- Kevin De Bruyne scores twice as Man City send message to title rivals
- Injury-hit Leeds have no answer to scintillating football by the home side
- City win their seventh successive match; One win in seven for Leeds
With attackers determined to inflict maximum punishment on their opponents, it was always a matter of when, rather than if, Manchester City’s players would score the 500th Premier League goal under Pep Guardiola.
They started the evening one away from that landmark and it took just eight minutes for the landmark to be reached by Phil Foden. Against a compliant Leeds team, Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne (twice), Riyad Mahrez, John Stones and Nathan Ake added more as City fans brought out their Poznan celebration dance.
“We want eight,” they sang, not content with a victory that will bruise Marcelo Bielsa’s team.
It takes a certain type of mindset to relentlessly attack even when matches have been won after half an hour. But Guardiola players who do just that. None of them appeared concerned with much apart from going forward. Their goals were such a mix of styles: headers, long-rangers, slick moves, set-pieces.
When the goals went in, Guardiola would turn around and point to his son sitting near the directors box. Those City executives must dread life without the Spaniard, who has one full season on his contract. His 500 goals have come in 207 games, fewer by some distance to the record previously set by Jurgen Klopp.
“It proves you don’t have to defend so deep to prove you can defend well,” said Guardiola. “This team is creative and this club buys players to be creative and my job is just ask them to run. The quality of the club to buy these players makes the difference. We have not scored many goals this season but this game was a good run to be close to Liverpool and Chelsea.”
City have also equalled the top-flight record of 33 wins in a calendar year, with Newcastle United surely fearing the tally set by Liverpool in 1982 to be broken at the weekend.
It was Leeds’ joint-biggest defeat in their history but more importantly to City, they made a statement to their title rivals. They sit at the top of the table and are the team to catch, heading into the festive fixtures with momentum.
This was a morale-boosting victory that helped City in different ways. De Bruyne back from illness, Grealish back in form, no injuries and Liverpool’s goal difference almost wiped out. It could be worth more than three points at the end of the campaign.
Even with in-form Raheem Sterling an unused substitute, City started at a frightening pace and never slowed, attacking at angles that would have troubled any defence. Before the scoring started they even afforded themselves Bernardo Silva missing an open goal. But there was a sense it would not take long to clock up the 500.
For all their beautiful passing, they broke the deadlock with a bulldozing run from Rodri. The Spaniard was all brawn rather than finesse as he charged past Tyler Roberts and Luke Ayling. It needed Illan Meslier to rush out and stop him in his tracks but Foden’s rebound was on target and Stuart Dallas mis-kicked on the line.
As Bielsa sat on his bucket in the technical area, he wore a concerned look. As if he knew what was going to follow.