Tuesday 17 September 2019

City in cruise control with De Bruyne and Foden at the helm

Manchester City 2-0 Cardiff City

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal. Photo: Getty
Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal. Photo: Getty
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock congratulates Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne after the match. Photo: Getty
Aymeric Laporte of Manchester City is challenged by Oumar Niasse of Cardiff City. Photo: Getty

James Ducker

There was sarcastic applause from the Cardiff City supporters when finally, 16 minutes from full-time, they witnessed their team muster a shot on target, Oumar Niasse's effort sailing comfortably into the arms of Ederson.

If it is possible for a side to be battered 2-0, then this would probably be as fine an example as any.

Manchester City had 27 shots, almost 80pc possession and in the superlative Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, making his first Premier League start, two midfielders who bullied their opponents from the first minute to the last.

The result was a foregone conclusion from very early on, victory moving Pep Guardiola's side back above Liverpool, a point clear at the top of the Premier League with six games to go.

This was a show of strength from the champions in more ways than one.

Oleksandr Zinchenko's withdrawal after just 19 minutes with a hamstring injury means Guardiola is currently without a recognised, available left-back and yet here is his team chasing an unprecedented quadruple.

Off went Zinchenko, Danilo moved to left-back and on came the £50 million Kyle Walker.

Guardiola has had little luck on the injury front all season, but it is a testament to Manchester City's remarkable strength in depth that they are able to absorb losses that would decimate most sides.

Take De Bruyne, for example. He was largely unplayable here, tearing through Cardiff again and again, and yet Guardiola has been without this dynamic, driving force for much of the campaign owing to successive knee injuries.

Even then, it was remarkable to think that his sixth-minute strike, a superb finish from an acute angle, was only his second league goal this season.

If there is one player whose absence City do not absorb too well, though, it is that of Sergio Aguero.

Gabriel Jesus did chest down Riyad Mahrez's cross for Leroy Sane to fire in the home team's second shortly before the interval, but you had to wonder if City would have been four or five goals to the good had Aguero spearheaded the attack.

It did not matter here, and it may not do so against Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday, but Guardiola will want Aguero back for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur next Tuesday.


The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport