Manchester City cruised to a third straight win in the UEFA Champions League with a 5-0 mauling of Copenhagen on Wednesday night, ensuring they stayed top of group G in the process.
The visitors would have known they had quite the task at the Etihad this season with City in such exuberant prolific form and fresh off a Manchester derby victory, but nothing could have prepared them for the 90 minutes they had to endure. .
Copenhagen supporters made a great noise on the night despite having to watch their side concede three goals in 32 minutes as Erling Haaland and City ran riot.
They didn’t let up after the break and City could have been up by five had it not been for Kamil Grabara in the visitors’ goal, who had an obscenely busy night with a totally bruised hip.
From the first whistle, the game was – as expected – almost exclusively in Copenhagen’s half. City’s full-backs stretched the play to the touchline and their remaining forwards poked holes in the away defence.
It took them just seven minutes to capitalize on the lapse in concentration. Joao Cancelo fired in a low cross and with Haaland unmarked the ball inevitably found itself in the back of the net – 1-0.
Grabara thrived on his return to action, keeping the deficit to just one goal after conceding early on and trying to deny Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish with two particularly impressive saves.
After a calm game, Copenhagen retreated again and lost 2-0 after half an hour. The ball found its way to an unmarked Sergio Gomez on the edge of the box, whose shot forced another good save from Grabara. But of course, Haaland was there to tap in the rebound.
Before they could even lick their wounds, City added a third after 39 minutes. Gomez tried his luck again from the edge of the box, his shot deflected off two defenders and past the goalkeeper into his own goal. Jacob Neestrup’s team were completely decimated before half time.
Intricate passing, patient play and constant pressure saw Marko Stamenic haul Aymeric Laporte to the floor in the 54th minute and challenge Riyad Mahrez to make it 4-0 from the penalty spot on his 200th appearance for the club.
Such a rampant display allowed Guardiola to start resting his big names. After Haaland was taken off at half-time, the likes of Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva were later withdrawn. But it provided little relief for Copenhagen, who remained pinned down in their own half while City played a torturous game of pass and move.
After surviving an unexpected scare at the back when Paul Mukairo’s shot was blocked, City went down the other end to make it five. Jack Grealish drove the ball forward and found Mahrez who squared Julian Alvarez to pass for his first Champions League goal.
The rain continued at the Etihad as the goals finally dried up for the night, Robbie Savage resorting to solving maths problems on TV commentary as City eased away for another three points.
Man City player ratings vs Copenhagen – Champions League
1. Man City (4-3-3)
GK: Ederson – 6/10 – A very lonely figure between the sticks. Should’ve brought a jacket with him – will fall ill standing around twiddling his thumbs in the rain like that.
RB: Joao Cancelo – 7/10 – Showed up, made an array of lovely passes and crosses, caused problems, left. A typical Cancelo performance. Also made three tackles to keep City so constantly high up the field.
CB: Ruben Dias – 6/10 – An easy night at the office for the Portuguese defender. Kept things neat and tidy.
CB: Aymeric Laporte – 6/10 – His presence in the penalty box was essentially the assist for City’s fourth goal. About as interesting as his evening got.
LB: Sergio Gomez – 7/10 – Afforded far too much room at times, but picked up good positions and interchanged intelligently with Grealish on the left flank. Made a strong account of himself.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 8/10 – Completely set the tone at the base of midfield – well, that base being well into the opposition half. Sprayed passes for fun and
CM: Bernardo Silva – 7/10 – Twisted and turned several Copenhagen defenders into oblivion. Plenty of lovely passes around the corner and between the lines.
CM: Jack Grealish – 8/10 – Really enjoyed himself with acres of time and space to operate in. Stretched play when needed and brought Gomez into the game behind him. Turned up the heat later on; deserved a goal.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 7/10 – Began the game wearing silly and wholly unnecessary woolly gloves from the club shop. Took them off in the second half and scored his first goal of the season. Lesson learned – don’t bring the gloves out too early, Riyad. It’s not that cold yet.
ST: Erling Haaland – 8/10 – Not even funny anymore, is it? The man is like a magnet to a loose ball in the penalty area. Incomprehensibly clinical. Denied a hat-trick by the boss, which felt harsh, because he was nailed on for one.
LW: Julian Alvarez – 6/10 – A quiet first half slowly ticked over into a more productive second. Struck the post once, but got his goal late on with good movement in the box.
SUB: Cole Palmer (45′ for Haaland) – 7/10 – Had a decent effort saved shortly after coming on following a positive, direct run. Looked a natural in the side.
SUB: Rico Lewis (57′ for Cancelo) – 6/10 – Made a brilliant block to deny an otherwise certain Copenhagen goal in a very rare attack later in the game.
SUB: Joshua Wilson-Esbrand (66′ for Silva) – N/A
Manager: Pep Guardiola – 8/10 – Hard for him to get it wrong when the gulf in quality is so big. Guardiola still has to get it right, though, and he did. Played a glut of attackers and they operated seamlessly; made sensible substitutions, too, even if a little mean on Haaland.