Manchester City bounced back from their mid-week Champions League defeat to comfortably dispatch Cardiff 5-0 in a clinical display at the Cardiff City Stadium.
City dominated proceedings early on and the ball was whizzing about on the slick playing surface. Sergio Aguero was looking lively, and Bernardo Silva skied his effort from Aguero’s pass; Sterling was guilty of something similar after another pass from Aguero.
Ilkay Gundogan had the first big chance but wasted a gilt-edged opportunity as he ballooned his shot over the crossbar. But Aguero compensated for it, scoring a few minutes later from Silva’s pass. The striker celebrated his 300th appearance for the club and City were purring.
Silva scored from a clever looping header, one which was perhaps was not meant as an effort on goal. But the best moment of the half was yet to come. Gundogan combined well with Raheem Sterling and curled an exquisite strike past Neil Etheridge to essentially wrap the game up.
The second half began on a sour note for Cardiff as Lee Peltier was stretchered off after a shoulder injury. Leroy Sane and Aguero both had chances to score but failed to capitalise. Riyad Mahrez came on for Aguero on the hour mark, and marked his appearance with a goal; it was a simple tap-in from Gundogan’s pass which was the first City goal for the Algerian.
Mahrez scored a delightful second late on to round off an easy win for City. A job well done for Guardiola.
City bounce back from Champions League defeat
Pep Guardiola’s men lost 2-1 to Lyon in their Champions League opener on Wednesday in what was a listless performance. They failed to deal with Lyon’s press and succumbed to a rather tame defeat to raise questions about their mentality. Kevin De Bruyne’s absence was also keenly felt against the French side.
But they bounced back comprehensively today, even though it was against a winless Cardiff side. Aguero, Silva, and Gundogan impressed, and City were helped by Guardiola’s return to the touchline after his ban kept him away on Wednesday.
No side is going to avoid setbacks in their season but City have shown that they have the ability to bounce back from their rare losses. City have dropped just two points in the league and they are still favourites to reach the knockout stages in the Champions League. Guardiola will surely hope that the loss against Lyon was nothing more than a blip.
Cardiff are struggling in the top flight
After their six games this season, Cardiff have accumulated just two points, both of which have come by virtue of goalless draws. Simply put, the Bluebirds have struggled to score goals, which has resulted in their lowly league position.
They have scored just three goals, which speaks volumes about their attacking inefficiency. Neil Warnock does not have much creativity in his squad, and he managed in the Championship, but the Premier League is a different proposition altogether. Their defence, which is their strong point, has also been found wanting.
Warnock has to instil changes to alter Cardiff’s league position, which was 20th after their game against City. A loss against the Champions is not an accurate frame of reference, but the problems were definitely highlighted today.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
Guardiola deployed a 4-3-3 formation for the majority of last season in which Sterling and Sane lined up on opposite flanks with Aguero in the middle. This campaign he has tinkered with it, trying a three-man defence at times.
He has tried to accommodate both Aguero and Jesus in a 3-5-2 formation at times, but it has not been as successful. Sane has come back into the side for the last two league games, and the improvement was clear. De Bruyne’s injury also prompted a few changes, but the likes of Gundogan and Bernardo Silva can slot into the same position to maintain the formation.
Guardiola has said that his side needs to evolve, but persisting with the 4-3-3 for now could pay better dividends. Based on the recent performances, it seems a solid strategy.
Man of the match: Ilkay Gundogan
The German put in a masterful midfield display, contributing to three of the goal which included a stunning curling effort for City’s third. De Bruyne is still arguably above him, but performances like these will mean that the Belgian’s absence won’t be felt keenly.