Man City put close season blues behind them to make winning start

Goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, and Gabriel Jesus see Pep Guardiola's men past Wolves
Man City put close season blues behind them to make winning start

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring his side's third goal  at Molineux. Picture:   Marc Atkins/NMC Pool/PA Wire

Wolves 1 Man City 3

Three positive Covid tests and the failed pursuit of Lionel Messi have hardly made this a routine close season for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City but goals at Molineux from Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden ensured the new campaign got off to winning ways.

After a lacklustre campaign, by their standards last season, for long spells this was more like the vintage Guardiola teams of years gone by - and all the more impressive given his recent problems.

Club talisman Sergi Aguero could be out for two months and City announced on game day that Ilkay Gundogan has become the third of their players to test positive for Covid, joining Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte in that unfortunate category.

There has also been the summer saga of City’s will-they-won’t-they courtship of Messi although City loyalists will tell you, in any case, that they are more interested in watching Iniesta - or the “Stockport Iniesta,” to be precise, as Foden is known.

Certainly, Guardiola has little need to complain about the shortened preparation time, as many of his rivals have been prone to do.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had used just that excuse as an explanation for Manchester United’s poor showing 48 hours earlier but from kick-off last night City showed that whatever problems face them over the coming months - and there are many - a lack of early-season fitness or sharpness will not be among them.

Indeed, Raheem Sterling appealed for a penalty inside the opening minute, going down under a challenge from Conor Coady only for VAR to confirm the Wolves defender had committed no infringement.

There was no such reprieve for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side on 19 minutes, however, when De Bruyne sprinted into the area and was tripped clumsily and needlessly by Romain Saiss despite the Belgian apparently running into a non-threatening position.

City had missed five of the 11 penalties they were awarded last season, all of them saved, which begs the question why it has taken until now for De Bruyne to be designated the club’s penalty taker.

Arguably, one of the best strikers of a dead-ball in the history of the Premier League, De Bruyne made no mistake with a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal, his fifth successive successful conversion dating back to February.

It was no more than a City side, without seven first teamers due to injury or those positive Covid tests, deserved after the way they stamped their authority on a Wolves side who defeated them twice in the league last season.

Sterling was in the sort of form that can make him virtually unplayable, twisting and turning wickedly in the Wolves area and always open to the sniff of an opportunity.

On 32 minutes, the peerless De Bruyne played a fantastic pass that sent Sterling racing into the home area and the striker had the composure to pull the ball back for Foden to slot in the ball, through a crowded area, from 15 yards.

Benjamin Mendy’s rash foul on Adama Traore soon after handed Wolves a moment of reprieve but a hopeless free-kick into the City wall simply summed up an increasingly fruitless evening for Nuno’s men.

When De Bruyne played through yet another pass for Foden, who just missed the target with an intelligent, first-time curling effort, events looked capable of turning even worse for the hosts.

The second half brought little immediate hope of an upturn in Wolves fortunes with De Bruyne freeing Gabriel Jesus, under closer scrutiny given the prolonged absence of Aguero, whose powerful shot was well stopped by Patricio.

But finally, after 54 minutes, the City goal came under threat for the first time when Adama Traore’s cross picked out Daniel Podence who swivelled and shot narrowly wide.

It was the start of a much improved spell for the home side with Ruben Neves finding space for a shot which Kyle Walker blocked easily, saving Ederson the trouble.

Podence was clear but chipped agonisingly over, as Ederson rushed from his goal, and Traore’s cross found Raul Jimenez who should have done better than side-foot his attempt the wrong side of the post.

Finally, after 77 minutes, Wolves claimed the goal their second half efforts deserved as Podence skilfully chipped up an accurate cross and Jimenez an even more accurate header into the corner of the goal from eight yards.

Gabriel Jesus finally killed off hopes of an unlikely Wolves point with a deflected finish from six yards after 94 minutes.

Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio 7; Boly 6, Coady 5, Saiss 5; Traore 6, Neves 5, Moutinho 6 (Dendoncker 77, 6), Marcal (Vinagre 7, 6); Podence 8, Jimenez 7, Neto 7 (Silva 77, 6). 

Subs (not used) Vitinha, Ruddy, Kilman, Rasmussen.

Man City (4-2-3-1): Ederson 6, Walker 7, Stones 6, Ake 6, Mendy 7; Fernandinho 6, Rodrigo 7; Foden 8, De Bruyne 9, Sterling 8 (Torres 81); Jesus 6. 

Subs (not used) Steffen, Mahrez, Otamendi, Delap, Doyle, Bernabe. 

Referee: A Marriner 7.

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