MAN CITY 3, OLYMPIAKOS 0
Manchester City maintained their perfect record in the Champions League with victory against Greek champions Olympiakos.
And to provide added cheer, Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus made a goalscoring return after injury as a late substitute.
New-boy Ferran Torres gave City and early lead as he scored in each of his first three Champions League games for the club – he was also on target against Porto and Marseille in group C as he has proved an able replacement for the injured Sergio Aguero and Jesus.
It took late goals from substitutes Jesus and Joao Cancelo to seal victory to leave City within touching distance of reaching the knockout phase for an eighth successive season with three games remaining.
City, who have scored three goals in each of their three Champions League matches, racked up an impressive 20 goal attempts to six from Olympiakos who only had one on target.Embed from Getty Images
It was a satisfactory night’s work for Pep Guardiola’s side as he explained: “In the first half we played really well. In the second half we struggled for some moments but when we scored the second one it was over.
“We’ve had a good three games, nine points. We need three more points or one more point to qualify. We have five days to recover for Liverpool and then the international break.
“They had one or two chances. When we controlled in the way we control, we cannot finish games – we struggle with the second goal – but finally with an incredible goal from Gabriel Jesus and then from Joao Cancelo we win the game.
“John Stones is back, an incredible performance – almost perfect. It’s not easy when you’re a long time without playing.
“The forecast in the next three days says it will be sunny in Manchester. It’s rare. We’re going to have tomorrow off. After that on Friday and Saturday we’ll prepare for the Liverpool game. But the players need a break.”
Guardiola made five changes from the side that won at Sheffield United on Saturday as there were recalls for Stones, Nathan Ake and Oleksandr Zinchenko in defence along with Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden.
Aymeric Laporte, Ruben Dias, Cancelo, Rodri and Bernardo Silva were the players to lose out.
City took an early lead through Torres’ cool finish but made hard work of what should have been a straightforward victory.
The way Torres took his goal, collecting Kevin De Bruyne’s pass and taking the ball past Pape Abou Cisse before slotting home, was a sign of his growing confidence as well as his finishing ability.
But the 20-year-old Spaniard is a winger not a natural striker, and the return of Jesus is a timely one, especially before Liverpool’s visit this weekend.
City needed Jesus, who had not played since September 21 because of a knee injury, to come off the bench and fire home their second with nine minutes remaining, blasting into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.
Another substitute, Cancelo, added gloss to the scoreline when he brilliantly curled home a third at the end.
That made it the perfect night for City, who welcome Premier League champions Liverpool to Etihad Stadium on Sunday but, in truth, it was a far from convincing performance that got them the points.
City had poured forward in the opening minutes and got their reward when Torres exchanged passes with Kevin de Bruyne and coolly slotted home for his fourth goal of the season.
But instead of building on that strong start, City went backwards – firstly by failing to turn their first-half dominance of possession into further chances, and then by playing themselves into trouble.
Olympiakos barely made it out of their half before the break but grew in confidence after half time and were only let down by poor finishing.
Foden’s loose ball to John Stones inside his area should have been punished by an equaliser but Mathieu Valbuena inexplicably sliced wide of a gaping goal.
Youssef El-Arabi brought a first save out of Ederson soon afterwards, but Jose Holebas blasted wastefully across goal after dashing into the area down the left.
It took Jesus’s introduction to settle City’s nerves and avoid a tense finish, with Cancelo making certain of victory from the edge of the area.
Jesus looked sharp and lively when he came on with 20 minutes remaining, and his finish was a reminder of what City have been missing without either of their first-choice strikers.