EPL

Not bad, huh? Guardiola marvels at De Bruyne's talent and toil

By Sports Desk April 03, 2021

Pep Guardiola lauded Kevin De Bruyne's masterful midfield display during Manchester City's 2-0 win over Leicester City.

The Premier League leaders took another step towards glory thanks to second-half goals from Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus that only told part of the story of their dominance at the King Power Stadium.

De Bruyne rattled the crossbar with a free-kick midway through the first half and was named man of the match after a majestic throughball scattered Leicester's defence for Jesus' game-sealing effort 16 minutes from time.

"Quite good, huh? It's not the first time he has done it," Guardiola said reacting to that contribution during his post-match news conference.

"Next game he has to score a goal. Next game he is going to do the passes and score a goal.

"Kevin, in this situation, is extraordinary."

De Bruyne also recovered possession 14 times, more than any other City player and won 10 of his 18 duels.

"This is one of our identities. When the most talented players in the world are able to do this kind of job," Guardiola said of the playmaker's selfless contribution.

"There is no negotiation on this. You can play really badly but in terms of running and pressing for your team-mates until the end, we have to do it.

"Do it for your mates, because in the next action your mates are going to do it for you.

"We cannot deny that in the five years we were together the players we had run and fight every single game. That is one of the things I am proud of the most."

This sense of togetherness was underlined by the celebrations that followed Mendy's opener – a strike that appeared to particularly popular throughout the City squad.

"Benjamin is especially beloved by all of us, especially by his team-mates," Guardiola added.

"He is a special person, the way he lives. He has an incredible heart. When a player is honest like he is, the people love him so much.

"He didn't play much lately, today he played and made an incredible goal. The manager must be so good for him to score a goal with his right foot – oh my God!"

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    Barca left the Spanish capital emptyhanded after Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos guided defending champions Madrid to a 2-1 win on Saturday.

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    But Madrid held on at a sodden Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium to seal a third consecutive win against Barca in all competitions for the first time since 1978 as they provisionally moved top of the table, with Atletico Madrid in action on Sunday.

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    "Of course we're still upbeat and optimistic because we've produced a serious performance," Barca head coach Koeman told reporters. "We are fighting.

    "We lost a match against a team who are fighting to win the league but there are nine matches and all the matches are important for the three best teams.

    "It's difficult for all three of us. We will come back, we will fight until the last match."

    Barca attempted 12 shots in total in the second half, three of those on target, and nearly snatched a point when Ilaix Moriba struck the crossbar in the 94th minute.

    But, Koeman became the first Barcelona coach to lose his first two LaLiga games against Madrid since Joaquim Rife in 1980 (also the first two).

    Koeman could not hide his frustration post-match, having felt his side should have had a penalty when substitute Martin Braithwaite went down in the box under pressure from Ferland Mendy.

    The former Netherlands boss said: "I'm not the only person who's upset about the decision, or lack of decision.

    "The players feel disappointed because of this decision by the referee to not give the penalty and there's players who have been playing for years for Barcelona, so I know. But once again not all decisions were right.

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    Lionel Messi, meanwhile, failed to score in seven consecutive Clasicos in all competitions for the first time in his career.

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    Seven not heaven for Messi

    Lionel Messi had seven attempts on goal, including when he hit the post with an audacious effort directly from a corner towards the end of the first half.

    No Barcelona player had more shots, but Messi could not find a way through in what could potentially be his final tangle with Madrid in this famous fixture.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has now gone seven Clasicos in all competitions without scoring – the longest drought of his career against Los Blancos.

    Simply the Benz

    At the head of Madrid's attack, Karim Benzema simply cannot stop scoring, irrespective of the opponents.

    His sensational backheel flick to convert Lucas Vazquez's 13th-minute cross was a finish that is sure to be cherished for years to come.

    Benzema has now scored in his past seven LaLiga games, netting nine times overall during this period.

    The Frenchman is the fourth Madrid player in the 21st century to have scored in seven consecutive top-flight outings after Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

    Kroos ends dead ball torpor

    From Ronaldo to David Beckham, Madrid have rarely been shy of free-kick specialists.

    It comes as a surprise, therefore, that Toni Kroos' strike on Saturday made him the first player in white to score a direct free-kick in El Clasico this century.

    Sure, it deflected off Sergino Dest and bounced off Jordi Alba's head on the goal line, but they all count. Right, Toni?

    Mignueza opens his account

    Oscar Mingueza endured a torrid first half as Vinicius Junior ran him ragged, but the Barcelona defender bounced back after the break.

    Mingueza appeared in the Madrid penalty area to convert when substitute Antoine Griezmann dummied Alba's cross.

    The previous Barca defender to score on his first appearance in El Clasico was Marc Bartra in the 2014 Copa de Rey final.

    Ref on Casemiro's case

    Mingueza was also involved in another key moment, when Casemiro fouled him outside the Madrid box in the final minute of normal time.

    That earned the combative Brazilian his second booking and only the second sending off of his Madrid career.

    During this time, Casemiro has committed 478 fouls in all competitions. All in all, not a bad ratio.

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