Manchester City in cruise control as Champions League defence resumes

By Sports Desk February 13, 2024

Manchester City resumed their Champions League defence with a comfortable 3-1 win at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva netted either side of an unexpected Magnus Mattson equaliser as City dominated a last-16 first leg they could have won far more convincingly.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated in every aspect at the Danish capital’s famously atmospheric Parken Stadium and Phil Foden completed a deserved success late on.

With close to 80 per cent possession, the holders were hardly troubled and will be confident of wrapping up a place in the quarter-finals when the sides meet again in Manchester in three weeks.

The only real downside for City was the loss of Jack Grealish through injury in the first half.

Despite having almost complete control, one thing City could not do was silence the home fans.

As anticipated, Copenhagen’s raucous following produced an intimidating atmosphere and greeted every City attack with loud whistles and even a siren.

Yet it appeared to have no effect on City, who immediately imposed themselves and should have taken the lead when De Bruyne fluffed a header from a Nathan Ake cross.

Ruben Dias also forced a save from Kamil Grabara and Ake fired the rebound over, although a raised flag suggested neither might have counted.

Copenhagen, their rustiness amid Denmark’s long winter break evident, were struggling to live with City and it came as no surprise when De Bruyne hit his 11th-minute opener.

The Belgian, who has quickly eased back into gear after a long injury lay-off, timed his run onto a Foden pass superbly and finished clinically with a low shot.

City looked hungry for more and Erling Haaland was inches away from meeting a De Bruyne cross before a Silva ball was deflected onto the woodwork by Denis Vavro.

City suffered a blow when Grealish, making his first start in six games, was forced off after 21 minutes soon after a challenge from Diogo Goncalves but his replacement Jeremy Doku added more energy to City’s attack.

Within moments of coming on Doku set up Haaland for what would have been a spectacular goal with a volleyed cross but the Norwegian’s overhead kick flew over.

City looked capable of running up a huge score but remarkably found themselves level when Ederson gifted the hosts an equaliser on 34 minutes.

The goalkeeper passed straight to Mohamed Elyounoussi and, although the former Southampton forward’s shot was blocked, debutant Mattson followed up with a fine finish.

Mattson, a recent signing from NEC Nijmegen, almost added another soon after but blazed over.

The home fans were animated but their excitement was not to last.

Silva restored normal order before the break with a fine flicked finish after De Bruyne got the better of Mattson to pick out the Portuguese.

De Bruyne almost added to the lead early in the second half when he tested Grabara before Haaland headed tamely at the keeper and Foden had an effort deflected wide.

Grabara also pushed away a long-range Doku strike and Haaland was twice denied by the keeper in stoppage time before Foden wrapped up the win after exchanging passes with De Bruyne.

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