Jesus and Stones lead way in City dis­play of to­tal foot­ball

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - James Ducker NORTH­ERN FOOT­BALL RE­PORTER in Rot­ter­dam

This will have been a hard watch for Feyeno­ord fans, but the Dutch know To­tal Foot­ball when they see it and the purist in them must have wanted to doff their caps to Pep Guardi­ola’s vi­brant side.

The Dutch cham­pi­ons were mak­ing their first ap­pear­ance in the Cham­pi­ons League for 14 years and, let’s face it, looked very much like a Europa League out­fit, but City would still have bul­lied bet­ter teams play­ing like this.

It says a lot about how Guardi­ola wants to play and the num­ber of players he com­mits to at­tack that cen­tre-half John Stones should open and fin­ish the scor­ing with two head­ers, with goals from Ser­gio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus sand­wiched in be­tween. There was el­e­gance to City’s play, yes, but it was strik­ing just how phys­i­cally strong they looked. As re­lent­less as they were ruthless, they re­fused to give their op­po­nents time to catch their breath. “We weren’t ready for that,” Gio­vanni van Bron­ck­hurst, the Feyeno­ord coach, ad­mit­ted.

Stones ac­tu­ally made two blocks from Feyeno­ord’s only two ven­tures for­ward of note that, in their own way, will have sat­is­fied Guardi­ola as much as the goals given the crit­i­cism that con­tin­ues to be aimed at the Eng­land man de­fen­sively. But Kevin De Bruyne was City’s or­ches­tra­tor-in-chief, pop­ping up all over the place to drive his team for­ward with that lan­guid, un­der­stated bril­liance of his.

“Kevin is one of the best players I’ve ever seen in my life in that he can make ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing [hap­pen]”, Guardi­ola said. “As for John, there is no doubt about his qual­ity. His two goals were so im­por­tant, but John knows what is the gap where he has to im­prove – de­fend­ing the du­els. He’s so young, he is able to achieve and when he does he will be­come an ex­cep­tional cen­tral de­fender. It’s a per­fect start for us. Last sea­son we were not able to win one game away. That’s why if you want to make a step for­ward you have to do this.”

The biggest com­pli­ment you could pay City is that they had barely got out of third gear in the 25 min­utes it took to run up a three­goal lead and end this as a con­test. You got an idea of what it must have been like to be a Feyeno­ord player in the space of a few sec­onds late in the first half, when Michiel Kramer made no at­tempt to play the ball as he kicked out at Kyle Walker and then Tonny Vil­hena hacked down De Bruyne.

Feyeno­ord were pegged so far back that they rarely got out of their de­fen­sive 5-4-1 shape, with Walker and Ben­jamin Mendy look­ing to get in be­hind the full-backs, and the con­stant ro­ta­tion and move­ment of the omnipresent De Bruyne and the two Sil­vas, David and Bernardo, made them so hard to pin down.

It was like try­ing to trap a pesky mouse. And that is be­fore we get to Aguero and Jesus up front. Guardi­ola’s ob­ses­sion with sign­ing Arse­nal’s Alexis Sanchez is hard to fathom when he has a pair like that to pick from, and Leroy Sane and Ra­heem Ster­ling can­not even get in the side. Is Sanchez hon­estly an up­grade on Aguero or Jesus? And how much value is there in bring­ing a 28-year-old to the club when it could make it even harder to ac­com­mo­date Bernardo (23), af­forded only his sec­ond start since a £44 mil­lion move from Monaco, and Sane (21), a sub­sti­tute again de­spite a swash­buck­ling two-goal cameo against Liver­pool.

It took 97 sec­onds for City to get on the score­sheet and the only shock was the iden­tity of the goalscorer. David Silva crossed from the left and Stones pow­ered down a header that hit Vil­hena be­fore worm­ing through his legs.

If that should have been kept out, Feyeno­ord stood no chance with the sec­ond. City worked the ball non­cha­lantly out to Walker on the right flank and the Eng­land de- fen­der drilled over a cross. Drilled is the right word be­cause the ball was trav­el­ling at some speed by the time it bounced in front of Aguero and yet the Ar­gentina striker merely used the pace of the ball to hook an ex­quis­ite, beau­ti­fully con­trolled vol­ley past the hap­less Brad Jones. It was the work of a mas­ter of his art.

Goal No3? Silva crossed from the right by-line, the ball was not cleared and ran out to Mendy, who drove in a shot from 20 yards that Jones par­ried.

Nico­las Ota­mendi was off­side but not in­ter­fer­ing with play, and there was Jesus to tap home.

A fourth only seemed a mat­ter of time in the sec­ond half and it was fit­ting it orig­i­nated from the won­drous right foot of De Bruyne.

Silva played a short cor­ner to the Bel­gian, who whipped an in­swing­ing cor­ner to the far post where Stones thun­dered home his sec­ond header of the night.

“It’s a plea­sure to play like this, the level of the players is so big, it’s hap­pi­ness to play like this,” De Bruyne said. Too right.

Per­fect con­tact: John Stones (cen­tre) rises to head in City’s fourth goal

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