This was City’s 10th Premier League win in 12 matches and, as Neil Warnock had said before kick-off, thank God his side only have to play them twice this season. For Cardiff, this was a chastening, harrowing experience. By half-time, at which point City had rampaged into a three-goal lead, it was already a case of damage limitation. Long before the final whistle, Guardiola’s side stroked the ball around at will.
Manchester City laid on an attacking masterclass as they extinguished any concerns of a European hangover to blow away Cardiff City in style with five magnificent goals, as Pep Guardiola’s side strolled to victory in South Wales. A breathtaking away performance left the hosts exasperated, with Sergio Agüero opening the scoring on his 300th appearance for City, before goals from Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gündogan and a double by Riyad Mahrez, his first goals for the club since his £60m move from Leicester City, completed the rout.
Warnock always knew the difficulty of the task at hand. The cost of the two starting lineups reminded him as much; Cardiff’s a paltry £25.9m compared with Guardiola’s team worth £405.2m, and counting. For Cardiff, revved up by a thumping pre-match playlist consisting of Metallica and Darude, the explicit chasm in class was not noticeable for the first half an hour, until City’s slick opener; Gündogan fed Silva, whose slide-rule pass found Agüero, with the striker – first time – wrapping his right boot around the ball and firing into the bottom corner. It was the result of a sweeping counterattack, which stemmed from Ederson rolling the ball out to Gündogan after gathering a Cardiff corner.
As Agüero celebrated, an animated Guardiola pulled his centre-backs, Nicolás Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte, over towards the touchline for a pep talk in search of perfection. Three minutes later, City had doubled their lead, with a short-corner routine between Gündogan and Leroy Sané teeing up the latter to flight an inviting cross in from the right. When it arrived into the box, Silva sent a looping backward header into the far corner. By this point, the champions were purring; Agüero had another effort deflected wide by Bruno Manga, the Cardiff defender after Raheem Sterling danced his way to the byline before Fernandinho drove wide from distance.
The best was still to come, though. Gündogan seized possession on the edge of the box after Sané drifted infield and, after a give-and-go with Sterling, who kept Sean Morrison, the Cardiff captain at bay, the City midfielder emphatically arrowed the ball into the top corner. It was a special goal, one that had even the home supporters gasping in awe and lifted the entire City bench off their feet. The hosts were powerless as City turned on the style.
Cardiff’s frustration spilt over just before the interval, with Joe Ralls extremely fortunate to return for the second half. Studs showing, the Cardiff midfielder jabbed Gündogan with his left boot, a knee-high challenge that earned him a booking and left the Germany midfielder grounded. In his technical area, a baffled Guardiola remonstrated with Darren England, the fourth official.
Things went from bad to worse for Cardiff minutes after half-time, with Lee Peltier, the right-back given the runaround by Sané, stretchered off with a suspected dislocated shoulder. That stoppage sapped the life out of even the faintest of hopes of a fightback, though Danny Ward did curl a half-hearted effort at Ederson.
In cruise control, Guardiola summoned Mahrez, and then Phil Foden, from the bench, after the former had added City’s fourth, with the effervescent Gündogan again influential. Sterling slid in the midfielder down the left channel, who pinged a crisp ball across the box for Mahrez to sweep home. The winger then curled home another, after Manga gifted the ball to him inside the box. In the end, the scoreline could have been anything the visitors wanted it to be, with Sané’s header kissing the post, Sterling forcing Neil Etheridge to palm over and Silva belting a free-kick at goal late on.
Source: The Guardian