Man City 3-1 Hull
City: Ahmed Elmohamady (31’ OG) Sergio Aguero (48’) Fabian Delph (64’)
Hull: Andrea Ranocchia (85’)
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
It was style and statistical achievement in harmony, the unusual alliance that has underpinned Pep Guardiola’s managerial career. A milestone goal was brought up with a snapshot of his ethos.
Manchester City found the net for the 100th time under the Catalan after a move spanning the length and width of the pitch, featuring 20 passes and all 11 players.
“The second goal is the big example of what we would like to be,” said Guardiola. “I don’t like the defenders to just defend and the strikers just to score goals. I like everybody involved in the way we want to play.”
Footballing defenders, a passing goalkeeper and a prolific striker all played their parts. An injection of incision came from City’s classiest distributor. David Silva’s 300th game for the club was not garnished with his 50th goal, but it was decorated in trademark fashion by the Spaniard’s speciality, the assist to the assist. He found Raheem Sterling, who crossed and Sergio Aguero tucked in his 10th goal in as many games.
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“Sergio made an amazing step forward in the last two months,” Guardiola said. “He is playing unbelievably, scoring one goal a game.”
Guardiola pronounced himself unconcerned that his top scorer did not celebrate. “He is happy, I promise you,” he said.
A more visibly delighted Fabian Delph duly added the 101st of Guardiola’s reign to defeat Hull and give City a seven-point cushion on fifth-place Arsenal.
“After four games we are winning,” said Guardiola, who maintained his mantra that the battle for Champions League qualification will go down to the last day.
This represented respite after the fixture list pitted them against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in successive games. Hull have upset more favoured sides under Marco Silva but there was no repeat on Saturday of their draw at Old Trafford. They departed with a 13th defeat in 14 away games.
“We didn’t have a good performance,” said the Hull manager. He attributed it to tiredness after back-to-back, exhausting wins. “Manchester City controlled the game.”
Hull were unlocked by patience, precise passing and a hint of fortune. The Hull right back Ahmed Elmohamady donated the opening goal, but it was testament to the willingness of Guardiola’s side to outflank their visitors. That was apparent, too, in the influential display of Sterling who, restored to the side, set up Aguero’s and Delph’s strikes and would have recorded a hat-trick of assists but for a fine save from Eldin Jakupovic to spare teammate Michael Dawson an own goal.
The Swiss goalkeeper embarked on a damage-limitation exercise. He began with an agile double stop to thwart Leroy Sane and David Silva, carried on by frustrating Yaya Toure and ended up denying Delph a second and keeping out Aleksandar Kolarov’s free kick.
He was first beaten by a colleague. Jesus Navas’s crossing appears to have acquired more potency since his switch to full-back. When he delivered a deep centre, Dawson ducked. It seemed to take teammate Elmohamady unawares and he applied the inadvertent finish.
But it was reward for Guardiola’s eager experimenting. Navas’s reinvention as a right back continued. Delph had not started in the Premier League all season. Now he has begun successive games and thumped in his first league goal for 15 months. Another change brought a mixed reception.
Claudio Bravo was restored in place of Willy Caballero. The Chilean should have done better when Andrea Ranocchia scored Hull’s late goal. Guardiola felt the team shared the blame.
“Six players forgot to defend,” he said, in a defiant analysis. “In build-up, Claudio is the best goalkeeper in the world with [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen and Manuel Neuer.”
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