Date: 14th September 2017 at 8:58am
Written by:

Was it really nearly 50 years ago that our beloved Malcom Allison announced that City, having wrestled the Division One title away from Sold Trafford, would “Terrify Europe”, before falling at the first hurdle, unable to overcome the unheard-of SK Fenerbahce? Indeed, City were never to be seen again in Europe’s elite competition until this latest run under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Group, investors intent on seeing their charges actually delivering upon Allison’s bold statement.

Tonight, in the lashing rains of the Netherlands, the home of Feyenoord, the Blues looked as though they were finally starting to come to terms with life in the Champions League.

Guardiola made a statement of his own, effectively playing only two at the back in Stones and Otamendi, sheperded by Fernandinho, with Walker and Mendy out wide but playing most of this match in the opposition’s half.

The battered and bruised Ederson, stitched up and wearing Rugby-style headgear, was custodian of the netting, with Bernardo Silva, the Doctor, playing on the right, de Bruyne and David Silva in midfield, leaving Aguero and de Jesus up top. Make no mistake about it, Europe’s top teams will have sat up and taken notice of City’s performance in this match.

The match was barely beginning when the Blue Arrows hit the front. At the first time of asking, Feyenoord, with ex-Liverpool Brad Jones in nets couldn’t defend a well-crafted corner routine and after a quick interchange between de Bruyne and el Mago, the cross was headed home by Stones, through the legs of Vihena, supposedly guarding the line and back stick.

City couldn’t have asked for a better start, but better got even better after ten minutes when one of those tidal wave moves down the right undid Feyenoord completely. The Doctor set Walker in motion. Taking the ball in his stride his pinpoint cross picked out Aguero’s near post run and the Mighty Atom steered the ball deliciously inside Jones’ far post to put the match effectively out of sight for a host that hadn’t been beaten on their own patch for nineteen months.

The Blue Mooners went wild and the until now noisy home supporters clammed up.

Feyenoord for at least the first twenty minutes were strangers to the football, but they did get something that looked like a chance only to find Ederson in no mood to concede and he pushed Kramer’s effort for a corner which was easily defended.

A few minutes later City were at it again. The Doctor played in Aguero whose shot was blocked. The rebound fell to Mendy who blasted it goalbound, so hard it knocked Jones over and that rebound fell to de Jesus who didn’t need asking twice despite the offside arms being raised aloft Arsenal-style. Replays showed that Aguero had strayed but not de Jesus. Three-nil City and they were rampant. It was telephone-to-the-ear time for the young Brazilian.

For the rest of the first half, Feyenoord changed tactics and tried to kick City off the field. However, a stream of yellow cards and a fear of being reduced to ten men put a stop to that as City starved them of the ball. In truth, it could have been something like 6-0 at the break, but the Blues would have taken half that at the beginning of the night.

Feyenoord needed to stop the rot as their fans, constant witnesses to victory at their own stadium got on their backs, especially as the Kevin de Bruyne masterclass resumed.

City were soon once again on the front foot with Aguero and de Jesus, announcing to the world that this is a dynamic duo to be scared of, both went close. Perhaps de Jesus is a little bit too keen to score as he often strays less than an inch offside when he has that pace to make up that inch at a split-second’s notice.

Just after the hour another City short-corner routine produced the same outcome as the first. De Bruyne took the kick playing it in short to Mendy who quickly returned it to KDB. His looping cross went straight onto the head of Stones, whose timing and jump were impeccable and whose header simply thundered into the net. I used to ask the question as to when City would start to score regularly from set-pieces. Maybe this, in Europe’s top competition was just the practice they needed. Indeed, when was the last time the Blues scored two from corners in one match?

The rest of the night took on the feel of a testimonial as Guardiola rested his big guns and in quick succession introduced Sterling, Sane and even Delph to close off the match. Sterling and Sane know that lower-grade performance will not carry them into the front line this season and there was a hunger about them that demonstrated they believed the scoring was not over, but the re-shaping of the team to accommodate the replacements reduced City’s fluency and potency and Feyenoord got to the finishing line without more punishment.

This was just the tonic that City needed to stamp their mark on their European travails this season and from one to eleven, or whatever numbers they parade these days, Pep’s team threw down a marker and with Napoli struggling in the barren wastes of the Ukraine, maybe this will be the year City win their group and afford themselves an easier passage when the hotballers of Nyon get to work for the knock-out stages.

It was simply a Kevin de Bruyne show. Back in hot form with one of the finest arrays of passing seen in an age at the Etihad, the Belgian locksmith could have picked the locks of the Tower of London last night and gone home with the crown jewels. On nights like this he certainly looks the jewel in the crown. Alongside, David Silva continues to astonish. I can’t believe that this unbelievable footballer has not been targeted and captured by the Spanish big boys. He has eyes like lasers, spots runs before the players know they are making them and knits the play together like no one else in the Premier League.

In the additions of Walker and Mendy, you can finally understand Pep’s jig-saw. They motor up and down the flanks like well-tuned Rolls Royces and not only stretch the opposition defences, but deliver the type of crosses defenders hate and have two of the best strikers on the planet to aim for.

Yes, you might point to Messi and Ronaldo, but achieving thirty goals regularly in the Premier League is much more of a compliment that getting fifty in La Liga, when most weeks you play against teams that would struggle in the SPL.

Mendy, especially looks frightening and I’m much happier that City secured him rather than the has-been Alves who headed for easier assignment at PSG. Walker is simply continuing where he left off at Spuds, only in a better team, where there is always someone there and in support. The speed with which he gets himself back, if needed, is remarkable.

Fernandinho looks as though he has had an injection of life again. Tonight, although not called upon to do a great deal, you could see him easily slipping into the middle of Stones and Otamendi, or stepping in to make a vital tackle thirty five yards out.

But it was John Stones play that also pleased this writer. At last he looks as though he is starting to come of age on both the domestic and continental stages. His performance against Liverpool and again tonight were both assured and confident and grabbing a brace of headers will not have done him any harm at all. I’m looking forward to this lad becoming one of the most accomplished centre backs we’ve seen at City and maybe reach the heights of a certain ex-Stretford who also broke the defenders transfer fee record many moons ago.

The cynics among us will say it was “only” Feyenoord, don’t get carried away, but in the Mercer-Allison days it was “only” Fenerbahce and the Blues got carried off. You can only beat what’s in front of you and tonight City levelled one of the more famous names in continental football. The Dutchmen were like rabbits in the headlights and City were the hunting pack. As you know, the hunter always succeeds.

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