Manchester City moved top of Group A following a convincing 4-1 victory over Club Brugge last night. Goals from Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus sealed the win after the Belgian side had threatened to hold them for much of the evening.
In a week that had seen the blues knocked out of the League Cup and losing at home to Crystal Palace, a win against the Belgian champions would be a vital lift ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
City had failed to score in 180 minutes of football, an unusual statistic for the blues considering their free-scoring attitudes of recent seasons. But City, as they did in the match in Belgium, looked like blowing their counterparts away in the opening 15 minutes of the match as City dominated. Joao Cancelo hit the post after a lightning break down the left.
Cancelo cut out a cross-field ball and laid it off the Jack Grealish before continuing his run forward. Grealish picked out the full-back superbly with a return pass, and Cancelo’s shot beat the keeper, but not the post as it bounced off the woodwork.
If Brugge had breathed a sigh of relief, it wouldn’t last long. The blues continued to press and Mahrez danced his way into the penalty area but couldn’t get his shot away. Finally releasing a pass to Cancelo, the Portuguese defender fired across goal where Foden was waiting to tap home.
It was little more than City deserved, and with PSG behind in their match at Leipzig, City were top of the group. But the faithful’s celebrations last a little over two minutes as the visitors drew level in fortuitous circumstances.
Ederson saved a powerful shot from 12 yards out from Vanaken, and the ball fell on the right to De Ketelaere. His cross was met with an attempted clearance by Bernardo Silva, but he sliced his kick, and the ball hit John Stones in the face before bouncing into the goal.
City continued to press, but by this stage, Brugge were holding the blues at bay and, with PSG now leading in Germany, qualification for City was looking like going down to the wire.
The blues stepped it up a little in the second half and got the goal their play deserved 9 minutes into the second half. Ilkay Gundogan’s glorious ball over the defence found Mahrez in acres of space, but the Algerian either tried a shot or cross that turned into neither and the ball rolled harmlessly across goal.
Cancelo picked up the loose ball and swung in a cross that found Mahrez completely unmarked, and this time, there was no doubt where the ball was going, and City were back in front. It was a fantastic ball by Cancelo, evading the heads of the defenders and beyond the keeper, leaving Mahrez with the simple task of redirecting the ball into the goal.
City were hitting their stride and Sterling, who hadn’t scored for 12 matches, got himself on the scoresheet, but it was Foden and Gundogan who were the architects. The Stockport Iniesta’s pass forward released Gundogan behind the Brugge defence, and his perfect slide-rule pass found an unmarked Sterling, who tapped home number 3.
There was still time for City to grab a fourth and, with Leipzig levelling late against PSG, Jesus scored City 15th goal of this season’s competition.
Cole Palmer, who scored in the match in Belgium, charged forward before Cancelo took over. The defender thought about the shot but instead played in Jesus, who curled a low shot beyond the keeper to make it 4-1.
City top the group and victory over PSG in the next match will not only see the blues qualify for the last 16, but also go through as group winners. It was also the perfect warm-up for Saturday’s trip to Stretford as the blues look to get their Premier League campaign back on track.
Final score: Manchester City 4-1 Club Brugge