Phil Foden finish sends Manchester City into last 16 with win over Olympiakos

Jamie Jackson
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: MB Media/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: MB Media/Getty Images

Manchester City have cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League, this win at a canter giving them a maximum 12 points with two matches remaining in Group C. They were as ascendant as Olympiakos were insipid and can now turn focus to the Premier League, where they sit in 13th position.

This victory came via the boot of the impressive Phil Foden, who possesses talent in abundance that made him the standout act, as it does so often, against the Greek champions. In the final group games City play Porto and Marseille and could finish with a perfect record of six wins.

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“We made an incredible group stage,” Pep Guardiola said. “We’ve already qualified and we’ll try to finish first.

“We didn’t concede a shot on target. I know it looks easy, but it’s not. Unfortunately, we only scored one goal, but the team is alive.

“We were much more aggressive – it’s not easy to play against nine defenders. Our pressing was so good. We attacked with more desire. We played really well in all departments. We are in the next round and can focus on other competitions.”

For Benjamin Mendy this was a first appearance in almost two months due to a muscle injury and the left-back was involved in City’s opening forays, one of which ended in a fierce Rodri shot that went straight at José Sá.

The Frenchman was part of a City wave that came relentlessly at the home side until the interval. Foden was pivotal in this. One back-heel to Raheem Sterling split the defence. Then a glide to the 20-year-old’s left presaged a sharp effort that tested Sá.

As is so often true, City kept the ball and with it any prospect of scoring. Foden played a pass into the area aimed at Gabriel Jesus and this was repelled, but Olympiakos already looked weary with 15 minutes not yet gone.

When Mady Camara dispossessed Jesus and Olympiakos took a first breather it did not last as City were instantly back at them, relaying the ball at will. Ousseynou Ba’s air-kick of a clearance, then, was not what was required but summed up the mismatch on show.

The sense was a City opening goal could lead to several more. Foden’s free-kick from the left came close to creating this, the delivery just beyond Rúben Dias.

Sergio Ag&#xfc;ero returned for Manchester City in the second half.
Sergio Agüero returned for Manchester City in the second half. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Before kick-off, Guardiola had claimed full responsibility for City’s paltry 10 goals in eight Premier League matches. In this competition the record was fine: nine in three. Partly at play in the domestic toils has been the prolonged absence of Sergio Agüero and when Jesus was clear in on goal the Brazilian hit the keeper where the Argentinian would surely have given City a lead to compliment their dominance.

Finally, 10 minutes before the break, they found it through a flowing move with an irresistible end product. Ilkay Gündogan chipped a pass to Jesus and he found the smart run of Sterling along the left. His no-look back-heel wrong-footed the defence and there was Foden to hammer home.

This was pleasing yet at the interval a one-goal lead did not reflect City’s superiority against an opponent whose ambition was non-existent. Sterling might have beaten Sá with two long-range attempts, but the keeper saved well each time.

Related: Olympiakos 0-1 Manchester City: Champions League – as it happened

The period ended with an element of niggle – particularly from Rafinha, Camara and Ba who looked to rile Sterling and John Stones.

When the second half commenced City were sitting in the knockout stages, conscious that even one goal conceded would not affect this. Olympiakos showed more urgency – actually pressing City – but still Bernardo Silva could left fly at Sá and moments later Gündogan did the same, narrowly missing the target.

Foden continued to be the best performer. A free-kick swung in from the left was struck with purity and when he vacated his left-hand corridor this allowed Mendy to gallop in and cross. The onrushing Sterling should have doubled the lead. Rúben Semedo’s challenge took Jesus down but no penalty was awarded.

As the final 20 minutes began Olympiakos’s hopes rested on a smash-and-grab strike. Yet with zero attempts on goal – to City’s 19 – this was unlikely.

So it proved and with Agüero on as a substitute City ended in particularly ebullient mood.