Jovetic was very unlucky last season and he had so many injuries. He has been patient and worked very hard to come again. We bought him because he is a very good player, he had a good pre-season and I’m very happy for him – he deserves it.

“We need four strikers. At this moment Stevan is doing very well but you cannot forget Alvaro Negredo is injured. Edin Dzeko and Jovetic and Aguero are working well. It is important that they continue playing the way they did.”



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