The easiest way Manchester City could have taken the pressure off debutant goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon would have been to score a lot of goals. That’s exactly what the home side did, defeating Norwich City, 7-0, on Saturday.
The Romanian goalkeeper had little to do all game. Manager Manuel Pellegrini handed him his first Premier League start in place of Joe Hart, whose troubles this season have been well documented.
His teammates at the other end helped him by scoring early and often.
In the 16th minute, Canaries midfielder Bradley Johnson got the last touch on the opening goal. Gaël Clichy overlapped on the left flank and sent in a cross for David Silva. His initial shot was blocked, as was Sergio Agüero’s follow-up effort. However, that block ricocheted off Johnson and looped into the goal.
Just four minutes later, Silva would find the target. Samir Nasri found Agüero over the top on a counter-attack, and he laid the ball off for Silva’s late run into the penalty area. He made no mistake this time, smacking the ball past John Ruddy in the Norwich goal.
Nasri got another assist, helped by a defender, five minutes later. His corner kick found Matija Nastasić at the near post, and he headed into a defender, the deflection deceiving Ruddy on its way into the goal.
The fourth came from center forward Alvaro Negredo. Silva and Yaya Touré exchanged short passes on top of Norwich’s penalty area before slotting the ball through to Agüero. The Argentine was in an offside position when the ball was played, but the flag stayed down.
Shortly after, Pantilimon made the only tough save he needed to preserve his clean sheet. Gary Hooper took his chances from long distance, and the lanky Romanian needed nearly all of his 6-foot, 8-inch height to touch it around the post.
Yaya Touré added a fifth in the second half, curling a world-class free kick directly into the top corner from about 23 yards out on the hour mark. Agüero added a goal of his own after his two previous assists, slamming home a volley from around the penalty spot after a soft clearance by Sébastien Bassong in the 71st minute.
Substitute forward Edin Džeko capped it off in the 86th minute with a nice turn and strike inside the penalty area. The cheers from the City crowd felt almost ironic by that point, as its team won through seven different goalscorers. Pantilimon never looked uncomfortable in his Premier League debut, as his team outshot Norwich, 26-7.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Costel Pantilimon — Gaël Clichy, Matija Nastasić, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta — Yaya Touré, Fernandinho — David Silva (Jesus Navas, 73), Sergio Agüero, Samir Nasri (James Milner, 70) — Álvaro Negredo (Edin Džeko, 46)
Unused substitutes: Joe Hart — Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Aleksandar Kolarov
Norwich City (4-4-2): John Ruddy — Sébastien Bassong, Steven Whittaker (Johan Elmander, 46), Michael Turner, Russell Martin — Martin Olsson, Bradley Johnson, Leroy Fer, Anthony Pilkington — Jonathan Howson, Gary Hooper (Josh Murphy, 46)
Unused substitutes: Mark Bunn — Wes Hoolahan, Javier Garrido, Luciano Becchio, Ryan Bennett