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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 4 August, 2020

Pep rolls dice and Benjani rolls back the years in Kompany testimonial... Also, just watch Paul Scholes

Benjani spared Guardiola’s blushes with a last-gasp equaliser at the Etihad.

Benjani produces his trademark celebration following his late leveller.
Benjani produces his trademark celebration following his late leveller.
Image: Martin Rickett

JUST WHEN IT seemed like it might be a game best remembered for all the wrong reasons from Vincent Kompany’s perspective — namely for some kind of sorcery from Paul Scholes, which we’ll get to in a minute — another Premier League icon spared Man City Legends’ blushes as he rolled back the years at the Etihad Stadium.

Who else but Benjani?

With City trailing a Premier League All Stars outfit 2-1 and looking shorn of ideas, his introduction on 71 minutes by Pep Guardiola surely sparked murmurs of discontent among the hometown faithful: the 41-year striker retired in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League all of five years ago, and had left Portsmouth for PSL outfit Chippa United two years before that.

But reports that the Zimbabwean had been ‘flying in training’ were substantiated deep into the 89th minute when he rose highest to power a header past Shay Given and send the strong crowd into raptures.

Granted, he rose highest while challenged only by Jamie Carragher, also 41, who had started for Roberto Martinez’s men and at this point was moving like a ride-on lawnmower, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the header.

Nor was there anything wrong with the celebration, which hadn’t been witnessed in the same parts since 2010. (And in case you’ve ever wondered, the meaning behind it is fairly ronseal. The forward once explained: “I’m addressing myself to the fans and saying, ‘I like you, and you and you.’)

He sent them home happy tonight, as did the main man Kompany who, while he couldn’t play himself due to injury (“Typical of me, right?” the City great joked earlier), raised massive funds for Tackle4MCR — a combined effort by Kompany and the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to address rough sleeping and homelessness in the city they once shared.

OxoVGquTQNWlgy5VpE0T_Capture1 Source: Morgan, Richard (Sky Sports)

6dzCLmX0TECoN5AvZiAQ_Capture Source: Morgan, Richard (Sky Sports)

It was one of the greatest of Greater Mancunians who had threatened to steal the show, however.

Paul Scholes’ preposterous flicked pass for Tim Cahill, which was greedily pilfered by PL All Stars goalscorer Robin van Persie — who took the game too seriously, frankly — was the talk of social media for the final half an hour, accruing serious #numbers and breaking the hearts of Manchester United fans across the globe.

Regardless of your footballing allegiance, we as a people may never know glory like this pass again.

Earlier at the Etihad, Gary Neville made an absolute bags of it as former City winger Martin Petrov opened the scoring for the hosts.

Neville, whose role on this evidence could have been filled to equal effect by Off The Ball’s Joe Molloy, limped off with what he claimed was his first-ever pulled hamstring soon afterwards. Naturally, he heard all about it from his Sky Sports punditry and PL All Stars defensive colleague Carragher.

There were a couple of hilarious challenges by former United midfield duo Scholes and Nicky Butt — the former with a trademark swipe on Samir Nasri who somehow kept his feet, the latter an open-and-shut case of common assault committed on Craig Bellamy, who also brought us on a trip down Memory Lane.

The All Stars hit their hosts on the scoreboard on 35 minutes, and it was a goal of genuine quality.

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Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie combined to tee up their talisman, Robbie Keane, who neatly registered his 378th goal in testimonial football.

Van Persie put the visitors in front early in the second half, bringing a kind of attacking intensity which seemed out of keeping with the spirit of the occasion to curl one into the far corner — this following a deft backheel by Tim Cahill, who seemed to be just trying to have a laugh like everyone else.

It was Benjani, however, who had the last laugh.

Sorry, no. The second-last.

You can read more about Tackle4MCR here.

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