Manchester City 1-2 Napoli: match report
There are occasions when a football team appears powerless to prevent what is happening to it, what is happening around it, what is being inflicted on it. Napoli experienced that punch-in-the-stomach sensation at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City’s performance in the first half hour was complete. Kevin De Bruyne was malevolent in the middle. Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling were devilish on either side of Gabriel Jesús. Napoli faced a task akin to bailing out the Titanic with a leaky thimble.
Sterling opened the scoring for Manchester City after nine minutes. Jesús doubled their lead four minutes later as Pep Guardiola’s side ran riot. Kyle Walker conceded a penalty for pulling back Raúl Albiol in the box, but Ederson denied Dries Mertens from the spot. Amadou Diawara gave the City ‘keeper no chance with his penalty in the second half, but the Serie A leaders could not find the elusive equaliser.
There was much fanfare ahead of this clash between the leaders of the English and Italian top divisions. City prepared in the best possible way by putting seven goals past Stoke at the weekend, while Napoli have won each of their eight matches in Serie A.
The chance to break Juventus’ monopoly at the summit of Italian football caused Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri to rotate his team for the visit to City. The club are taking the unorthodox step of prioritising domestic football over the Champions League.
Allan and Jorginho dropped out of the midfield. But even if they had been present, it is unlikely that they would have been able to thwart the slap-in-the-face onslaught that Manchester City organised for the first 30 minutes. The deep crimson sky, tinted by the presence of Storm Ophelia, was a fitting backdrop for a team baying for blood.
The home side struck the first blow after nine minutes. David Silva cut the ball back to Kyle Walker from the byline. Walker’s shot was blocked, but the rebound fell to the feet of Sterling, who with the ‘keeper already committed, was able to stroke the ball in to the unguarded net for his eighth goal of the season.
Gabriel Jesús swiftly added a second. Four minutes later, the Brazilian came deep to apply pressure on Albiol’s headed clearance, with the result that it fell to the mesmeric feet of Kevin De Bruyne. Manchester City’s puppet master accelerated down the right and crossed for Jesús to tuck the ball in at the far post.
The home side were insatiable. Teams and individuals rarely get close to sporting perfection. City were close.
De Bruyne thundered a left-footed shot off the bar with Reina well beaten. Minutes later, Koulibaly was called in to action on the line to prevent Jesús putting the game out of reach. And then, just ever so slightly, they eased off.
Kyle Walker and Raúl Albiol tangled in the six-yard box, ending in a heap on the floor. It was unclear as to whether Walker was pulling Albiol, or Albiol was backing in to Walker. In any case, the Spanish referee pointed to the spot. Dries Mertins scored 28 league goals for Napoli in 2016-17, but he could not score from 12 yards in Manchester. His shot lacked conviction, and Ederson saved with his legs.
The game opened up in the second half. Napoli felt their way back in to the match, although it still felt like City could score at any moment.
Napoli captain Marek Hamsik looked set to make the game interesting after 65 minutes. Fernandinho conceded possession on the edge of the box, and Mertens committed the ‘keeper before squaring the ball to the Slovakian. A diving John Stones rushed towards him and dramatically deflected the shot behind for a corner. The away side were running out of chances.
When Fernandinho abruptly halted Ghoulam’s weaving run in to the box, the Italian team had another chance from the penalty spot. Amadou Diawara made no mistake on this occasion, but it proved too little too late.
Napoli find themselves flailing in the group following defeat to Shakthar in the first round of fixtures. With Serie A their focus, a third-place finish and a slippery path to the Europa League would be an unwelcome outcome.
City top the group with maximum points, and have made a strong statement of intention in the competition.
Manchester City 1-2 Napoli as it happened
90'+5' Full time! City shouldn't have had to work so hard for that victory after flying in to a two-goal lead after 13 minutes. Mertens missed from the spot just before half time, but Diawara made no mistake when the Serie A leaders won another penalty in the second half.
90'+4' Allan shapes a clever, deep cross towards Mertens on the penalty spot, but Ederson rushes off his line and claims the ball.
90'+3' Sané wins a foul by the corner flag, which he takes short to De Bruyne as three Napoli players twitch to get within five yards. City are trying to keep this in the corner, and De Bruyne, Saném and B. Silva are doing a good job of it.
90'+2' City are passing the ball around deep in Napoli's territory.
90' The fourth official raises his board to show five minutes of added time.
89' A loose touch from Diawara gifts the ball to Gundögen. Back after a long lay-off through injury, the German wriggles to the right and shoots across goal. Reina pats it on to the ground and allows Koulibaly to leather it clear.
87' That will be Jesús' last contribution. Danilo takes his place as Guardiola looks to shore up the defence.
86' Albiol nabs the ball off Jesús, but Koulibaly doesn't get the memo and he clatters City's No.33. Free-kick 35 yards out.
83' Ghoulam takes a corner to the near post and it rebounds back towards him. At the second time of asking, the left-back bends it in, and the ball is knocked down for Ounas to shoot through a crowd of players. Ederson does well to smother it, before releasing a counter-attack. Sané has the beating of Maggio once again on the left, and bears down one-on-one with Reina from an acute angle. The 'keeper stands up well, and the ball richochets off the attacker and out for a goal kick.
80' Napoli rob the ball and Callejón quickly releases Mertens through the middle. The converted striker shoots early, with Stones and Otamendi bearing down from the side and Ederson from dead ahead. His curling effort drops several yards wide of the post. It's another warning sign for City, who are allowing this game to open up a little too much.
79' Maggio, who is now donning the captain's armband, is having none of Sané's trickery. The substituted is flummoxed by Sané's combination of stepover and acceleration, and dives in. Reina punches the free-kick clear.
78' Gundögen replaces Silva for Manchester City, and Ounas replaces Hamsik for Napoli. By the way, Hysaj did not recover from that clash of heads with David Silva, and was replaced by Maggio.
75' GOOOO...OOOFFFFSIDE... Bernardo Silva squirms through several challenges in the centre of the park and offloads it to his brother, David. De Bruyne takes up the baton and plays in Jesús with a gorgeous little ball. But the Brazilian had drifted foul of the offside trap. Earlier on in the move, David Siva had send Mertens crashing to the turf with what looked like a forearm to the chops from the Andy Carroll school.
73' GOOOOL! Diawara tucks the penalty in to the depths of the bottom corner. Ederson guessed correctly but could not keep it out. The game is afoot.
72' 72' PENALTY TO NAPOLI! AGAIN! Ghoulam weaves in to the box and Fernandinho leaves a lazy, dangling leg. Nobody seemed to hear the referee's first whistle, but his second makes things clear.
69' City's first change of the evening sees Bernardo Silva replace Sterling, the scorer of City's first goal.
67' David Silva and Hysaj are both having bandages applied after a clash of heads. In the background, the City fans turn their backs to the pitch and bounce in a jubilant Poznan.
65' What a block John Stones! Fernandinho loses the ball in a dangerous position, and with Ederson committed by Mertens, Hamsik has the goal at his mercy... but for the Yorkshireman. Stones throws himself in front of the shot and deflects it behind for a corner. That was real heroic, Terry Butcher-with-blood-on-his-shirt defending.
63' City look far more likely to score than Napoli at the moment. Zielinski has a brief foray in to the box for the visitors but is agriculturally blocked off by Walker. The strip of Napoli supporters bay for a penalty, to no avail.
61' De Bruyne side-steps Allan and lays the ball out to Sterling on the right and continues his run towards the near post. Diawara is alert to the Belgian's presence, and turns Sterling's low cross behind. The corner is worked short but comes to nothing.
59' That enforced substitution has brought about a shift for Napoli. Allan is slotting in to midfield, with Zielinski pushing forward to occupy Insigne's vacated spot on the left flank.
56' Insigne slumps down on the turf, gets up, hobbles off, and is replaced by Allan.
53' Maurizio Sarri is skulking across his technical area in a baseball jacket as Jesús is played in through the middle. Albiol makes a good tackle, but Jesús swivels on the ground and pokes the ball back to Sterling, who in turn direct it on to Sané. He shifts on to his left, on to his right, and back on to his left before slicing a left-footed shot wide of the near post.
50' David Silva steams through the centre, with Sané available to his left like a runaway train, and Jesús to his right. With so many tantalising choices, Silva dithers on the ball and allows Albiol to dive in.
47' Hamsik ghosts in to the box, receives the ball from Mertens, and tries a deft, first-time pass to Callejón, who is unmarked at the far post. Otamendi stretches to make a crucial interception. It's end-to-end and gloriously frenetic at the start of the second period.
46' Second half time! City start like a whirlwind as Jesús dashes clear down the right wing and tries to square the ball for Sterling. Albiol intercepts on the slide deep inside the box.
The teams are strolling out of the tunnel (where they will have been observed from behind one-way glass by gawping City fans paying a premium for the privilege. De Bruyne stays out of the referee's grill on this occasion.
It really has been a sumptuous first half from Manchester City. They have made the best team in Italy look like a pub side the morning after a lock in. De Bruyne has been superb once again.
Ederson has now saved three of the four penalties he has faced in the Champions League.
45' Half time at the Etihad, and City are comfortable thanks to Mertens' missed penalty. Despite that, De Bruyne has got a real bee in his bonnet. He was booked on the brink of half time for complaining, and went back for another go at the officials as the whistle blew for the break. He had to be pushed away by Silva before the situation boiled over.
45' City's front three almost combine to kill the game before half time. Sané slightly overhits his low cross through the middle, and Sterling and Jesús both scamper towards it. Sterling waves Jesús back, before cutting the ball to him six yards out. Reina is out attentively to block the Brazilians shot.
44' De Bruyne is booked for giving back-chat to the referee.
43' Silva sends Callejón crashing to the ground with an over-zealous aerial challenge on the right wing. The pair exchange a few words before Napoli send the ball back to Albiol to start a new phase.
40' De Bruyne delivers a low ball towards the near post from a free-kick, but it's too low and Insigne clears.
38' Kyle Walker was booked for the foul that led to the penalty.
38' SAVED! Mertens shows a lack of conviction and hits the ball straight down the middle. Ederson saves with his legs and a Fernandinho shirt hoofs it clear before Mertens can score on the follow-up.
37' PENALTY TO NAPOLI! Kyle Walker is penalised for a foul on Albiol deep inside the six-yard box. It looked more like Albiol was backing in to the City defender.
36' Napoli's front three are now combining, fizzing around the City box, dragging defenders out of position. Mertens comes close to finding space but is squeezed off the ball.
34' Sané fronts up his man in the box and looks set to get a shot away, but he shows a rare lack of care for the ball and a loose touch allows it to get away. Albiol's half-clearance finds Fernandinho, who shoots wide at the first time of asking.
33' Insigne swings a swirling ball to towards Callejón at the far post. The Spaniard looks set to poke it in, but Ederson dives out bravely at his feet to claim.
30' The Napoli midfield are really suffering. Perhaps the inclusion of Allan and Jorginho would have solidified Sarri's side, but City are so dominant that it's hard to conceive that they would have been able to stop this tsunami of attack.
28' Napoli clear the ball off the line! Jesús twists inside the box and midway through a fall to the ground, directs the ball to the far post. Koulibaly is in the right place to control it and boot clear. Pepe Reina claps furiously at his defence.
25' Insigne skips past a couple of challenges and tries a one-two with Mertens, but the return ball is slightly too weak and City recover. The home side rush up to the other end through Sané, who cuts the ball back to De Bruyne on the edge of the box. He shapes to shoot on his left and makes splendid contact from 25 yards out. The ball thunders off the underside of the crossbar, hits the turf, and bounces back up in to the sky. It was close to being a scorcher, but goal-line technology says no...
23' Leroy Sané looks for Sterling at the far post, but his cross is a fraction behind the winger. Light blue shirts hunt down the ball like a pack of dogs, and the ball pops out to Fernandinho on the edge of the box. The Brazilian swings the ball in to David Silva, who can't stretch to turn it in.
20' Napoli look more settled now, but they haven't half given themselves a mountain to climb.
18' Marek Hamsik gets a couple of touches on the ball in an attempt to calm Napoli. The Italians pass the ball around neatly for a few phases, but a loose pass allows City to gallop forward on the counter-attack, with Raúl Albiol executing a well-timed sliding tackle on Sané to end the danger.
15' City are utterly rampant in attack, and unremitting in their approach of defending from the front. Napoli try to play the ball out to Ghoulam from a goal kick, but they never really gain control of the aerial ball and City nab it back.
13' GOOOOOL! Gabriel Jesús stabs in from close range from De Bruyne's low cross. The Belgian assist-machine strikes again. Napoli look in disarray.
11' Jesús gets the better of Hysaj and attempts to scamper around his outside, to the byline, and back towards goal. The full-back recovers to poke the ball out for a corner, which Fernandinho nods wide from an acute angle at the far post.
11' That's Raheem Sterling's eighth goal in all competitions. He continues to blossom under Guardiola.
9' GOOOOOL! Sterling opens the scoring after pinball in the box. Sané plays the ball forward to Silva who cuts the ball back from the byline. Walker's shot is blocked, but falls straight to City's No.7 who strokes it in to an unguarded net.
7' City are stroking the ball around patiently at the back. The full-backs, Walker and Delph, appear to have been inverted by Guardiola, as was the case in the Premier League victory away to Chelsea. With the two coming narrower, there is more space for Silva and De Bruyne to drift out to wide areas.
5' It is a big night for 20-year-old Amadou Diawara in the centre of the Napoli midfield. He's filling in for Allan, and will have his work cut out to thwart the creative combination of De Bruyne and Silva.
4' Kevin De Bruyne waggles his finger at the referee. The Belgian is harshly pulled up for a high foot on Koulibaly, with the ball breaking for Gabriel Jesús in the box.
3' The hosts have dominated possession in the embryonic stages of the match, but most of it has been inside their own half.
1' Peeeeep! Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz gets this absolute thigh-rubber underway and City immediately charge forward.
The Champions League anthem is done, the hairs are back down on the back of everyone's necks...
The teams are gathering in the tunnel at the Etihad...
Maurizio Sarri's career has been on a slow burner until this point. The 58-year-old spent much of his managerial career, which began in 1990, in the lower divisions. It was only after he guided Empoli to promotion to Serie A that hometown-club Napoli gave him a crack.
There's no No.10 in the line-up for Napoli this evening, and there never will be in future. The coveted squad number was officially retired in 2000 to commemorate Diego Maradona's fabled spell at the club, but Napoli were forced to reintroduce it in the mid-2000s following their drop to the lower divisions, where teams have to line up with numbers 1-11.
Kyle Walker has had a dig at the Mancunian climate following his move from Tottenham: "Apart from the weather, it is very good. It just constantly seems to rain here, but apart from that I'm really enjoying it." Come on man, you're from Sheffield.
There are moody skies over Manchester with kick-off at the Etihad Stadium 45 minutes away.
Both Manchester City and Napoli have made riproaring starts to the season. The Premier League side have won 10 and drawn one in all competitions (the only blemish on their record a home draw against Everton), while the Italian outfit have won 11 and lost one (with that defeat coming in the Champions League away at Shakhtar).
The teams are also out at the Bernabéu, where Real Madrid are hosting Tottenham Hotspur in Group H. William is providing live updates and coverage of that match for AS English here.
Maurizio Sarri makes a pair of changes in midfield following Napoli's 0-1 victory over Roma. Allan and Jorginho drop out, with Zielinski and Diawara coming in to the starting line-up. The return of Serie A at the weekend brings a home match against second-place Inter. Napoli are ostensibly rotating the team in order to stay fresh for that clash and an assault on the title.
Pep Guardiola has named an unchanged line-up from City's nonchalent demolition of Stoke at the weekend.
Napoli XI: Reina; Hysaj, Koulibaly, Albiol, Ghoulam; Zielinski, Diawara, Hamsik; Insigne, Mertens, Callejón.
Manchester City XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; De Bruyne, Fernandinho; Sterling, Silva, Sané; Jesús.
Manchester City's John Stones has completed more passes (224) than any other player in the Champions League this season. The cultured Yorskshireman appears to have found his feet at Pep Guardiola's City after a tricky start to live in Manchester.
Kevin De Bruyne can place a strong claim to be the best player in the Premier League at the moment, and his logic-defying pass to set up the second goal in City's 7-2 rout of Stoke adds weight to that. Jonathan Liew has a go at 'deciphering' De Bruyne's genius in this superb article. It's well worth a pre-match perusal.
Marek Hamsik is one goal shy of equalling Maradonna's record of 115 goals for Napoli. If he scores tonight, he says he will be happy but is more concerned with bagging three points for his club "The most important thing for me is the team and the performance of my team. Of course, I will be happy if I score but all we want is to leave the stadium with points."
While Pep Guardiola has coached at the highest level throughout his career after his start at Barcelona B, Maurizio Sarri has taken a much more circumspect route, initially combining coaching amateur sides with a career in banking. But he has shown his mettle at Napoli, after passing through Sangiovannese, Arezzo, Avellino, Perugia, Grosseto, Alessandria and Sorrento, even turning the opinion of Diego Armando Maradona, who was far from thrilled when Sarri took over. "I was wrong about Sarri," the Argentina great said. "I ask for forgiveness."
Maurizio Sarri says, "I watched a few [Man City] matches. I didn’t want to watch all of them because I didn’t want to get depressed..." Quite a funny take from the Napoli manager and a sign of how good Manchester City are currently playing. Pep Guardiola, in his second year at the club, is turning them into proper contenders on all fronts. This game tonight is quite possibly the underrated game of the round.
Ilkay Gundogan has wanred MAn City of Napoli despite not seeing much of them this year. “I’ve not seen that much of Napoli this season, to be honest, but over the past few years they’ve been very strong and play beautiful football and I know they’ve made a fantastic start,” said Gundogan. Under Maurizio Sarri this year, they have won their first eight games in Serie A, sit atop the table, have scored 26 goals and conceded just five!
Hello and welcome to our live coverage from Manchester as arguably the two hottest teams in European football clash. We'll be building up to it all day, bringing you the latest news, team information and then will be jumping into our live commentary to bring you all the beauty of the game through the magical words of Matt McGinn.