Manchester City players, left, converge on Inter Milan's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
There were no tantalizing bicycle kicks like last year, and the "beautiful game" was a little ragged at times, but Baltimore's exposure to international soccer still produced its share of memorable moments Saturday night.
Much of the meaningful action unfolded in the first half at M&T Bank Stadium, where a modest crowd announced at 36,569 saw two early scuffles, one suspect red card and one spectacular goal.
Throw in an own goal by Manchester City in the second half, and European champion Inter Milan dominated for a 3-0 victory in the preseason friendly.
The loss closed out Manchester City's four-game American tour this summer. The Blues were playing without manager Roberto Mancini, who flew back to his native Italy on Friday to be with his gravely ill 74-year old father, Aldo. In Mancini's absence, assistant manager Brian Kidd took over.
The critical moment for Man City came early. It lost midfielder Patrick Vieira 21 minutes into the game on a questionable red card. Vieira went up for a pass on Inter's side of the field and collided with Marco Materazzi, who came in late. Materazzi went to the ground clutching his face, and in the ensuing moments, Vieira was ejected by referee Baldomero Toedo for a flagrant elbow to the head.
Kidd said there was no intent by Vieira to hurt Materazzi.
"When that happened, it altered things slightly," Kidd said. "It didn't help, but it's not an excuse."
In Inter Milan's first game under new manager Rafael BenÃÂÃÂtez, Italy's SerieA champs looked polished and took advantage of several Man City mistakes. Inter took offense on several occasions at what it perceived as hard or dirty tackles, and the London team paid the price in a heated "friendly."
Nsofor Victor Obinna was a lightning rod for Inter. He was constantly around the goal and in position to score against overmatched defender Adam Johnson.
Obinna just missed the game's first goal in the sixth minute, when his header from the 6-yard box sailed over goalkeeper Joe Hart. But he made up for it in the 38th minute with a sensational strike from just inside the left corner of the penalty box.
Obinna appeared to score again in the 54th minute. The Nigerian international took a long cross from Goran Pandev on the right side and had only Joleon Lescott to beat. Obinna stutter-stepped, regrouped and then hammered a left-footed shot that deflected off Lescott and darted past goalkeeper Shay Given, a second-half substitute.
It was scored an own goal by Lescott, who had come on for Yaya TourÃÂÃÂ©.
Man City, 1-3 on its U.S. tour, was dysfunctional on attack. In the midst of a huge spending spree for the world's top players, City showed very little. Of four high-priced players recently signed, only TourÃÂÃÂ© played, and he did not distinguish himself.
The longer the game went, the worse City played. But the tone of the game was established early, when Man City's Vincent Kompany and Pandev collided going for the ball. Both came away with yellow cards as pushing turned into shoving.
BenÃÂÃÂtez said the physical play indicated the game mattered to both teams.
"I think that meant the game was good and important for everyone," he said. "Sometimes these things happen. ÃÂ It is good for the game."
Late in the game, Inter's Samuel Eto'o was incensed after another hard foul. But Inter wasn't able to capitalize on a free kick -- Cristiano Biraghi's shot from 30yards was blocked.
Moments later, though, with Inter on attack, Biraghi got the ball back after an errant Man City pass. He quickly fired a shot to the near corner that found the inside of the net as Given flailed helplessly.
Inter finished with 14 shots on goal and six corner kicks, compared with the Blues' five and one. Man City was whistled for 12fouls in a dispiriting effort.