AS FAR as scalps go, Dundee won’t claim anything resembling this in the forthcoming season as they prepare to mix it again in the top tier of Scottish football, but should nevertheless savour their memorable win over Man City.
Scorers: Dundee - Harkins (27), Tankulic (38)
It’s still only pre-season when results matter little, but there was a sense of satisfaction and encouragement for the newly promoted side whose morale was boosted further by being able to overcome Manuel Pellegrini’s proven City side who’ve celebrated two English Premiership title successes of their own in the past three seasons.
As part of the build-up, this had been billed as the champions versus champions match as soon as it was announced the English side, with their array of top stars fresh from their latest title triumph, were heading north to face Paul Hartley’s new-look side, who’d experienced their own end-of-season celebrations by securing promotion back to the SPFL on the final day of last term.
Much of the focus was on how many of their most cherished players would grace the Dens Park turf, with around an entire team having been away involved at the World Cup Finals in Brazil.
Still, Pellegrini kept his promise of sending a fairly strong side to Tayside which included news signings Wilfred Caballero, their keeper from Malaga, along with Fernando, their £12 million capture from FC Porto, while Spanish winger Jesus Navas and Montenegro striker Stevan Jovetic took their usual places.
Yet it was the home team who struck courtesy of goals late in the first-half from midfielder Gary Harkins and German trialist striker Luka Tankulic.
Hartley expressed his satisfaction with German pair Thomas Konrad, formerly of Eintracht Trier, and goal-scorer and former Fortuna Dusseldorf ace Tankulic who were stand-outs on the day.
“I was pleased with the trialists. I thought they did really well,” Hartley said. “Luka did very well up front. It is difficult to play as a lone striker but he did it well. And Thomas at centre-back was really strong. He worked away well with James McPake and was very commanding.
“The two of them have been training away with us for the past week. I was really pleased with the way they played today. We looked at them last week and just wanted to see them in a game. It was a tough test for them.
“We will speak to them before they go back tomorrow. They’ve got a couple of options so we’ll see. They settled in well with the squad last week and speak good English. They’re young, the are hungry and want to do well.
“It was a good work-out for it being our first game. It doesn’t come much tougher than this.”
After a few days spent at their training base in nearby St Andrews, the visitors headed to the City of Discovery to grace the Dens Park turf the night before as fans from both sides came to catch a glimpse of the English champions limbering up for this 4pm kick-off.
Dundee, though still only pre-season, couldn’t afford to sit back and admire or else their first warm-up match for the new campaign could have ended up proving to be something of a difficult afternoon, and they were in no mood to suffer in the Tayside heat.
Hartley, with nine summer signings already in the bag, moved swiftly to land keeper Grant Adam who was handed the proverbial baptism of fire after signing just 48 hours before kick-off, with first choice Kyle Letheren suffering from a calf injury and Scott Bain recovering from appendicitis.
Before referee Bobby Madden sounded his whistle for kick-off there was all-round applause on sight of the English Premiership trophy being taken onto the field, along with the Championship trophy, and to make the trip complete there was also the Ryder Cup.
There were no prizes at stake for this encounter, but at best maybe an inkling as to how Dundee would fare on their foray back into the top flight following their promotion success from the Championship at the end of last season.
Anything resembling a positive result would have been enough to send spirits soaring just weeks before the real stuff gets under way, and the hosts found themselves on the right lines when they took the lead in 27 minutes.
Harkins, on being bundled inside the box by Jason Denayer, stepped up to take the resultant spot-kick. His effort was saved by Caballero but the former Kilmarnock and St Mirren man did enough to force home the rebound.
Then, in 38 minutes, Dundee had the audacity to go even further ahead. This time Harkins hooked a cross into the box where Tankulic was waiting to send a shot outwith the reach of Caballero, with the aid of a deflection.
City, not surprisingly, made nine changes at half-time while Dundee trio Paul McGinn, Phil Roberts and Iain Davidson all entered proceedings.
Peter MacDonald, the Dundee substitute, had a chance to make it 3-0 in 73 minutes as he beat the City offside trap, but watched his lobbed effort go wide.
There was also time for Dundee teenagers Craig Wighton and Cammy Kerr to get late run-outs, before the usual shirt-swapping at the final whistle.
Dundee: Adam, Irvine (McGinn 46), McPake (Benedictus 60), Konrad (Kerr 80), Dyer (Wighton 80), McBride (Stewart 60), Thomson (Davidson 46), Cadogan (Riley 60), Harkins (MacDonald 60), McAlister (Roberts 46), Tankulic (Boyle 60). Sub not used: Letheren.
Machester City: First half: Caballero, Bossaerts, Kolarov,Boyata, Denayer, Navas, Rodwell, Reges, Huws, Guidetti, Jovetic. Second half: Caballero, Wright, Lawlor, Rekik, Mastasic, Clichy, Leigh, Garcia, Nasri, Sinclair, Negredo, Huws, Richards, Zucilini.