Never mind a reasonable deputy, Ferran Torres might just keep his place leading Manchester City’s line if he keeps this up.
It was not so much the goal itself, more the eye for it that had Pep Guardiola and Olympiacos simultaneously spinning for altogether different reasons. Torres came short and was already flying by the time Kevin De Bruyne had returned his pass, breezing beyond markers and sliding underneath Jose Sa.
The 20-year-old was never missing, becoming the third youngest player in Champions League history to score in four consecutive games. The company he keeps in that list is Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe. Valencia only receiving an initial £21million for Torres over the summer is beginning to look really quite insulting.
Ferran Torres got Manchester City off to a great start, scoring early after capping off an excellent passing move
Gabriel Jesus got back on track after returning from injury, scoring an excellent goal from an acute angle with 10 minutes left
Joao Cancelo then got on the score sheet right at the death, making it 3-0 on what was a fairly simple night for Man City
Gabriel Jesus returned to the fold, scoring minutes after his introduction to make these points safe, and Sergio Aguero is expected back soon. But with Torres in this mood, the reliance on the two South Americans might not be quite so desperate.
A point in the return fixture at the Karaiskaki Stadium in three weeks’ time will be enough for City to confirm their progression into the last and they have made light work of this group. Guardiola demanded they win all three home games and one on the road. City have done just enough at the Etihad Stadium and were impressive in Marseille.
Manchester City’s Torres rises up in the box to win the ball ahead of Olympiacos’ Yann M’Vila during the first half
Torres of Manchester City slots the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper to put his side ahead early in the first half
This was exceptionally good for 40 minutes and a little lax thereafter, further evidence that Guardiola’s team is dropping off as games grow older. Still, even now, they are feeling the effects of a non-existent pre-season. The positive for Guardiola is that they are at least beginning games with more direction.
They play a bit differently, City, with Aleks Zinchenko in the team and often it is actually for the better. Zinchenko’s natural tendency is to ghost into central midfield and that represents serious benefit when Guardiola only picks one anchorman. Certainly it is the case when Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling are around, Zinchenko’s positioning vital in allowing those two to go and do their stuff.
Raheem Sterling reacts after the linesman raised his flag for offside after the forward thought he had scored a second
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola barks orders to his team as he looks to hold onto their first half lead
Foden and Sterling linked telepathically, the energy and verve along a corridor of uncertainty down the Olympiacos right exactly the sort of attacking chaos Guardiola craves against teams who arrive in Manchester with only survival on the mind.
City’s opener came within 12 minutes via Torres and the youngster had come close twice prior to that as well. First his volleyed backheel flick from Riyad Mahrez’s corner was deflected wide, before Torres then evaded a marker to head over moments later.
Sterling was correctly ruled offside when he had the ball in the net 20 minutes later and the chances were fairly steady. De Bruyne wanted to walk one effort in when the away back line had attempted something a little too clever inside their own box, while Mahrez’s shot was valiantly blocked by Pape Cisse.
Manchester City dominated in the first period, creating plenty of chances but only managing to score one of their shots
Pape Abou Cisse of Olympiacos is challenged for the ball by Manchester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez in the second half
City’s stranglehold waned and there came occasional moments when they had to rely on Nathan Ake and John Stones, the latter starting his first game since the season’s curtain raiser at Wolves.
Shouts of ‘Brilliant, John’ rung from the seats behind Guardiola’s bench as the centre half averted danger. Endearing words of encouragement, coming from the direction of kit man Michael Clitheroe, indicate those on the backroom staff know they will need to call upon the largely out-of-favour Stones during this manic season.
As has happened plenty of times already this term, the chances rather dried up for a spell, with Zinchenko’s positioning more conventional and City more rigid. Olympiacos were not particularly dangerous yet increasingly comfortable in their surroundings. The game drifted a little, more frustration from those in blue.
‘Use the ball a little bit man, come on,’ cried De Bruyne as Foden surrendered possession in the Olympiacos half. Seconds later, Foden gave it away again and the consequences might have been disastrous. City built from the back, Foden dropping to his own 18-yard line but spraying a loose pass straight to Mathieu Valbuena. Ederson had vacated his station, the goal gaped, but Stones somehow put Valbuena off sufficiently for the France international to embarrassingly slice wide.
Olympiacos created a few chances of their own in the second half, but were unable to get back into the match
Raheem Sterling of Manchester City tries to tackle Olympiacos’ Rafinha in an attempt to win the ball back high up the pitch
That was the Greeks’ first effort on goal – on or off target. City should have needed to win the game all over again. There was more, Youssef El-Arabi squeezing between Ake and Stones to force Ederson to save. So, for a lengthy spell of the second half, a third straight victory hung in the balance. Guardiola had seen enough, calling for Rodri and Jesus to solidify the result.
Olympiacos had inched their way back in though and were not finished, former Watford full back Jose Holebas screeching an effort right across Ederson’s goal. The empty Etihad gasped. It had all become a bit nervy. That was until Jesus unleashed into the top corner and Joao Cancelo curled into the far corner to add gloss.
Olympiacos failed to capitalise on any of the few chances they made, and were made to pay in the end by City’s goalscorers