Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Cardiff City. They were quickly ahead when Kevin De Bruyne squeezed in a vicious shot from a tight angle on six minutes, before Leroy Sane drilled in a second just before half-time. City dominated the second half but somehow failed to add to their advantage with Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge pulling off a string of fine saves.
It’s difficult to concede goals if you don’t let your opponents shoot and, for the second successive home game, the visitors to the Etihad Stadium failed to have a single shot in the first half. That comes on the back of away wins at Fulham and Bournemouth when both sides failed to have a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. With City creating so many chances, it gives them the opportunity to kill off games early and try to conserve some energy for their hectic schedule brought on by their quadruple bid.
The curse of the left-back problem struck again with Oleksandr Zinchenko appearing to tweak a hamstring before he was substituted in the 19th minute. With Benjamin Mendy‘s knee problems ruling him out for much of the season and Fabian Delph also struggling with injuries and form, the Ukrainian has improved impressively in recent months. It’s difficult to see him being available for Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal against Brighton or the Champions League first leg at Spurs. Pep Guardiola has options but Zinchenko had nailed down the position in recent weeks.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Guardiola says his entire squad will need to make a contribution in the final months of the season and he explored the depth of his first team by making seven changes. City will have much tougher games to come than relegation-threatened Cardiff and he was able to leave his key men from this season — Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and David Silva — on the bench, leave out Sergio Aguero and give valuable minutes to the returning Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne. Despite looking almost like a “B team” on paper, it didn’t stop City from maintaining their winning run as they ruthlessly stuck to the manager’s masterplan.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Ederson, 7 — Another easy night where he had to come to the halfway line midway through the first half to get a touch of the ball. Snuffed out Cardiff’s one good opportunity five minutes from time.
DF Danilo, 7 — Started at right-back and moved to the left side shortly after but it didn’t inhibit his thrusting runs.
DF John Stones, 7 — Back from injury and couldn’t have had a much easier reintroduction with the focus more on his forward passing than his defending.
DF Aymeric Laporte, 7 — Another impressive display as he quickly stopped any threat from the Bluebirds and was unfortunate not to score with a header.
DF Oleksandr Zinchenko, 6 — One brilliant run behind the back four but appeared to tweak his hamstring and was quickly taken off.
MF Fernandinho, 7 — First start in six weeks and controlled the midfield like he had never been away.
MF Kevin De Bruyne, 9 — Back to his best as he created a host of chances for his teammates and smashed in the opener himself.
MF Phil Foden, 8 — First Premier League start and the 18-year-old was full of confidence as he caused danger throughout and could have had a hat trick on another day.
FW Riyad Mahrez, 6 — Went close with a couple of shots but often looks like an individual alongside 10 teammates working from the same strategy.
FW Gabriel Jesus, 6 — Lovely chest pass assist but missed three good chances to mark his 22nd birthday.
FW Leroy Sane, 7 — Took his goal well with a fierce drive and was a constant threat on the left wing.
DF Kyle Walker, 7 — Called into the action early and looked to get forward at every opportunity.