Manchester City kicked off their 2020/21 Premier League campaign away to Wolves.
There was plenty of drama in the Manchester City team line up to keep aficionados happy. John Stones made his first start since lockdown, Nathan Ake made his debut and Fernandinho returned to the team.
The real surprises though were largely forced upon Pep Guardiola and were present on the bench. Torres, Steffen, Bernabe, Doyle and Delap all made up the numbers due to a combination of injury and covid to the more established first team players.
City lined up with Fernandinho and Rodri both operating as defensive midfielders, acting as pivots to protect the defence and allowing full backs to push high up field.
Despite the tactical changes there was a comforting feel about City. This was the equivalent of sponge pudding and custard to Guardiola fans, as City kept the ball and worked the Wolves team hard. Early chances fell to Raheem Sterling and there was a familiarity about that too as he fluffed the chances.
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When City lost possession there were worrying moments as they were left exposed high up field and open to counter attack. Marking was loose and this was a game where mistakes were likely to prove costly.
City had surrendered some control of the match for 5 minutes when they won a penalty, almost against the run of play. Kevin De Bruyne was needlessly hacked down in the penalty area as he made his way to the byline.
De Bruyne stepped up to slot home the penalty with some aplomb, cementing his position as the only reliable City penalty taker.
In the 32nd minute Phil Foden took a break from romping with Icelandic beauty queens on International duty , and scored City’s second of the game. This was a lovely tight move of incisive passing as Sterling unselfishly squared for Foden to smash the ball home.
Just before half time, De Bruyne was denied a goal when he powered clean through. His shot was well saved by Rui Patricio.
The second half opened in a similar vein. There was no drop off from City as they continued to work the ball well into brief openings. Jesus missed the first chance, hitting his shot at the keeper rather than placing it into space.
Wolves still had enough quality to create chances and Podence first went close, shooting on the half turn after Mendy had lost Traore on the left wing. Minutes later he chipped Ederson but his shot landed on the roof of the net.
City were again entering a period where they were losing control. This time Traore crossed and it was Raul Jiminez who misplaced his shot. City were riding their luck.
City had two further chances in quick succession. Walker struck at the keeper and Fernandinho hit a rising shot over the bar. Misses chances is something which often comes back to haunt this City side.
Many of the City players started to visibly tire and the City pressing began to dry up. Wolves got themselves back in the game with a well taken header by Jiminez following a cross from Podence.
Ferran Torres was introduced in the last 9 minutes, with Guardiola hoping that his pace would help test Wolves as the clock ran down.
As it turned out most of those last minutes were a battle of attrition. As throw ins and niggly fouls broke up the flow of the game. Right at the death City added a third after a good battling interception by De Bruyne which released Gabriel Jesus to poke home off Connor Coady.
In the end there were lots of positives for City. Ake looked solid and John Stones went unpunished for any mistakes. The double pivot looked more solid with Fernandinho and City scored 3 against difficult opponents.
Kevin De Bruyne defined this game and looks to have started this season in the kind of form which suggests City will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.