Foden bounces back City youngster on target after Reykjavik disgrace
This felt like one of those occasions when Manchester City had read the reports and heard the analysis of Liverpool’s statement victory over Chelsea and accepted the challenge. They wanted to take control. They want to be in this Premier League title race.
The achievement of winning at Wolves should not be underestimated, especially with several key players absent, and while there was a period in the second half when the home side spurned four chances and City wobbled alarmingly under fierce pressure, they were able to manage the game once they actually did concede. Maybe it would have been different if Molineux had been a baying full house, urging Adama Traore to continue running riot.
Given City are the last Premier League side to get their campaign under way and the elongated nature of last season, there were reasons why they could not maintain their first-half ferocity, which made the result all the more impressive.
It is a compliment to City that they achieved an intensity so sorely lacking from Manchester United – who have had similar preparations – at the weekend.
There was frustration, though. Raheem Sterling, who had been so prominent, was clearly irritated at being substituted for new signing Ferran Torres, even though it was late on as City held on in a game in which they had threatened to sweep Wolves aside. Maybe it just showed his competitive nature and, while John Stones largely did well alongside £41million new signing Nathan Ake in the centre of defence and on his return to the team, did he do enough? Replays of the Wolves goal – with Raul Jimenez powering in an unchallenged header – did not look great for Stones as he stood watching. He knows Pep Guardiola is in the market for another centre-half.
Guardiola had spoken about “fire and desire” and he was rewarded in the first half as Phil Foden impressed alongside with Kevin De Bruyne, who once more was simply sublime.
As the game unfolded it appeared highly unlikely that Guardiola would be punching the air in relief at the final whistle. There was a Var check as Sterling stumbled in the Wolves penalty area within two minutes and there was a spot-kick awarded within 20 minutes.
It was foolish from defender Romain Saiss, who slid in needlessly to catch De Bruyne just inside the area as he shaped to cross. It was De Bruyne who then stepped up to powerfully beat Rui Patricio from the spot. The PFA Player of the Year had already got City up and running.
The weight of the pass to De Bruyne had helped create the opportunity and it came from Foden, starting for City and hoping to move on from being sent home from England duty in disgrace. The 20-year-old continued to catch the eye and claimed City’s second goal when he finished a sumptuous move as De Bruyne played the ball through to Sterling, who had the chance to shoot but also the presence of mind to know his team-mate was better placed. The ball was pulled back to Foden, who swept it first time into the net. It was a textbook Guardiola goal.
Wolves had completed a league double over City last season, but appeared strangely intimidated and were indebted to Patricio for a fine block from De Bruyne to at least give coach Nuno Espirito Santo the chance to re-organise and provide hope at half-time.
He did just that. Wolves were transformed, with Traore running at Benjamin Mendy and Daniel Podence full of pace and trickery. Guardiola will have been concerned at how his side struggled. Firstly Traore picked out Podence, who swivelled and shot into the side-netting. Then Pedro Neto’s pullback was stepped over by Podence, only for Ruben Neves to shoot weakly.
Soon after, Neves released Podence, who had held his run cleverly. Through on goal he scooped his shot on to the roof of the net, before Traore again worked his way to the byline and crossed for Jimenez, who side-footed wide.
Jimenez did score when Podence nutmegged De Bruyne and crossed for the striker to rise unchallenged and power his header beyond Ederson.
Wolves sensed a comeback, but in fact it was City who threatened, with Patricio turning away a low drive by Jesus before he was beaten with the final kick off the match. De Bruyne picked out Jesus, who showed strength and determination to create the space for a shot that deflected off Conor Coady. It beat Patricio at his near post and secured a precious three points. Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3) Patricio 6; Boly 6, Coady 7, Saiss 5; Traore 8, Moutinho 5 (Dendoncker 78), Neves 6, Marcal 5 (Vinagre 8); Podence 8, Jimenez 7, Neto 6 (Silva 78). Subs Ruddy (g), Vitinha, Kilman, Buur. Manchester City (4-2-3-1) Ederson 6; Walker 6, Stones 5, Ake 6, Mendy 5; Rodri 6, Fernandinho 6; Foden 7, De Bruyne 9, Sterling 7 (Torres 82); Jesus 6. Subs Steffen (g), Mahrez, Otamendi, Delap, Doyle, Bernarbe.
Booked Mendy, Jesus, Rodri.
Referee Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
Clinical: Phil Foden showed his better qualities again last night, scoring Manchester City’s second, finishing off a slick move as they managed a 3-1 victory against Wolves with Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus also netting