Pep Guardiola’s team will encounter greater challenges in the Champions League but for now they deserve to enjoy a job done very impressively.
City failed to win away from home in last season’s competition and Guardiola said: “Of course this was a perfect start. It’s important to play good.”
City offered a supreme display of attacking in their Group F opener. Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus both scored, to take the pair to seven goals in five outings in all competitions. The manager has insisted they can dovetail, and the Argentinian-Brazilian combo is certainly proving him right.
The Catalan also showered praise on the ever impressive Kevin De Bruyne. “He’s one of the best players I’ve seen in my life, in terms of [being able to do] absolutely everything,” he said. “He’s top, top quality. We are so proud and happy he’s with us.” This is some bouquet given that Lionel Messi is among the footballers he has previously coached.
Pre-match, the City manager was eager to stop “dreaming” of Champions League success, yet his team had a fantasy first-half that ended in a 3-0 lead, the first goal coming after 100 seconds.
David Silva raced along the left and forced a corner. What followed was simple for John Stones as he headed the Spaniard’s delivery at Brad Jones’s net. The ball hit Tonny Vilhena but squirmed over.
There had been a party atmosphere before kick-off as Feyenoord fans regaled those in attendance with a version of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, but 10 minutes in and City had doubled their lead. Kyle Walker – recruited for just this kind of right-back play – whipped in a cross from which the lethal Agüero hooked home. It was a near-sensational start for City.
Guardiola had made two intriguing selections. First was Ederson’s surprise inclusion, the goalkeeper making a swift recovery from the facial damage suffered when Sadio Mané clattered him during Saturday’s win over Liverpool. The Catalan’s second choice was of interest, though no surprise given his attacking ethos. Out went the defender Danilo and in came the Portuguese forward Bernardo Silva, the sole change.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst was without Nicolai Jorgensen, who had top-scored with 21 in Feyenoord’s 15th Dutch title season, their first since 1999. What the manager needed, though, was a far firmer defensive block. Each time City roved forward they tore the home side apart.
Feyenoord finally managed a foray towards the skull-capped Ederson on 20 minutes. Michiel Kramer took aim and Stones deflected the ball out for a corner. This was about to become a stroll for City, though. Yet again they came at Feyenoord with pace. Benjamin Mendy hit a rocket at Jones and when he saved, his team stood still. This was because Nicolás Otamendi was a postcode offside but Jesus was not when finishing and that was 3-0. By the interval it was virtually men-versus-boys. City ended the half toying with Feyenoord.
Guardiola’s second-half instructions to his men were surely to simply keep on keeping on. Van Bronckhorst’s move was to replace Steven Berghuis with Jens Toornstra but, really, the head coach might have replaced any of his misfiring outfield players.
City did indeed continue where they left off. Stones stifled an attack and found David Silva. An instant flick inside and De Bruyne was away. The move broke down but the excellent Belgian was soon stroking one of his incisive passes down the right as City continued to terrorise Feyenoord.
This was now akin to a training exercise. The sky-blue shirts pinged the ball around and on the hour Guardiola could afford to take off Agüero for Raheem Sterling. A few minutes later City were four up. De Bruyne’s growing influence was fully illustrated as his perfect ball from the left allowed Stones to head home his second goal. “There is no doubt of his quality,” Guardiola said of the Yorkshireman. “He’s going to become an exceptional centre-back.”
Watford, at Vicarage Road, are up next, on Saturday. Marco Silva’s side will hardly fancy facing Guardiola’s men then.
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