It was six out of six. Now it is seven out of seven and the temptation to brand this a magnificent seventh may be irresistible. Pep Guardiola maintained his 100 per cent record as Manchester City manager as Borussia Monchengladbach were seen off with some comfort. City, who have had many an alarm in Champions League group stages in previous years, made the most assured of starts this time around.
That was thanks in part to Sergio Aguero, whose treble was his second in as many European games and took his tally to nine goals in five games under Guardiola. Theirs is already looking a productive partnership. Others are also benefiting from the regime change. Kevin de Bruyne continued his terrific start to the season while Raheem Sterling lent pace and the sort of positional discipline Guardiola likes. Kelechi Iheanacho, whose goal ultimately decided Saturday’s Manchester derby, scored a less significant fourth in a brief cameo. Each helps make City look a formidable attacking outfit. Guardiola’s seven games have yielded 21 goals. This was one of several matches that could have produced more.
The goalmouth drama was confined to Monchengladbach end. Claudio Bravo kept a first clean sheet for City, which was welcome in itself, and, after his traumatic derby debut, he had a quiet night. He made one sharp stop from Lars Stindl but while Monchengladbach scored twice at the Etihad last season, they rarely threatened a repeat.
City had struck four times when Monchengladbach visited the Etihad in December. They repeated that feat; indeed Aguero could have had four on his own. The Argentine had missed the Manchester derby as he began his three-match domestic ban for elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid. The enforced rest had done nothing to blunt his sharpness, as he showed after eight minutes. Aleksandar Kolarov curled in a low cross. Aguero nipped in front of the Chelsea loanee Andreas Christensen to supply a first-time finish. His tally was doubled from the penalty spot before, displaying the supreme confidence of a forward at the top of his game, he dribbled around Yann Sommer to add a third when Sterling picked him out with an incisive pass.
His spot kick came after Christoph Kramer tripped Ilkay Gundogan. The German was named on the bench on Tuesday. He was promoted to the starting 11 on Wednesday when David Silva developed a minor problem in training. It made for a welcome debut for Guardiola’s first signing. He could have marked it with a goal inside 12 minutes. Instead Sommer saved after De Bruyne and Aguero combined to tee him up.
Nevertheless, it was an encouraging debut. Gundogan was assured in possession. He looked to have time on the ball, often an indication of class. He slotted in seamlessly as City displayed their now familiar attacking intent. Monchengladbach adopted a high defensive line, which encouraged Guardiola’s men to try to sprint in behind them. Sommer, a goalkeeper Guardiola rates highly, displayed why with a series of saves, winning his personal duel with Sterling. The 21-year-old’s finest chance came when De Bruyne sent him sprinting clear with 20 minutes remaining. Sommer blocked with his legs; his was a damage-limitation exercise, though he could do little when Leroy Sane set up Iheanacho for the fourth.
But he ensured that, after a torrential downpour had forced a postponement, it would be an exaggeration to say it rained goals. Tuesday was definitely the hottest day of the year in Manchester and possibly the wettest. A sudden storm had led to the game being delayed for 24 hours. It remained unseasonably warm, but was thankfully drier on the Wednesday. Each side had a day less to prepare for weekend fixtures, which made the precaution of resting Silva all the more understandable.
Monchengladbach were unchanged, even if their numbers in the stands were understandably depleted. Max Eberl, their sporting director, had written a letter asking bosses to forgive and understand employees who remained in Manchester for a further day. A copy was left on the away fans’ seats. They applauded their own team, but watched a superior side secure the points.
Tuesday, September 13
Wednesday, September 14
• Manchester City 4 Borussia Monchengladbach 0
• Tottenham Hotspur 1 AS Monaco 2
• Club Brugge 0 Leicester City 3
• Legia Warsaw 0 Borussia Dortmund 6
• Porto 1 Copenhagen 1
• Real Madrid 2 Sporting 1
• Juventus 0 Sevilla 0
• Lyon 3 Dinamo Zagreb 0
• Bayer Leverkusen 2 CSKA Moscow 2
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