Guardi­ola hails De Bruyne as ruth­less City rout Rother­ham

Re­lent­less dis­play by Bel­gian de­liv­ers high­est mar­gin of vic­tory un­der Pep

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer - Jamie Jack­son at the Eti­had Sta­dium

Manch­ester City re­quired only low gear to rout Rother­ham United and coast into the fourth round – 7-0 be­ing the high­est mar­gin of vic­tory of the Pep Guardi­ola reign.

Riyad Mahrez’s 73rd-minute fin­ish was in­dica­tive of the con­test. When Guardi­ola’s men wanted to they could in­ject ex­tra qual­ity and score. So it was when City roved for­ward and split their vis­i­tors apart, Ilkay Gün­do­gan’s pass be­ing fin­ished su­perbly by the Al­ge­rian to make it 5-0.

The stand­out per­former was Kevin De Bruyne, who was mak­ing a first start in nearly three weeks fol­low­ing in­jury. It was only a 10th ap­pear­ance of the sea­son due to two pre­vi­ous se­ri­ous knee prob­lems. Guardi­ola in­di­cated that if De Bruyne can re­main fit than City will be even stronger in the lat­ter part of the cam­paign.

“With­out him last sea­son would not have been pos­si­ble,” Guardi­ola said of the 100-point, record ti­tle-tri­umph. “[With­out him] we have done in­cred­i­ble in terms of re­sults. We have an op­po­nent [Liver­pool] that has done bet­ter than us. That can hap­pen. We were two sea­sons with­out [Ben­jamin] Mendy, we do not have a sub­sti­tute for the left-back. He [De Bruyne] is go­ing to give us ex­tra, the cre­ativ­ity in the fi­nal third.

“He played an in­cred­i­ble game, cre­ated a lot of chances and he has the vi­sion to see what other peo­ple can­not see. Last sea­son he played an in­cred­i­ble num­ber of min­utes and this sea­son it is just 400 min­utes when ev­ery­one else plays 2,000.”

Guardi­ola made eight changes from Thurs­day’s win over Liver­pool, re­tain­ing only Eder­son, John Stones, and Ra­heem Ster­ling.

Paul Warne’s ad­just­ments ran to three as he drafted in Zak Vyner, An­thony Forde and Clark Robert­son from Rother­ham’s New Year’s Day vic­tory over Pre­ston North End.

An early De Bruyne chip should have been headed in by Gabriel Je­sus but from near-in the bar was hit. Later, Ster­ling ran through but Semi Ajayi did enough to end the dan­ger; then Mahrez smacked the ball over from the right but no blue shirt could fin­ish.

Soon City did strike. Ster­ling passed to De Bruyne along the left and on con­tin­u­ing his run re­ceived the ball back: his fin­ish was pre­cise be­yond Marek Ro­dak.

Af­ter the half hour a De Bruyne ball came to Je­sus but, again, he lacked com­po­sure and mis­kicked. Be­fore this City had a real scare. Ni­colás Ota­mendi sold Eder­son short with a back-pass and the goal­keeper sold Stones shorter, the lat­ter scram­bling hard to touch the ball to safety. This proved an au­gury of a late first-half Rother­ham flurry of goal-mouth ac­tion as Eder­son had to punch one high ball away in an ac­tion that left Jon Tay­lor and Stones floored mo­men­tar­ily.

But, then, Phil Fo­den showed a killer if lucky touch from a neat Gün­do­gan lob, his at­tempted con­trol prov­ing a stabbed fin­ish that wrong-footed Ro­dak.

If this made it dif­fi­cult what oc­curred in added time put the Millers to bed. Kyle Walker rolled in a cross and, with Ster­ling pres­sur­ing him, the un­for­tu­nate Ajayi turned the ball into his own net.

This was two goals in two min­utes and as the sec­ond half be­gan Rother­ham were surely in dam­age lim­i­ta­tion mode. Wil Vaulks did not sug­gest this would go well. From a Mahrez scuffed cross the vis­it­ing cap­tain might have suf­fered the em­bar­rass­ment of con­ced­ing a need­less penalty but David Coote, the ref­eree, was un­moved. A fourth City goal soon ar­rived, though. This was made by a swift Ster­ling run that made a mug of Joe Mat­tock as the for­mer found an equally im­pres­sive lay­off to Je­sus: this time the Brazil­ian could not miss.

When De Bruyne fash­ioned the next op­por­tu­nity from his re­lent­less self Je­sus did spurn this – the ball run­ning be­tween his legs. It was the end of the Bel­gian’s thor­ough­bred con­tri­bu­tion as Guardi­ola re­placed him on 67 min­utes with Philippe San­dler, the 21-year-old mak­ing his de­but.

Late on Ota­mendi headed home a Gün­do­gan cor­ner and Leroy Sané, on for De Bruyne, hit the sev­enth. “I’m pleased the fi­nal whis­tle came,” said Warne. – Guardian

PHO­TO­GRAPH: CLIVE BRUN­SKILL/GETTY IM­AGES

Ra­heem Ster­ling cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing Manch­ester City’s third in their win over Rother­ham United at the Eti­had Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

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