Manchester City left any disappointment of Tuesday’s Champions League defeat to Lyon on the team bus as they dismantled an average Cardiff side to claim their third Premier League win in a row.
Goals from Sergio Agüero, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gündogan and a brace from second-half substitute Ryad Mahrez ensured that Pep Guardiola’s return to the touchline was a joyful one; the Spaniard having served a one-match European suspension.
Mahrez, who signed from Leicester for £60m in the summer, tapped in his first goal – and City’s fourth – after an incisive team move, before whipping in his second after a mistake by Sol Bamba in the closing minutes.
“It’s good to get the first goals,” Guardiola said. “Of course it’s important for him. He came here, he’s an incredibly talented player.”
The match also marked a milestone for City’s talisman Sergio Agüero, as he played his 300th game for the Cityzens and, of course, he celebrated it by scoring his 205th goal for the reigning champions.
Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva did superbly well to open up the Cardiff defence down the right wing and the Portuguese winger then had the composure to slide the ball into Agüero’s path and City’s all-time leading scorer did the rest.
And just three minutes later, Silva got on the scoresheet himself. Gündogan played a short corner to Leroy Sané as the Cardiff defence slept and the pacey winger then whipped in a brilliant cross, Silva flicked the ball on, and his header looped over Neil Etheridge inside the far post.
In between Manchester City’s brilliance, Cardiff just couldn’t get going. Of course, when you don’t have the ball, it is very difficult to do so but when they did, as sparingly as that happened, the home side were unable to trouble Ederson in the City net; Danny Ward’s effort the only save he had to make in the first half.
There was even time for Gündogan to make it 3-0 before Ward’s effort. Playing a neat one-two with Raheem Sterling, the midfielder opened up space just outside the home side’s penalty area which enabled him to set himself before guiding a tremendous finish into the ‘postage stamp’, leaving Etheridge gasping at thin air yet again.
After the break, normal service resumed but the travelling Mancunians had to wait until the 67th minute for summer-signing Mahrez to put the gloss on a scintillating performance.
Cardiff simply couldn’t live with this irresistible City side and, because they still go in search for their first win this season, the Bluebirds now find themselves second from bottom of the Premier League table.
Looking ahead to next week, City face League One side Oxford United in the third round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday night before returning to the Etihad to host Brighton and Hove Albion. Those two games should result in another two victories, but after a few disappointing results already this season, not least the 2-1 defeat to Lyon on Wednesday, nothing can be taken for granted.
MAN OF THE MATCH – ILKAY GÜNDOGAN
This was a midfield masterclass from start to finish. With two assists and a stunning strike, there was only one contender for the award. Guardiola usually gives David Silva licence to create attacking problems but, in his absence, the responsibility was handed to the German. And boy did he deliver.
With quite possibly his best performance since joining City from Dortmund in 2016, rejecting Liverpool in favour of the Cityzens, the German dictated the tempo of the game from the outset and we can expect a fair few more games to follow suit between now and the turn of the year, let alone May.