Willy Caballero was surprised to be selected in goal ahead of Joe Hart for Manchester City’s 2-1 opening-day Premier League win over Sunderland.
New manager Pep Guardiola caused a pre-match stir by plumping for the Argentine ahead of Hart, seemingly confirming the impression that he is unconvinced by the England international’s ability to help build attacks with passes to his defenders.
Caballero opened with some uncertain handling before Raheem Sterling won a penalty for Sergio Aguero to put City ahead in the fourth minute.
The home goalkeeper saved impressively from Jermain Defoe before half-time but the same player hauled Sunderland level with 19 minutes remaining with a typically clinical finish.
However, City substitute Jesus Navas fired in a dangerous cross in the 87th minute that fellow replacement Paddy McNair was unfortunate to put through his own goal.
“It was a surprise for me. I was training very well during the pre-season to have this opportunity. I tried to enjoy it today,” Caballero told BT Sport.
“Fortunately we started very well with three points. It is better to improve and make a correction when we win.”
City dominated possession for long periods and occasionally dazzled but Caballero acknowledges there is plenty of work to be done to adapt to Guardiola’s tactics and methods during the stages of his reign, with the next test coming in Tuesday’s Champions League play-off first leg versus Steaua Bucharest.
“For sure, this is a new country, a new club for the boss but the ideas and the way to play – we know a lot how he wants to play but it is difficult because we are trying together with the whole squad for only two weeks.
“This is the best way to start and we have a lot of days to keep improving.”
John Stones made an assured debut at centre-back for City – playing alongside Aleksandar Kolarov, whose unfamiliarity with the role was evident at times throughout the contest.
The 22-year-old was encouraged by how his new team-mates carried out Guardiola’s brief four days on from the switch from Everton that made him the most expensive defender in Premier League history.
“We’ve been working hard the three or four days I’ve been here and I think we brought a lot of good things to the game,” Stones said.
“We showed what we’re capable of and hopefully we can take that into Tuesday’s game. There are a lot of things to work on as well but we’re pleased to get the three points.
“We were patient with the ball and chose the times to go and attack. That’s what the manager wants. We weren’t careless with it; maybe some times we could have played a bit quicker but that’s football and we decided to keep it.
“I was pretty pleased with all the boys, how we kept the ball, and I’m sure we’ll find some things to work on in training.”