Belfast Telegraph

Man City 4 Borussia Monchengladbach 0: Sergio Aguero treble puts Germans to sword as City look reborn

Man City 4 B M'gladbach 0

By Ian Herbert

It was the new Manchester City incarnate, a team of long passes, short passes, almost always forward passes, sweeping away in the course of 90 minutes all that has been bland and tepid about them on the European road for so long

The personnel had not changed so very much from the team of Manuel Pellegrini that managed to turn a Champions League semi-final into an exercise in drudgery, but Pep Guardiola imbues every action with meaning and accelerated intent.

There are more than enough individual transformations last night to fill the autumn months with interest: the defensive shield Fernandinho revealing himself as the exponent of the 40-yard pass and Nicolas Otamendi as a central midfielder, such were the positions he took up to receive the ball at times. John Stones looked a new player amid quality.

But simply to observe Guardiola - slapping his leg relentlessly at possession conceded, fretting his way through every second without the ball - was the play within the play. 'There', 'Be there' he implored Fernandinho at one point early in the second half. Too late. The ball had gone. Such are the challenges of a midfielder whose manager's mental processes are quicker than his own.

The Brazilian rarely erred. He looks to fit this new mould as well as any, running 40 yards and supplying the long pass, pinpoint, which sent Kevin de Bruyne away to supply City's opening goal, eight minutes into Guardiola's era. The creators Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling buzzed around ahead of him, deadly in the spaces they took up between the German defensive and midfield lines.

They punctured those frequently, driving Monchengladbach back with such command that Sergio Aguero managed to score a hat-trick and still look slightly eclipsed. Everything has revolved around him in the past but he seemed unhappy to be departing, eight minutes from time.

It's customary for the opening Champions League fixture to leave City searching their souls about the missing ingredient in Europe. Guardiola had swept all that away in the half hour or so it took his players to take an unassailable 2-0 lead against a German side of no little merit and ability. A vignette in the closing stages of the first period told you why.

Sergio Aguero, who'd already taken his season's goal tally to eight in five games, had not delivered a forward pass from a position 15 yards outside the opposition box. There was a turnover in possession. Guardiola waited until the danger had passed. Then he tore Aguero off a strip.

That's where the intensity resides. There was one of those intense Guardiola touchline conversations with John Stones which have become customary. The defender explained in the last international break that these are Guardiola's way of conveying instructions through the team. Stones is the emissary.

Too many of a Manchester disposition missed the exhibition. Such is the indifference to the Champions League that the new top tier of the South Stand remained shut. Prior arrangements for a match taking place 24 hours late explained the substantial empty seats around the place but the silence must have been an alien experience for Guardiola.

City were ahead in eight minutes when Kolarov took Raheem Sterling's return pass from his throw on the left and drilled a well-paced cross which barely left the turf. Sergio Aguero responded faster than Andreas Christensen to turn the ball in at the near post. The second came when Christoph Kramer took Gundogan's foot right away as he drifted into the area with the ball. Aguero dispatched the penalty to Yann Sommer's left.

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was a bystander, though granted a brief chance to compensate for Saturday's shaky start at City as he dived impressively to push away a hard shot delivered from Tobias Stro.

Sterling should have found the net when De Bruyne's weighted pass sent him through on Sommer in the 72nd minute but he dawdled and his shot was weak. He compensated rapidly, spinning to pass inside Julian Korb to deliver the Argentine his hat-trick.

The fourth goal came in injury time when De Bruyne and substitute Leroy Sane worked a move down the right which concluded in a low finish from Kelechi Iheanacho, on for Aguero.

There was an embrace of sorts between Aguero and Guardiola as the Argentine left the field and to which the player didn't seem entirely committed having taken some stick from the touchline.

He has some adjusting to at Manchester City and is not the only one around here.

Man City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, De Bruyne, Gundogan (Clichy, 81 mins), Sterling (Sane, 79 mins), Aguero (Iheanacho, 83 mins). Unused subs: Caballero, Sagna, Nolito, Tasende.

Monchengladbach: Sommer, Elvedi, Christensen, Strobl, Johnson, Dahoud, Kramer (Korb, 39 mins), Wendt, Stindl (Traore, 81 mins), Raffael, Hahn (Hazard, 59 mins). Unused subs: Sippel, Vestergaard, Hofmann, Jantschke.

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)

Man of the match: Sergio Aguero

Match rating: 8/10

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