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Relentless City look ready to clean up in Europe

Quadruple appears a realistic goal as Guardiola’s side make it 19 wins in a row

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Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates with Bernardo Silva after scoring their second goal . Photo: Reuters

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates with Bernardo Silva after scoring their second goal . Photo: Reuters

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates with Bernardo Silva after scoring their second goal . Photo: Reuters

It is not just the incredible number of victories Manchester City are achieving at present but the compelling manner of them that will soon lead to talk that they can claim an unprecedented quadruple this campaign.

Win number 19 in all competitions from Europe’s form team came as they overwhelmed Borussia Monchengladbach in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie which should make their passage into the quarter-finals routine.

A League Cup inal is secured, they are running away with the Premier League title, they are in the last eight of the FA Cup but, of course, it is this competition that maybe matters most of all to Pep Guardiola and the City hierarchy. And Europe will have taken notice of this.

The holders Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, last season’s beaten finalists, Liverpool, Chelsea, maybe even another team, might bring it to a halt but it will take some effort to defeat City in this unrelenting form.

In context Gladbach were not the most threatening of opponents and had one effort on target but it is rare at this stage of the Champions League for one team to be left so engulfed as this.

In fact it is more than 10 hours since City have conceded a goal in this competition – in the opening group game – with the injury-time save made by Ederson his first in more than two hours. To think Guardiola kept Kevin de Bruyne and John Stones on the bench and took Raheem Sterling off early.

They look unstoppable with an innovative, fluid form of attacking football underpinned by a defence that looks simply impregnable. Records are falling all the time and this was their 12th away win in a row in all competitions – something no English team has achieved before.

From the kick-off City claimed 70pc possession and it felt like more. Gladbach were up against it, the ball coming back quicker and quicker as City pressed them high up the pitch with three chances to shoot spurned in quick succession inside the penalty area after Rodri’s sharp intervention.

Even more than usual Joao Cancelo moved into midfield from left-back and it proved decisive as he provided the assist for Bernardo Silva to score. The cross was wonderfully precise as Cancelo stepped inside onto his right foot, the finish a little less so as the ball came off the side of Silva’s head, but he still managed to guide it across goalkeeper Yann Sommer and into the net.

Gladbach were in danger of being over-run. They were already fortunate not to have conceded a penalty when Ramy Bensebaini slid in on Sterling as City continued to swarm around them.

In one passage of play Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling all pressed Matthias Ginter as he struggled to clear.

Due to coronavirus restrictions the contest was held at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, with Gladbach hoping to shake themselves from a mini-slump that may have coincided with the announcement that their highly-rated coach Marco Rose is leaving at the end of the season to take charge of Borussia Dortmund.

They were organised, reining in their attacking tendencies, and having finished ahead of Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan in the group stages showed they are capable of causing an upset.

But that resolve was being tested to breaking point with the speed that City moved the ballalthough Kyle Walker had to be alert as Gladbach broke away and the defender did well to cut out Stefan Lainer’s cross before it reached Alassane Plea. It proved a rare respite in the face of the relentless momentum that City maintained with Cancelo outstanding as he roamed across the pitch.

It was utter dominance. It was footballing asphyxiation. The only criticism was they had not created more opportunities but Gladbach were defending so deep and with rising desperation as Cancelo and Foden shot over. The half-time whistle felt like a mercy call from the referee.

City had no intention of letting their opponents re-set and they continued to chase them down to such an extent that when Gladbach took a goal-kick their opponents had four players across the edge of their area.

The pressure forced another error with Bensebaini passing the ball to Jesus who strode into the area but delayed and delayed with Nico Elvadi blocking his eventual shot when surely he had to score.

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Guardiola’s reaction suggested he certainly thought so.

Would they pay the price? Remarkably they almost did when Plea improvised a finish, with an audacious back-heeled flick that had Ederson scrambling as it only just cleared his far post.

The warning was heeded. Cancelo crossed, this time with his left foot, Silva pulled away and cushioned his header back across goal and Jesus redeemed himself in beating Ginter to the ball and poking it home.

The control continued with Gundogan heading down another Cancelo cross only for Foden to miscue his half-volley over.

Substitute Riyad Mahrez delayed and was crowded out as he had a close-range chance to shoot and the only irritation for Guardiola would have been that the margin of victory was not far more convincing. Given the performance it should have been. Maybe there is some hope for Gladbach? Not if City come close to this again.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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