City were back to their best as they blew away Cardiff with a ruthless display of attacking football. The midweek disappointment against Lyon was quickly forgotten as the Welsh side were brushed aside in confident manner. First-half goals from Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan left the home side reeling on the ropes and a brace from sub Riyad Mahrez after the break completed the 5-0 win.
What happened? In the persistent South Wales rain, City looked for the early goal that would take the wind out of Cardiff’s sails, but the hosts restricted the champions in the opening half-hour. Neil Warnock’s side shadowed the Blues all over the pitch, meaning clear opportunities were at a premium as the visitors dominated possession. But City remained patient and were rewarded with a fine team goal on 32 minutes. Gundogan played the ball across the box to Bernardo and his simple sideways pass was struck home by the irrepressible Aguero from 10 yards out – not a bad way to mark your 300th appearance for the Club. And it just got better from there on. City had their tails up and were slicing through the Cardiff defence at will and within three minutes, the lead was doubled as a short corner routine ended with Leroy Sane’s cross flicked on by Bernardo and over the keeper into the far corner in the process. The Blues were running riot with the Bluebirds’ defence all over the place and a minute before the break, an inevitable third was scored – and it was the pick of the lot. The impressive Gundogan collected the ball outside the box, played a neat one-two with Sterling and then side-footed a shot from 18 yards into the top right-hand corner of the net – a real beauty from the German midfielder. Moments later, Joe Ralls made a horror challenge on Gundogan that, on another day, could have caused serious injury as his high tackle caught the City star full on the shin – the yellow card it resulted in was lenient to say the least. Chances came thick and fast after the re-start with Aguero denied a couple more and Sane’s header striking the outside of the post. Cardiff, to their credit, kept fighting, but the more opportunities the Blues created, the more certain it appeared that the hosts were In line for further punishment – and midway through the second period, City scored again. A fine pass from Sterling who spotted Gundogan’s run on the left and the German’s low cross was stroked home by sub Mahrez. Phil Foden came close to scoring his first and the Blues fifth late on – but it was the Algerian playmaker who took that honour, side-stepping his marker in the box before finishing crisply from 15 yards. Terrific stuff, Blues. Champions’ swagger returns This was much more like the City of last season with plenty of clever movement, incisive passing and creativity. There was a hunger for goals and a strong desire to get back on track that will delight Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff. Raheem Sterling gave his manager everything he could have wanted in another fine performance. Intelligent runs, excellent passing and some superb dribbling, it was a dazzling show from the England winger who pushed Gundogan close to man-of-the-match honours. Riyad Mahrez will feel his City career is now finally up and running after two classy strikes against Cardiff. The Algerian would be the first to admit he hadn’t shown his best form since his move from Leicester, but his two goals after coming off the bench will give him the confidence to turn on the afterburners and kick on from here. Star man: Ilkay Gundogan The German was involved in three goals, scoring one cracker himself then laying another on a plate for Mahrez and instigating the opener for Aguero.
What it means... City move up to second place but remain two points behind leaders Liverpool who also won comfortably this afternoon. Chelsea can go top if they can beat West Ham handsomely later today.
What’s next? City begin the defence of the Carabao Cup with a trip to League One side Oxford United. The match will be played at a sold out Kassam Stadium, starting at 7.45pm on Tuesday evening. Then it’s back to the Etihad next Saturday and a Premier League clash with Brighton and Hove Albion.