A 4-2 win away from home, saw Manchester City extend their Champions League unbeaten run to 4 games as they lead group F with 12 points.
Man City’s undefeated Champions League rampage
Manchester City’s undefeated Champions League rampage continues as they saw out Napoli in a 4-2 victory in Naples. It was a night of milestones for two players, both Sergio Agüero and Dries Mertens. Mertens made his 200th appearance for Napoli, while Agüero became Man City’s all-time top goalscorer (178 goals). Man City conceded the opening goal of a match for the first time since 26th August against Bournemouth. Yet, they still ran out victors and continued their unbeaten run this season.
The 30-minute win
Napoli started the match full of fire and taking the fight to Man City. The home side needed to do so if they stood any chance of winning the fixture. Napoli’s early press forced Man City to do it all in their own half. Man City spent 81.38% of the first 15 minutes inside it. The early press resulted in a goal for Napoli from Lorenzo Insigne after a lovely flick assist from Dries Mertens. This goal may have been to the detriment of Man City as it seemed to wake the away side.
Manchester City upped the tempo and turned through their gears to score from a corner. Quick thinking from Kevin de Bryune at a corner saw İlkay Gündoğan get the ball. A precise cross into the box found Nicolás Otamendi, whose header met the back of the net. This was İlkay Gündoğan’s first assist for Man City since 29th October 2016. Man city smelt blood and piled on the pressure, Napoli found it really tough to keep up with the pace and skill of the City players and thus resulted in City’s victory.
The dangers of reaching top gear
Man city had it all to do after Napoli took the lead. John Stones scored City’s second goal which was his 7th career goal, of which 4 have come in the Champions League. It seemed that their set-piece play, counter-attacking and pure quality outclassed Napoli. With players who can not only pass the ball well but precisely and quickly, Man City seem to be unstoppable when they reach their top gear. The pacy attackers combined with the passing range of a Kevin de Bryune, backed by the domination of Fernandinho disabled all the attacking prowess of Napoli.
Jorginho did find an equalizer from the penalty spot, this after Leroy Sané brought down Marko Rog fairly clumsily. This seems to liven up City even more which lead to the milestone goal for Agüero after a blistering counter-attack, which started from a Napoli corner. Raheem Sterling finished Napoli off after a perfectly weighted pass from de Bryune, which came from yet another counter-attack.
Man City may not be popular for their defensive displays over the years. However, Pep Guardiola seems to have bolstered his defense and put together key combinations that are working well. As much as Napoli saw Jorginho return, after missing their trip to The Etihad, it was not enough. Dries Mertens managed to win 4 out of 13 duels and did not look like much of a treat, except for a few moments in the match. This goes to show how far City has come and how well their team chemistry has come.
Where to from here?
Man City face Arsenal at home in their next Premier League fixture, while Napoli faces mid-table Serie A side, Chievo Verona. Both sides will most likely want to win their fixtures and remain top of their domestic leagues. Man City are now through to the last 16 in the Champions League while Napoli needs a near miracle to qualify.
In a post-match interview, Pep said: “I love Napoli – we suffered a lot in the first 20 minutes, we need teams like them in the competition. We’re pleased that we are through and I am pleased for some of my players who played amazing like Sterling, Sane, Gundogan and Danilo. I’m especially pleased with the personality – it is a great win for us.”
It was interesting to note City celebrate by most of the team huddling together after they scored. It may show some insight into the unity and bond the City players are forming. If that is the case, they look set to challenge in all competitions and may surprise even their harshest critics.
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