Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Here you will find the match notes for City-Napoli that were just too full of over-excited gibberish to include in the player ratings for ESPN, a nice, neat, concise and readable version of which you can find here:

No team has opened a season scoring this freely since 1894. A very long time ago.
"The best 30 minutes of football I have ever seen" - Mike Hammond, City fan

"That first half hour from Man City is amongst the best football I've ever seen from an English side. Utter control and constant chances." - Michael Cox- Zonal Marking
On the basis of how long we have been going to the football and how many hours of dross we have all witnessed, there had to, by the feted law of averages, come a moment when something really outstanding happened. Those that thought it had already done so in the sun against QPR, may have to revise their estimates in the coming weeks and months. That moment, it would seem, is now.....
A scintillating first half hour laid the foundation for City’s win, as a clever and resilient Napoli side forced their way back into the game thereafter, pushing City more than any other opponent so far this season. Guardiola's liking for punishing first half hour periods was in full view here, as City smashed their way forward time and again, against the apparently shell-shocked Italian league leaders. Napoli were having difficulty getting out of their own half, getting any passes to thread further forward than the half way line and get their playmaker Marek Hamsik into the game. That they did eventually get into the match was credit to them, as City were forced to cede more possession in the last ten minutes of the first half and for periods of the second.

City started where they had left off against Stoke City at the weekend, with a whirlwind attacking spell that had Napoli in absolute knots. Mesmerising football, concentrated on the left flank to start with, brought immediate rewards and perhaps should have delivered more before the game turned. Two major chances went begging before Napoli gained a foothold after half an hour. 

Tired legs? Over-confidence? Over-elaboration at the back? Or simply an opponent of a different calibre to Stoke? Having done the hard work and streaming forward for more, City were suddenly pushed back by an opponent that had spent the first 30 minutes unable to hold onto the ball and trapped inside their own half.    

Chose exactly the same starting line-up with good reason. Saw his side play outstandingly sharp and incisive football for half an hour, then be closed down and forced backwards by a crafty and well-balanced Napoli side. Must be time to rest one or two tired legs this weekend?

Player ratings
Ederson, 9 -- Was already playing excellently (having rushed out to head away at the edge of the box and fielded a fair number of back passes with aplomb), when he was suddenly asked to face a penalty. Scuffed shot by Dries Mertens came straight down the middle and he saved with his left boot. Outstanding in his quick darts to the edge of the box and in his safe handling. One first half clearance down the middle went to an opposition man, but, within seconds, he was dummying Dries Mertens with a drag back in his own area. Confidence has had a galvanising effect on John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi in front of him.

Kyle Walker, 7 -- So far forward after eight minutes that it was his shot blocked in the box that led to Raheem Sterling’s early breakthrough. Was being given more food for thought at the other end, however, and – despite his recurring ability to recover quickly – gave away the first penalty by pulling Raul Albiol back at a corner. Often left Lorenzo Insigne in too much space in the second half and was caught having to backtrack quickly by two quickly taken throw-ins.  

John Stones, 9 – Outstanding again at the back, as City’s tactics unravelled to an extent in the second half. Quick to recover and nick the ball from the menacing Mertens early on and delivered plenty of traffic from left to right and back again as City controlled possession with a swagger in the first half. Somehow got his belly in front of goal-bound shot as City almost paid dearly for their dallying at 1-2. 94% pass accuracy tells the story of his night. His completed passes over the last two games speak more eloquently than anything I can say: 108 of 109 attempted v Stoke and 83 of 85 attempted here.    
Nicolas Otamendi, 8 -- Hectic time for him. Less composed with the close passing across the back, but right at home with the long raking diagonals and the lunging interceptions, one of which robbed Mertens before half time, another critically came to the rescue towards the end as Napoli pressed. Continuing an impressive renaissance.  

Fabian Delph, 7 -- Calm and assured in early period, spent tucked in towards Otamendi in the centre of defence, but appeared a little rattled on occasions by the second half onslaught. Overhit a pass that put Fernandinho in trouble in front of his own goal, but showed battling qualities and a calmness on the ball that was admirable. Was still battling well for possession right at the end, where he finished by registering a 93% pass accuracy for the night.
Fernandinho, 8 – All action game from the Brazilian. Great deal of steady possession early on, first onto the loose ball when Ederson saved the first penalty and always attentive to Napoli’s attacks down the flanks as well as their short passing through the middle. Ploughed through the middle with great energy at one point and dug out a peach of a through ball to Gabriel Jesus. Blotted his copybook by giving away the second penalty, for which he was booked for trailing a leg as Faouzi Ghoulam jinked into the box..

Leroy Sane, 6 – Appeared to have put the wrong studs in, so often was he on the floor. Gave a shocked -looking Raúl Albiol plenty to think about early on, as City pinpointed the left flank as the point for the early onslaught, but also lost possession far too easily. Eye for a space worked clever opening to put Silva through to the byline. The ensuing cut-back ending eventually with the opening goal from Sterling. Drew a yellow for Christian Maggio, after his consistent harrying for possession had riled the defender.     
Raheem Sterling, 7 – Fast onto rebound when Walker’s shot came to him early on and produced a cool finish to put City ahead. Gave Kalidou Koulibaly plenty to think about in the opening stages, but a shame he cannot arc a ball into the box like Kevin de Bruyne, as his chance to feed Jesus might have killed the game early in the second half, had he been able to find his team mate with the cross. Now has 8 goals from 11 games, as well as 2 assists and this was his 5th consecutive scoring game.Swapped for Bernardo after 68 minutes.   

David Silva, 7 – Key to releasing Leroy Sane early on, he produced the deft cut-back that led to the opening goal, as Walker's effort was parried out to Sterling. Wrong foot forward with clear chance at the near post, when Fernandinho chipped one in to him. Eclipsed Marek Hamsik early on, but failed to release the ball in time when there was a chance for a third goal after a long run through the centre right to the edge of the box. Hamsik reduced to fouling him, Elseid Hysaj to butting him out of the way with his head. Finally replaced by Ilkay Gundogan after 75 minutes of gutsy battling.
Kevin de Bruyne, 8 -- Brought back for what the referee saw as a high foot on Koulibali, when it had in fact been more the other way round, De Bruyne was wound up tight right from the start. Bossed the opening period when City reigned supreme and produced another of those trademark sublime right foot passes to put the second goal on a plate for Jesus. Produced a truly amazing left footer, hit first time, that came stinging back down off the underside of the bar. So clever in his working of tight spaces and changing direction of attacks.

Gabriel Jesus, 8 -- A real lung busting effort, chasing down the defenders all night. Started how he meant to carry on, nicking the ball from a perplexed Hysaj early on but was thwarted on the byline. Touched in the second and might have had the third, had Koulibaly not stopped it on the line between his ankles. Slightly off target from another chance set up by De Bruyne later on. Replaced by Danilo after 86 minutes to help solidify City's defence.    

Bernardo Silva, 7 -- Arrived as a 68th minute replacement for Silva and immediately went on a mesmerising slalom through the middle. Bypassed by a lot of the flow in the other direction though.

Ilkay Gundogan NR – On for Sane after 75 minutes and found himself pushed well forward to aid a tiring Jesus. One run inside and out took him into a good position but he chose to shoot anstead of passing and the chance was missed.
Danilo NR – Replaced Jesus as Guardiola tried to bung some holes. Lively last few minutes down the right.

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