- Dillon Meehan
Sporting to the sword – Sporting CP 0-5 Manchester City Review
Manchester City’s trio of former Benfica men were instrumental in tonight‘s statement victory against their former rivals. Impressive performances from Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez put the Blues one step closer to St. Petersburg.
After making a slew of changes for Saturday’s game against Norwich, Guardiola brought out the same squad that featured against Brentford. With Ederson in goal, Joao Cancelo out on the left flank, a centre back partnership of Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias, and John Stones at right-back. The standard midfield trio of Bernardo Silva, Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne. And a forward line of in-form Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden in the false nine role, and Riyad Mahrez on the right.
Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker were the obvious admissions from the squad. Grealish is still recovering from an injury sustained last week and Walker is set to miss an additional two games after his red card against RB Leipzig – although City have appealed.
City scored with their first real opportunity of the game just six minutes in. Foden’s near post effort was saved, but the rebound landed at the feet of De Bruyne who found an open Riyad Mahrez at the top of the six-yard box for a tap-in. The goal was originally marked offside, but after a four-minute VAR check, the goal was awarded to the Algerian.
Despite the scoreline, Sporting had their moments throughout the game. In the first half, Sporting had multiple near chances to catch City on the counter but oftentimes weren’t clinical enough to capitalize on their chances. Pedro Porro, who’s spent the last two seasons on loan at Sporting from City, was one of the bright spots for the Lisbon club tonight. The former Girona wing-back was a constant threat from the right side of the pitch.
City doubled their lead in the 17th minute when Bernardo Silva thundered in a half volley from a tight angle. Mahrez attempted to find Rodri at the far post off a corner, Sporting attempted to clear the ball but it landed perfectly for Bernardo to hit it in stride to make it 2-0.
Sporting had their best chance to score in the 21st minute. Rodri attempted a long crossfield ball to Laporte from the right side, but it was severely under-hit and allowed Sporting to counter. Laporte recovered well and was able to fend off the attack just long enough for the remainder of City’s defence to get back into position.
It wasn’t the best performance for Rodri, who also misplaced a few balls in his defensive third in the second half as well.
City extended their lead to three in the 31st minute. Mahrez received the ball on the right-wing and after a bit of skill, found just enough space to cross the ball into the six-yard box. The ball was perfectly placed, skipping past three Sporting defenders to find Foden who calmly finished near post.
Sporting’s nightmare half wasn’t over yet, though. In the 43rd minute, Sterling was through on goal after a lovely ball from Cancelo, and then laid off a back pass to Bernardo whose shot deflected off a Sporting defender to give Manchester City a four-goal cushion.
City picked up where they left off to start the second half, in the 49th minute Bernardo thought he had completed his hat-trick after heading home a beautifully placed De Bruyne cross. However, VAR determined that Bernardo’s shoulder was centimetres offside which nullified the goal.
City were able to grab their fifth of the night just eight minutes later when Bernardo found Sterling with yards of space around him outside the 18-yard box; Raheem took a touch and then curled in a wonder goal from just a little over 20 yards out.
The Premier League leaders had a few more opportunities to extend their lead in the final 30 minutes, but similar to Sporting in the first half, City lacked the final ball and weren’t as clinical as they were in the opening 45 minutes.
MAN OF THE MATCH
It was Bernardo Silva’s first brace since grabbing one at Vicarage Road against Watford in December. But the former Benfica winger looked to be on another level against his old rivals. Helped create the first goal, a goal of the season contender to double the lead, and then grabbed a third before setting up Raheem for his wonder goal. Unbelievable performance.
Ederson - 7
Cancelo - 8
Laporte - 8
Dias - 7
Stones - 7
Rodri - 6
Bernardo - 9
De Bruyne - 7
Sterling - 8
Foden - 8
Mahrez - 8
Subs: Gundogan - 6, Fernandinho - 6, Delap - N/A, Ake - N/A.
Written by: @IVIeehan
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