Treble-winners Manchester City picked up in Tokyo right where they left off in Istanbul, lifting the J.League World Challenge 2023 trophy after an electrifying 5-3 victory over Yokohama F·Marinos.
The Citizens did not have it easy, though, needing to fight back from 2-0 down in the first half, and doing so thanks to a ruthless Erling Haaland brace and goals from John Stones, Julián Álvarez, and Rodri.
The reigning Japanese champions proved they were going to be no pushovers from the opening whistle, fearlessly deploying their usual indefatigable pressing against the European champions in their maiden pre-season outing and keeping them quiet throughout the introductory stages.
F·Marinos were clean and ambitious on the ball as well and it was a spellbinding bit of passing that made all the difference on 27 minutes when Anderson Lopes’ finish capped off an impressively flowing team goal that stretched from box to box.
Yokohama had a shock 2-0 lead less than 10 minutes later when Katsuya Nagato’s cross-field pass sliced into the path of Ken Matsubara, who made no mistake from the top of the box and sent the large Marinos supporters section into wild celebrations.
City, however, as they have shown so many times in the Guardiola era, were absolutely merciless in reply.
First, a side-footed strike from John Stones rippled the net in the 40th minute to make it 2-1.
Then, Nathan Aké rattled the bar with a header in the 43rd minute.
Finally, off the resulting goal kick, the City press suffocated goalkeeper Jun Ichimori and forward Julián Álvarez struck home the intercepted pass.
Just like that, it was 2-2 at half-time.
What emerged in the second 45-minute period can only be described as another episode of The Haaland Show, with the towering Norwegian striker scoring from virtually his first touch in the 52nd minute.
City would have a fourth tally 20 minutes later when Rodri turned, ran into space, and drove the ball past Ichimori and into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Yokohama would pull one back in the 86th minute through Kenta Inoue to muster some hope of an equalizer, but Haaland put the game to bed in stoppage time with a tap-in at the back post.
In the end, Man City deserved their victory, but Marinos can be satisfied with a competitive performance against the Premier League champs, especially given it was their third contest in eight days - this one following a disappointing 1-0 derby loss to Kawasaki Frontale last Saturday and a thrilling 6-4 win against Celtic in the midweek.
Muscat’s men will get back to focusing on the league now, while Guardiola’s side gear up for a matchup with FC Bayern München in the Audi Football Summit on Wednesday, again at the National Stadium.
If the action and atmosphere then are anything like what the 61,618 fans enjoyed tonight, we’re in for a treat yet again in Tokyo.