Manchester City strolled to an emphatic win at Cardiff City as they moved up to second in the Premier League table.
The stylish visitors were out of sight by half-time, leading 3-0 thanks to Sergio Aguero’s sweeping finish, a clever looping header from Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan’s delightful curling effort.
City underlined their superiority after the break with a brilliant fourth as a patient, incisive team move teed up Riyad Mahrez to tap in his first goal for the club, before the Algerian whipped in his second late on.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) September 22, 2018
Cardiff simply could not live with an irresistible City side and, as they are still searching for their first win this season, the Bluebirds now find themselves second from bottom of the table.
For Pep Guardiola’s men, however, this was an instant and convincing riposte following Wednesday’s shock defeat at home to Lyon in the Champions League.
Superb City bounce back
That loss was made to look like an aberration by this performance, even if it was against a newly promoted Cardiff side who look ill equipped to cope with the Premier League’s leading teams.
City asserted their dominance from the first minute and, once Aguero had opened the scoring in his 300th appearance for the club after half an hour, this match became a procession.
Guardiola’s players passed and moved with grace and speed, leaving their opponents bewildered.
Cardiff, a physically imposing side, will have been disappointed to allow one of the shortest players on the pitch, Bernardo Silva, to score the second with his head – but it was still a goal to marvel at, as the Portuguese arced his neck to generate the dip required to loop the ball backwards over goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
There was even more to admire in the third goal, as Gundogan neatly exchanged passes with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling before stroking the ball into the top corner.
Gundogan then turned provider for the fourth – and arguably the best – goal of the afternoon, with a sustained period of City possession freeing the Germany midfielder to square the ball for Mahrez to convert from close range.
Cardiff outclassed again
Tempers had flared when these two sides met here in the FA Cup in January, when Cardiff’s Joe Bennett was sent off.
City thoroughly outclassed their opponents – then in the Championship – to win 2-0 on that occasion, and the gulf in quality appeared even greater this time.
Cardiff initially battled as enthusiastically as one would expect from a team managed by Neil Warnock. But as soon as they conceded the opening goal, a thrashing seemed inevitable.
While the Bluebirds may not have expected much from a fixture against the reigning champions, it will concern Warnock that his side have now conceded 12 goals in their past three games.
After matches against City, Chelsea and Arsenal, Cardiff will be relieved to welcome Burnley to south Wales next weekend.