Gabriel Jesus double eases Manchester City past 10-man Wolves – The Guardian

If there is one thing that Liverpool should know, squatting defiantly at the top of the Premier League, it is that Manchester City have no intention of seeing another team remove the championship trophy from their possession. Pep Guardiola’s team made that clear when Liverpool came here two Thursdays ago and, in their latest victory, it quickly became clear the reigning champions are quite happy playing this game of catch-up – for now, at least.
By the time they were finished the gap at the top had come back down to four points, Gabriel Jesus had fully justified Guardiola’s decision to keep him in the starting lineup and the goalkeeper, Ederson, had been impudent enough to stroll out of City’s penalty area and nonchalantly start to stroke around the ball in midfield. The crowd loved those moments and, briefly, it did seem to cross Ederson’s mind that he might continue those little one-twos even further upfield and join everybody else in the hunt for more goals. Do not bet against it happening at some point.
The only surprise, perhaps, was that City did not do more to enhance their goal difference – now plus-42 compared with Liverpool’s plus-40 – once Jesus had scored twice in the first half, either side of Willy Boly’s red card for a studs-to-ankle challenge on Bernardo Silva. Two ahead against 10 men, City coasted through the second half but restricted themselves to only one more goal, courtesy of the Wolves captain, Conor Coady, inadvertently turning a deflected cross into his own net.
To say it was comfortable would be an understatement and, in the process, City kept up their record of having scored at least twice in every home game this season. Their next goal will be their 100th in all competitions in 2018-19 and it is another measure of their firepower that they could win so convincingly on a night when Sergio Agüero and Kevin de Bruyne were restricted to substitute roles.
At the same time it is also fair to say Wolves were obliging opponents for a side with City’s needs. Boly did at least apologise to Silva and, in days gone by, the defender would probably have had a reasonable defence that he took the ball first. Unfortunately for Boly, he ought to have realised that is no mitigation in modern football when the follow-through involves studs connecting with a player’s ankle. City were already leading at that point and the Frenchman’s red card meant the night swiftly became an exercise in damage limitation for the away side.
Jesus had opened the scoring with a close-range finish from Leroy Sané’s low delivery, a goal that originated from a beautifully weighted pass forward by Aymeric Laporte, and when the Brazilian doubled the lead with a penalty six minutes before half-time it meant he had accumulated seven goals in eight days.
Did Ryan Bennett make enough contact on Raheem Sterling to warrant the decision? Sterling was travelling at speed, darting past Bennett and Coady, and he does occasionally tend to make the most of any form of contact inside the penalty area. Yet it was a clumsy effort from Bennett, who missed the ball, and ultimately Sterling was too quick for him. Jesus came forward, stuttering his run-up and sidefooted his kick past Rui Patrício in the Wolves goal.
Boly’s early departure meant Leander Dendoncker moving into a more defensive role and the visitors switching to a 5-2-2 system with little hope but to defend robustly and try to catch their opponents on the break. Truthfully, however, a side with 10 men was bound to be vulnerable against City’s pass-them-to-death approach. City have not been defeated by a promoted side in 35 attempts, going back to February 2007 against Reading, and Wolves have not won here in the top division since December 1979.
At least the Wolves fans had not lost their sense of humour, greeting every touch with “olés” during one passage early in the second half when the 10 men reminded themselves what it was like to keep the ball for a couple of minutes. No longer than that, mind. City soon had it back and set about re-establishing their superiority, keeping their first clean sheet in 10 league fixtures.
Instead Wolves had to repel a City side for whom Sané was excellent, Ederson was rarely troubled and David Silva established himself as the club’s highest appearance-maker in the Premier League era. This was the Spaniard’s 267th league appearance in City’s colours, taking him above Joe Hart from the modern era – though still some way short of the proper club record, set by Alan Oakes with 564 games from 1959 to 1976.
Silva was replaced by De Bruyne on the hour and it was the Belgian’s cross that led to the third goal. Romain Saïss, one of the Wolves substitutes, headed it towards his own goal but the final touch came off Coady to benefit a City side that now have Huddersfield, Burnley and Newcastle, all in the bottom six, as their next three assignments. February looks trickier, starting with back-to-back games against Arsenal and Chelsea, but it is fair to say Liverpool must be acutely aware of the team looming in their wing mirrors.


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