The phrase 'form is temporary, class is permanent' is one of sport's oldest clichés, wheeled out whenever a team or individual emerge from the doldrums to recapture past glories. Yet in the case of Sergio Agüero and Yaya Touré, following the way they combined to send their team to victory last night against powerful opposition, it is not a phrase that that can be considered to have lost its original meaning. They have turned cliché into fact.
Their team appeared to be on the ropes before the match had started. Only one point gained between Christmas and New Year and suffering from a collective bloody nose after losing their last game with the final kick of the match, the knives were out and being sharpened by supporters of their rivals.
In the first ten minutes of last night’s game, the team appeared shaken by what had gone before. The opposition had most of the possession, the players were losing individual battles and the crowd was restless. Then Sergio Agüero received the ball 30 yards from goal and provided the millions watching with an acute demonstration of what constitutes world class.
Receiving the ball on the half-turn, he looked up and burst into the space in front of him. Most strikers, when faced with an imposing opposition defender, would have chosen to play the percentages and attempted to bend the ball outside him in a hopeful attempt at the top corner. Agüero did the opposite, hitting the ball with pace and swerve inside the defender and suprising the opposition goalkeeper who couldn’t get down quickly enough. One shot, one goal, his team off the ropes and coming out fighting.
If Agüero was a boxer he’d be a pugnacious Welterweight. All rapid fire combinations and slippery movement. In that sense, Yaya Touré would be a true Heavyweight, and it was he who delivered the knockout blow 23 minutes later. With his side still struggling for possession and lucky not to have conceded, a long clearance relieved the pressure and resulted in a corner.
Criticised in the past for not being as dominant in the air as a man of his stature should, Touré timed his run to perfection and powered home the header. Later in the game the PUMA star also won his side a penalty, but by then the victory had been secured by two world class footballers who showed their ability to perform when it really counts.