MAN CITY 5, FC COPENHAGEN 0
Manchester City were able to leave Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Rodri on the bench and take off Erling Haaland at half time, and still recorded a resounding Champions League victory against FC Copenhagen.
City were once again relentless and could have won by a wider margin as they were twice denied by the frame of the goal and umpteen times by Copenhagen keeper Kamil Grabara.
They mustered 30 goal attempts with 16 on target as Grabara, who had five seasons at Liverpool without making a senior appearance, certainly had a busy night as City made it three wins out of three to top Group G.
They are already almost certain of a spot in the knockout phase with three games remaining and a win in the Danish capital next week will secure their last 16 place.
Haaland, of course, was at the heart of the action as he scored City’s opening two goals to make it 19 goals already for City and 28 in 22 Champions League games.Embed from Getty Images
“You can talk too much about him, but they are such a strong collective,” explained Copenhagen coach Jacob Neestrup.
“They are the best team in the world at the moment and a number of levels above us.”
Jack Grealish also praised Haaland, explaining: “It’s unbelievable, honestly. I’ve never witnessed anything like it in my life. For the first and second goals I was just laughing. He is always there.
“The keeper said something to me as I was walking back. He said ‘he’s not human!’. I said ‘you’re telling me?’ Hopefully he can carry on this form and take us to glory.”
City manager Pep Guardiola explained he took off Haaland as he has played “a lot of minutes” and he needed to give game time to all his players.
“Today I did my best selection to win the game. We need them all in this tight schedule,” he said.
“It was good for the younger players and Cole Palmer was excellent.”
Guardiola praised his player, adding: “After Manchester United and the 6-3 win, we received a lot of compliments and nice things were said about us.
“We were humble enough to respect our opponents, and that is the reason we produced an excellent performance.
“It was really, really good and I am satisfied and really happy how they played today.”
City made five changes from the side that crushed neighbours United in the Manchester derby here on Sunday.
With Kyle Walker sidelined by the injury he picked up on Sunday, Joao Cancelo switched to right-back and Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Gomez came into the back four.
Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez were the other players who returned, replacing De Bruyne and Foden, who both dropped to the bench, while Haaland continued up front.
Slightly surprising was Copenhagen keeper Mat Ryan being dropped to the bench tonight after keeping a clean sheet on Sunday, but probably told replacement Grabara what to expect.
Grabara was likely to be busy a little as before tonight City had scored 22 times in their five home games so far this season, an average of 4.4 goals a game. They manage a shot, on average, every five minutes and score every 20 minutes.
This would not be news to former Brighton keeper Ryan, though. He shipped nine goals in three visits here with the Seagulls in 2018 and 2019.
There was a period of silence before kick-off in memory of the victims of the stadium disaster in Indonesia.
It took City less than seven minutes to break the deadlock which inevitably came from Haaland with his first touch of the match.
Cancelo whipped in a low cross from the right and the Norwegian swept a first-time shot from 12 yards to Grabara’s left, a sumptuous finish.
And they almost doubled the lead five minutes later when Bernardo Silva was denied by the frame of the goal after being set up by Grealish.
The relentless bombardment of the visiting goal continued as Haaland and Grealish were each twice denied by the overworked Grabara who also kept out an effort from Gundogan.
The Copenhagen defence cracked for a second time in the 32nd minute when, from a cleared corner, Sergio Gomez’ shot was deflected into the path of Haaland who had a relatively easy finish for his 19th goal of the season for City.
That was quickly followed by a third goal, only this time the unlucky David Khocholava found his own net.
Gomez’ shot was deflected off both Denis Vavro and Khocholava to give Grabara no chance of keeping it out.
And the stats for the opening period were frightening as City enjoyed 72 per cent possession and had 18 goal attempts to Copenhagen’s none.
City made a change at the break with the game won, Haaland making way for Cole Palmer who almost made an immediate impact as he forced another decent save from the overworked Grabara.
Haaland may not have been on the field, but the goals continued to flow.
City won a penalty after Laporte was wrestled to the ground following a corner by Marko Stamenic who was booked, and Mahrez made no mistake from the spot as he celebrated his 200th City appearance with a goal.
This was followed by a second change as Cancelo was replaced by youngster Rico Lewis and not long after Bernardo Silva made way for Joshua Wilson-Esbrand who was making his Champions League debut.
City were denied a fifth goal by the frame of the goal, this time Julian Alvarez the unlucky player.
Copenhagen had their first goal attempt of the night in the 75th minutes when Paul Mukairu’s effort was deflected by Lewis over the bar for a corner from which Valdemar Lund glanced a header narrowly wide.
It was a are lapse from City who moments later added a fifth goal as Grealish found Mahrez whose cross was slotted home by Alvarez from inside the six-yard box for his fourth goal of the season.
City added chances to increase their margin of victory in the dying embers of the game as Grealish twice saw shots flash past the upright and a screamer from Gomez was acrobatically turned over by Grabara.