Sub­lime De Bruyne the master­mind as City run riot

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - ANDY HAMP­SON

KEVIN De Bruyne or­ches­trated a Manch­ester City mas­ter­class as Pep Guardi­ola’s freescor­ing side thrashed Stoke at the Eti­had Sta­dium. The Bel­gian did not get on the score­sheet but marked his 100th City ap­pear­ance by set­ting up four goals for the ram­pant Pre­mier League lead­ers.

Gabriel Je­sus struck twice while Ra­heem Ster­ling, David Silva, Fer­nand­inho, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva also got in on the act. City did suf­fer a cou­ple of lapses, with Stoke pulling the deficit back to 3-2 through Mame Bi­ram Diouf and a Kyle Walker own goal, but doubt was quickly erased.

All of this came with­out Ser­gio Aguero, who af­ter mak­ing a rapid re­cov­ery from a bro­ken rib sus­tained in a car crash, was an un­used sub­sti­tute. That the game was in the bal­ance early in the sec­ond half was re­mark­able given the bril­liance of City’s per­for­mance in a spell­bind­ing open­ing half-hour. The hosts clicked straight into gear with De Bruyne mas­ter­mind­ing some mes­meric play and Guardi­ola ap­plaud­ing on the touch­line.

They should have taken the lead af­ter seven min­utes when De Bruyne whipped in a dan­ger­ous ball but Sane blasted over. The game looked up for Stoke — and some of their fans left — af­ter they con­ceded three times in a blis­ter­ing 10-minute spell mid­way through the first half.

The opener came af­ter De Bruyne re­leased Walker with a well-weighted pass and the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional pulled back for Je­sus to turn home.

City dou­bled their lead al­most im­me­di­ately, this time af­ter an even more eye-catch­ing pass from De Bruyne. Stoke were com­pletely de­ceived by the Bel­gian’s de­fence-split­ting ball and Sane raced through to set up a Ster­ling tap-in.

The on­slaught con­tin­ued as an­other series of rapid one-touch passes ended with Sane and Ster­ling com­bin­ing for David Silva to stab home his first goal of the sea­son.

Stoke pos­ses­sion was a rar­ity but they al­most caught City out as Kurt Zouma em­barked on a long run and shot at Eder­son.

City did not heed that warn­ing and were cut open by a move Guardi­ola might have been proud of. Diouf found Jese in the box, re­ceived the ball back from a back­heel and sent a goal­bound shot past Eder­son via a de­flec­tion off Fabian Delph. Guardi­ola made clear his frus­tra­tion but it was not his side’s only wob­ble as soon af­ter the break Stoke’s 18-year-old debu­tant de­fender Thomas Edwards crossed from the right. Diouf mist­imed his header but it de­flected in off Walker.

Un­for­tu­nately for Edwards he was forced off soon af­ter, and it got even worse for Stoke as City burst back into life.

De Bruyne took charge, get­ting clear down the right and cross­ing for Je­sus to fire into the roof of the net.

Mo­ments later Fer­nand­inho sent a long-range piledriver into the top cor­ner and De Bruyne then played in Sane with an­other mag­nif­i­cent lon­grange pass. The Ger­man shot through But­land’s legs.

Sub­sti­tute Bernardo Silva com­pleted the rout when he poked home af­ter a nice touch in the area.

The Bel­gian did not get on the score­sheet, but he set up four for the ram­pant league lead­ers

Bernardo Silva salutes the crowd af­ter the rout

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