He's top of the League – Norwich City 0-4 Manchester City Review
Norwich City go down swinging at Carrow road as City re-open twelve-point gap at the top of the Premier League. A Raheem Sterling hat-trick and a goal from Phil Foden got the job done for Pep’s men ahead of the trip to Sporting.
A certain upcoming game in Portugal midweek saw Pep Guardiola ring the changes for the visit to Carrow Road. Ederson remained the mainstay in goals but the defence ahead of him was shuffled. Kyle Walker and Zinchenko filled the fullback positions with Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake in the middle. Fernandinho stepped into the holding role in midfield with Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva for company. Phil Foden led the line in the false nine role, flanked by Raheem Sterling and the in-form Riyad Mahrez.
Jack Grealish was missing from selection due to an injury picked up in training. Pre-game, Pep Guardiola suggested the £100m man could return on Tuesday – however, only time will tell as the severity of the shin injury remains unclear at the moment.
Aside from a minor scare in the first minute following a mistake from Ruben Dias, City started the game pretty much as you would expect them to. City were at Norwich's throats almost immediately, with Phil Foden having a goal ruled out through offside in only the 3rd minute. This one didn’t take much VAR time up; the gap was almost as big as the gap down to Manchester United.
City though were probing and pushing for the opening goal and Bernardo Silva was unlucky not to have provided it in the 5th minute after a lovely jinking move and a shot that pinged off the post in the grateful arms of Angus Gunn.
Numerous City chances came and went in the early exchanges with Ilkay Gundogan heading on target and Phil Foden missing an Ilkay Gundogan cross-goal pass by mere inches. The score though remained 0-0.
Norwich City grew into the game midway through the first half, with several dangerous looking counter attacks. The game for a while at least was almost toe to toe. The best chance for the host side coming in the 18th minute with Grant Hanley sending a header crashing against Ederson’s post.
City soon regained control of the contest, however, with Raheem Sterling going close on the 25-minute mark with a left-footed effort well saved by the former City stopper. On the half-hour mark, Raheem Sterling finally did get that breakthrough.
A driven ball across the box by Kyle Walker found the England winger and he cut inside and curled a lovely dipping strike into the far corner. A great finish and City were deservedly ahead.
If Norwich were hoping for an easier second half, they were disappointed. It only took City and Phil Foden specifically three minutes to double their lead. A lovely through ball from Raheem Sterling to Ilkay Gundogan gave the German room to pick out Phil Foden. He was crowded, but a lovely turn earned him enough space to poke the ball over the line. The referees watch buzzed and City had their second.
From then on Norwich’s fight started to wither and City engaged cruise control. Relentless and crushing passing patterns started to wear Norwich down more and more and Raheem Sterling was making life miserable for Max Aaron’s. He only lasted until the 63rd minute and was replaced.
City scored their third on the 70th minute and of course, it was Raheem Sterling again. The England star terrorised Norwich all evening and was on hand to nod in a lovely ball headed back across goal by Ruben Dias of all people.
Pep took this as a sign the job was done and swapped out Bernardo Silva for James McAtee, Phil Foden for Liam Delap and Riyad Mahrez for Kayky who made his Premier League debut. City fans everywhere rejoiced at the changes.
Liam Delap thundered his way into the box in the 89th minute and was bundled to the floor by the clumsy Grant Hanley. Raheem Sterling had his initial spot-kick saved but followed up the rebound to busy his third of the game.
A fantastic performance from Raheem Sterling and City saw them regain their twelve-point lead at the top of the league. The goal difference definitely looks healthier now too, with a gap on Liverpool of plus six.
Up next is a visit to Portugal to play Sporting on Tuesday.
I have not made it any secret that I had my reservations about the Nathan Ake signing, especially for the cost. However, he was fantastic today, especially during that fight back from Norwich in the first half. Teemu Pukki can be a problem and he simply wasn’t. The Dutchman just contained him with ease. His passing too was progressive and dangerous, and I hope we see more of this from him.
There was a lot of discussion during the match about Fernandinho and many differing opinions on how well he performed. At times he looked his age, particularly in transitions where he was turned and had to get back quickly. Overall though he was fantastic, and at 36 years of age, he’s ridiculously good. Still physically dominant, still has the crisp passing in him and don’t tell me you didn’t cheer that lovely, timed slide tackle that looked like the Fernandinho of old. His career is ending, not ended.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Raheem Sterling, obviously. How does this man still have so many doubters? His output in terms of goals rivals damn near anyone in the game and he tormented poor Max Aaron’s so badly he was literally taken off the field. He was fantastic tonight, driving at his man, making dangerous runs, picking out passes in the final third, he was everywhere. Plus, you know, he scored three goals. When he’s in this mood, nobody stops him.
EDERSON - 7
WALKER - 8
DIAS - 6
Ake - 8
ZINCHENKO - 7
FERNANDINHO - 7
GUNDOGAN - 7
BERNARDO - 8
MAHREZ – 6
STERLING – 9
FODEN – 7
Subs: Kayky – 6, McAtee – 6, Delap – 7
Written by: @CityReportBen
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