Review and Player Ratings from Rico Lewis and Julian Alvarez masterclass – Man City 3-1 Sevilla
Manchester City closed out their Champions League Group Stage this evening with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Sevilla, thanks to eye-catching performances from Rico Lewis and Julian Alvarez.
It was an experimental starting XI put out by Pep Guardiola, with Cole Palmer starting alongside Phil Foden in midfield and the fullbacks on the night being Rico Lewis and Sergio Gomez. Manuel Akanji and Erling Haaland missed out through injury, whilst Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker have still not returned from their own injuries.
To a lot of people's surprise, none of the three EDS players (Carlos Borges, Dire Mebude and Jadel Katongo), who appeared in first-team training yesterday, managed to make the substitutes bench, with Guardiola preferring to leave three empty spots in the squad.
Stefan Ortega was selected to start in between the posts again, with Alvarez given the nod up front.
From early on, it was clear to see the tactical approach Guardiola opted for this game, with both fullbacks heavily inverted alongside Ilkay Gundogan behind the attacking midfield pairing of Palmer and Foden.
The opening 20 minutes were quite cagey, City dominated possession but couldn’t really convert that into chances. The best chance for the Blues fell to Ruben Dias after an excellent free-kick delivery from Foden, but his effort went wide. The Spanish side came close themselves, but Ortega got down well to stop a shot heading straight for the bottom corner.
Lewis fired an attempt from range wide of the top corner after a set piece wasn’t properly cleared by the opposition defence, displaying the confidence he has in his own ability at only 17 years of age.
Gundogan had the home side's best chance of the first period just before half an hour had passed when he worked a brilliant give-and-go with Foden surrounded by three or four men in black on the edge of the box. Unfortunately, the German was unable to find the target, and his shot was deflected just wide of the post by Yassine Bounou in the Sevilla goal.
Minutes later, the away side took the lead through attacker Rafa Mir from a corner kick. Some poor marking at the back post from Gomez and Dias left the Spaniard with a free header, which he expertly guided into the far corner.
City came out from half-time one goal down, but through the substitution of Rodri for Jack Grealish, there was a switch in tactics. Rodri and Gundogan formed a double pivot, with Foden moving to the left wing and Palmer playing as the 10. The fullbacks changed from their heavily inverted role to a traditional wide position.
This made an immediate difference, with City gaining more control of the game and Sevilla barely being able to get out of their own half.
The increased performance level transitioned into a goal in the 50th minute when boyhood City fan Lewis – making his first competitive start for the club – was fed superbly by Alvarez and emphatically rifled his shot past Bounou at the near post.
A dream come true for the lad, who has worked his way up to the first team all the way from the Under-8s and is now the first 17-year-old to score for City in the Champions League.
Dias again came close to scoring, but Bounou was able to claw his headed attempt away from just under the crossbar. At this point, Guardiola sensed the victory and brought in some of the big guns. Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva were introduced, as well as another young prodigy at fullback in Josh Wilson-Esbrand.
De Bruyne made an instant impact, assisting Alvarez to give the side a deserved lead. An incredible pass from deep, reminiscent of his assist for Leroy Sane against Stoke in the 17/18 campaign, curled just out of reach of the last defender and straight into the path of the Argentine. Alvarez showed great composure to carry the ball past the goalkeeper and find the net from a tough angle.
For the remainder of the game, De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez swapped positions, and in doing so, the Algerian managed to salvage a particularly lacklustre performance on the night by making it 3-1 with a good finish after some excellent pressing from Alvarez and a perfectly weighted pass.
Foden nearly capped off an impressive performance in added time when he flashed an effort wide, after once again being set up by Alvarez.
All in all, the starting line-up was an experiment that paid off for the group winners in a dead-rubber match with headline-grabbing performances for Lewis and Alvarez. No injuries and some well-earned rest for the likes of Joao Cancelo and John Stones.
Man of the Match
It was a tough decision tonight with Alvarez having a direct contribution to all three goals, but given the occasion, it’s difficult to deny Lewis the Man of the Match award. 17 years old, and starting in front of the fans for the first time – in the most prestigious competition in club football – to look comfortable and composed would be impressive, but to cap that off with a goal is the stuff people can only dream of.
Lewis was excellent in possession all game, and both tactically and technically he was exemplary, with his 50th-minute goal being a moment he will never forget. He was substituted in the 83rd minute to a standing ovation – and deserves to be named Man of the Match after that performance.
Ortega – 7
Lewis – 8.5
Dias – 7
Laporte – 7
Gomez – 5.5
Gundogan – 7
Palmer – 6
Foden – 7.5
Mahrez – 6
Alvarez – 8
Grealish – 6.5
Subs: Rodri – 7, Bernardo – 6.5, De Bruyne – 7.5, Wilson Esbrand – 6, Cancelo – N/A
Possible R-16 Opponents
Draw: Monday, November 7 at 11:00 (GMT).
Written by: @_TJ9320
Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.