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Champions League

Manchester City 2-1 Napoli Champions League: as it happened, goals, match report

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesús fired a rampant City in to an early lead at the Etihad. Mertens missed a penalty, and Diawara scored one for the Serie A leaders.

Manchester City 2-1 Napoli Champions League: as it happened, goals, match report

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.

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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.

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JASON CAIRNDUFFAction Images via Reuters

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


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