EPL

Guardiola: 'Exceptional' De Bruyne getting even better

By Sports Desk December 28, 2021

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes Kevin De Bruyne is only going to improve following his impressive recent goalscoring form.

The midfield maestro heads into Wednesday's showdown with Brentford having found the net three times in City's past three Premier League outings.

That included a brace in the 7-0 rout of Leeds United on December 14, with no player on target more often in the English top flight since then.

De Bruyne, who also scored the opener in the Premier League leaders' entertaining 6-3 win over Leicester City on December 26, has been a revelation since arriving at the Etihad Stadium in August 2015.

Indeed, no player has registered more assists (77) or created more chances (572) than the Belgium international over the past six years.

Guardiola says the recent surge in De Bruyne's performances has been evident following a difficult spell earlier this season.

"He is getting better, by far," the Man City boss said. "He has something unique in the world. We know that he is an exceptional player. 

"He struggled in the beginning of the season, and now is much, much better. 

"The game against Leeds was really good, and [against Leicester] he played a really, really good home game. 

"He is a fighter and a guy who creates goals and assists. We know it."

Full of momentum, City travel to the Brentford Community Stadium seeking a 10th successive league victory.

Nevertheless, Guardiola insists his side cannot take anything for granted against the promoted Bees, who have already beaten Arsenal, drawn with Liverpool and given Chelsea a scare during their maiden Premier League campaign.

"They made an incredible start of the season. They are doing really well," he added.

"I saw the game against Chelsea; they lost, but they were incredible. They drew against Liverpool, they beat Arsenal. [They are a] top team."

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    The opening goal came after 11 minutes and was against the early run of the play.

    AEK’s first attack saw them win a corner on the left after a low cross was turned behind. As the ball was whipped in, no one had picked up the lurking Sidibe who with a late dash into the box caught Brighton out with a superb 15-yard diving header that whistled past Jason Steele.

    De Zerbi’s side had been badly caught out, and seconds later it could have been two. Levi Garcia, who would torment Brighton in the first period with pace and clever movement, raced beyond the defence and went through on goal, but Garcia’s tame finish was too close to Steele.

    Garcia wasted another glorious chance to double the lead from an almost identical position, this time slipping his effort just beyond the far post.

    Pedro nodded wide from a free header inside the six-yard box as Brighton finally put together an attack to concern the AEK defence, but within a minute he had made amends for his profligacy.

    When defender Ehsan Hajsafi dangled a leg as Pedro looked to cut inside to shoot the referee initially booked the striker for diving. But after a pitchside VAR review the booking was rescinded, Pedro stepped up and coolly rolled his penalty beyond Cican Stankovic to score Brighton’s first European goal.

    At that stage it appeared that they had had their reprieve for the way they had left themselves vulnerable to AEK’s threat, but five minutes before the break there was another fine delivery from a set-piece and another critical lapse in concentration.

    Brighton held a high line on the edge of their own box as a free-kick was whipped in from 40 yards out, but as blue shirts charged back towards their own goal none could prevent Gacinovic from sliding to get a foot on the ball to turn it beyond Steele.

    There was still time for Jan-Paul Van Hecke to deny Orbelin Pineda what would have been a deserved third for AEK on the stroke of half-time.

    There was relief then around the Amex when the referee was directed pitch-side for another VAR review after Pedro’s tumble inside the box under Damian Szymanski’s challenge had at first been waved on.

    As in the first half, the decision was overturned, and Pedro got to his feet to replicate his earlier composed finish to draw Brighton level again.

    De Zerbi was booked for remonstrating too forcefully on the touchline, before Pedro was handed the chance to seal his hat-trick and an opening night win when he spring the offside trap and went one-on-one with Stankovic. This time the goalkeeper got the better of their duel.

    Then came AEK’s final sting. A raking ball from the back was nodded out wide by Ponce to Niclas Eliasson, who returned the ball to his fellow substitute. Although Steele blocked Ponce’s shot, the rebound ricocheted off the Argentinian and into the net for the winner.

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  • Abdallah Sima fires Rangers to victory in Europa League clash with Real Betis Abdallah Sima fires Rangers to victory in Europa League clash with Real Betis

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