City's first-half superiority proved crucial as the Blues secured a hard-fought 2-1 win over Napoli. Early goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus gave the hosts breathing space and there could have been more but for yet another Kevin De Bruyne woodwork strike, but the Italian side fought back, converting one of two penalties awarded and pushed the Blues all the way after the break and will head back to Naples perhaps a little disappointed not to have left with a vital Group F point. The victory leaves the Blues top of Group F with three wins from three games.
What happened? City took just 10 minutes to break the deadlock against Napoli after a lengthy spell of possession and keep-ball saw the Italians barely have a meaningful touch. The Blues, opting to overcome Napoli's high press with some sweeping cross-field passing found a way through when Fernandinho fed the ball to Leroy Sane, he passed on to David Silva who drove into the box, squared the ball for Kyle Walker whose shot was half-cleared and the in-form Sterling made no mistake from six yards. Rampant City doubled the lead just two minutes later and there was no surprise that De Bruyne was once again the architect. Continuing where he left off at the weekend, the Belgian picked up the ball on the right before playing another superb, inch-perfect low cross that Gabriel Jesus just had to score from. It was more mesmeric stuff from a City side who, when they are in the mood, are poetry in motion and De Bruyne came within a whisker of making it three on 25 minutes with a stunning curling shot that struck the underside of the crossbar from 20 yards out. The Serie A leaders looked shell-shocked and were again fortunate to escape when Kalidou Koulibaly stopped another Jesus effort dead on the goal-line and on each occasion the relevant technology confirmed neither attempt had crossed the line. So dominant were City that Napoli’s first real threat didn’t arrive until the 33rd minute when a smart Ederson grab denied the lurking Marek Hamsik. Then, with the Italians at last showing some adventure, a penalty was awarded with Walker adjudged to have pushed Raul Albiol as a corner came in – but Dries Mertens saw his spot-kick saved by Ederson and the Blues went in at the break with their two-goal advantage intact – though the visitors had served fair warning that they weren’t out of this contest just yet. Napoli continued their improvement after the break and City were perhaps guilty of living dangerously at the back and inviting pressure that almost resulted in a goal for the visitors - John Stones made a heroic stop on 65 minutes to deny Hamsik putting the ball into the unguarded net. Finally, the Blues luck ran out when Faouzi Ghoulam waltzed through several challenges before being felled in the box by Fernandinho - Amadou Diawara tucked home the spot-kick to halve the deficit and it was very much game on. Napoli looked dangerous whenever they came forward and there were one or two desperate clearances towards the end, but the Blues' early onslaught proved enough to edge this exciting encounter and ultimately, the result is the most important stat on a night when the Blues.
Star man: De Bruyne He didn't quite reach the heights he did against Stoke but still wins the City Matchday App vote for this game.
What it means? City are top of Group F with maximum points from the three games played and could seal qualification to the knock-out stages in the next fixture away to Napoli next month. Shakhtar are second in Group F with six points from three games.
What’s next? It’s back to Premier League action this weekend with a home game against Burnley on Saturday afternoon. City will look to consolidate top spot against the Clarets who remain unbeaten away from home this season. Then it's more Caraboa Cup action with our Round 4 clash with Wolves at the Etihad the following Tuesday evening.
Stats and milestones City are now unbeaten in 21 games at the Etihad in all competitions and are also unbeaten in 11 Champions League games at the Etihad. Sterling has scored five goals in five games in all competitions and eight in total this season. Gabriel Jesus is City's joint-top scorer with eight goals.
Manchester City (2): Ederson, Delph, Otamendi, Walker, Stones, Silva (Gundogan 76’), Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Sané, De Jesus (Danilo 87’), Sterling (Bernardo 70’)