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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Tyrone Marshall

Man City's celebrations vs Wolves send a stark warning to Bayern Munich

Nobody forgets their 21st.

For Manchester City the celebrations that greeted a 4-1 win that was much harder than the scoreline suggests showed this was a milestone they were desperate to bring up.

The Blues put arguments about penalty shootouts and the domestic record books to bed by beating West Ham on Saturday. Against Wolves they took another step to European history, although they made hard work of it.

After Leander Dendoncker's early own goal it looked like being a straightforward 21st for City, but such achievements are rarely quiet affairs. Instead, this ended up being a raucous night and the roars that greeted the flurry of late goals for Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez felt much more appropriate.

Having dominated the game but failed to make their control pay, City were bought back to life by Conor Coady's equaliser on the hour. The hunger with which they chased a winner showed how much these records mean to the Blues.

That desire was summed up by the brilliant Bernardo Silva. Footballers can struggle to sleep as the adrenaline of a night game wears off, but some of these Wolves players will be reluctant to close their eyes tonight for fear of seeing Bernardo haunt their dreams.

Playing as City’s right-sided No. 8 against Wolves, Bernardo was a blur of energy and he pressed the visitors into submission. Roman Saiss, Jonny Otto and Ruben Neves, in particular, must have left the Etihad with their heads still spinning.

Bernardo was everywhere, tearing around after the ball with the same energy and exuberance as City are racing after those records.

With his lockdown hair trailing in his wake, Bernardo was the beating heart of City’s 21st successive win. The Blues are penning new chapters in the record books by the week.

By next Wednesday they could have equalled Bayern Munich’s record of 23 wins and on this form City are coming for Bayern’s records and, just maybe, their European title.

Guardiola and his players will never admit it, but their burst of brilliance has rendered the Premier League a race that has been run. They’re now 15 points clear of Manchester United and while the lead could be down to a dozen again by Wednesday night, a City collapse from here would remove Devon Loch from the lexicon as shorthand for blowing unassailable advantages.

City have become a thoroughbred stayer under Guardiola this season and the final furlongs could be the most thrilling. This was a hard-fought win against Wolves, but the lack of killer instinct in the final third won’t overshadow the total domination City had of the game.

Like every club, City have had their problems this season, with injuries and with a significant Covid outbreak around Christmas. The gruelling schedule in the middle of a pandemic has left scars on every club.

But the brilliance of the Blues is that they've navigated the choppy waters with the skill and majesty of a round the world sailor who has seen it all before. In the depth of winter and through depleted teams they've kept on winning and now as spring brings sunshine and the promise of medals to come they are in the healthiest situation they've been in all season.

Nathan Ake is the only absentee and he's due back in training this week. The medical staff are turning their attention from rehabilitation to recovery.

With four trophies on the line in the next three months Guardiola suddenly has a hand that will have most of Europe folding before he lays down his cards. Wolves certainly looked beaten from the moment they took to the Etihad turf.

Having made seven changes to beat West Ham on Saturday, Guardiola made six more against Wolves and Phil Foden started neither, the local lad saved for derby day perhaps.

A fit squad and a 20 match winning run tends to inject a fair dose of confidence into tired legs and City's domination of the game came from the first whistle. With Joao Cancelo back in the side on the left it was more of a 3-1-4-2 when City had the ball, with the Portugal full-back playing high on the left and Raheem Sterling partnership Jesus through the middle.

It was Cancelo and Sterling that combined for the first big chance. A clever pass from the left found Sterling in on goal, but Rui Patricio was out quickly to smother.

It looked like a matter of time for City though and on 15 minutes they had the breakthrough. Rodri's diagonal ball found Mahrez creeping behind left-sided centre back Roman Saiss and his first touch was as velvet smooth as we've come to expect. With that control, he glided beyond Saiss and a low cross was bundled into his own net by Dendoncker, with the presence of Sterling right behind him making the outcome a fait accompli for the Belgian one way or another.

It was a Bernardo flick-on that almost doubled City's advantage before the break, only for the most marginal of offsides calls to rule out Aymeric Laporte's goal. Seconds later City were in again, with Jesus' blocked shot falling to Bernardo whose header drew a save from Patricio, before he poked the rebound over the bar.

Guardiola's frustration on the sideline was at his side failing to kill the game off. Early in the second half Patricio produced a brilliant save to keep out De Bruyne's low drive after a clever flick from Sterling.

At the other end Ederson had been a spectator for an hour, but the risk of one-goal leads are obvious and having been pegged back by West Ham on Saturday, City suffered the same fate against Wolves. Rodri was penalised for a foul 35 yards from goal and Joao Moutinho's free-kick was converted by Coady's diving header.

City could have restored their lead immediately but Jesus wasted two good chances, lashing a half-volley from a tight angle over the bar and then letting Patricio save when one-on-one from Bernardo's through ball. Sterling then flicked a cross just wide and shaved the post from distance.

But the Blues wouldn't be denied their coming of age night. Jesus was on hand to finish after Kyle Walker's low cross had been blocked and Mahrez then made sure with a low finish.

Jesus added the gloss in added time. Happy 21st.

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