Manchester City stay top of their Champions League group after eventually scraping past Italian front runners Napoli.
Raheem Sterling opened the scoring before Gabriel Jesus buried another trademark Kevin De Bruyne assist. Amadou Diawara pulled one back with the away side’s second penalty of the game but City held out for a crucial three points.
Here is what we learned from an entertaining encounter at the Etihad:
Complacency is a dangerous aura
For the first half an hour, Manchester City picked up where they left off. Threatening to score four or five after gaining a quick fire 2-0 lead. Like others, I was bracing myself for yet another goal fest – accompanied with a flurry of tweets boisterously shouting about Guardiola’s magic touch.
Unfortunately, instead of the usual attacking master class, Napoli gained some ground – fighting their way back into a game that looked lost for them. When Diawara fired a penalty past Ederson with over ten minutes remaining I feared the worst.
Could it have been complacency? It’s the only reason I could think of for City’s foot gradually leaning off the gas. It will more than likely just be a one off, but the ‘Typical City’ tag line can still loom in the air from time to time.
Stones and Otamendi have evolved into a formidable pairing
When Napoli managed to get a foothold, there were heart in mouth moments which City fans haven’t quite experienced yet this season.
Two in particular stand out. Both were immediately eased by the now solid partnership of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.
The worst of them took an heroic block from Stones to prevent a seemingly inevitable Napoli goal. The second worst, a crucial interception from Otamendi. Undoubtedly, if the Argentine didn’t get his boot to that cross, the ball would’ve hit the back of net. Much to the anguish of everyone bar a rapturous Italian away end.
For the first time since Mark Hughes sat in the Etihad dugout, I find myself wondering about City legend Vincent Kompany’s place in the starting line up.
De Bruyne has officially replaced Yaya Touré as City’s midfield kingpin
Ever since Roberto Mancini came in and shaped a City squad that would define history, Yaya Touré has been at the forefront of it all.
Now, due to Yaya’s older age hindering his ability to make his trademark midfield bursts, the reins have been handed down to De Bruyne.
Instead of pace and power through the middle, this young Belgian playmaker rips sides to shreds with devastating vision and delivery.
Eight years or so from now, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if De Bruyne’s right foot was mentioned in the same breath as Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham or Paul Scholes.
The signing of Ederson was crucial
Yet another extraordinary display from the young Brazilian. Saving a penalty, commanding his area, sweeping at a level Manuel Neuer would be proud of – it’s fair to say we can all expect great things.
Guardiola’s desperate search for a keeper that excels in distribution has finally come to an end. After Claudio Bravo’s inability to save shots, City have finally found a suitable replacement for Joe Hart at his peak. Perhaps, maybe even better.