PEP GUARDIOLA’S champions saw Liverpool win comfortably last night and were happy to set up another crazy title shootout with a 5–0 win at West Ham.
Just as Brighton found out as City lifted the trophy last term and Watford witnessed in the Cup final, Pep’s men are masterful.
But this time they have the ‘new Fernandinho’ in Rodri, who will prove to be one of the signings of the summer.
Here are Alex Terrell’s player ratings from the London Stadium.
Ederson – 7
Somehow that bright pink goalkeeper’s kit seems to compliment his smiley face tattoo.
His sensational double save from Chricharito and Manuel Lanzini snuffed out West Ham’s best chance. Other than that, he just had fun with the new goal kicks.
Kyle Walker – 7
After talk Joao Cancelo might replace him at right-back, the England ace showed his turn of pace – appropriately in the same stadium as Usain Bolt won triple Olympic gold.
His overlap and cross put City 1-0 up.
John Stones – 6
Seb Haller parked himself close to Stones. But after a good early flurry, the Frenchman went quiet.
It will be a big season for the England defender, Gareth Southgate needs him to find another gear if they are to win Euro 2020.
Aymeric Laporte – 7
Enjoyed the new goal kick rules by standing just feet from Ederson any time the kick came out.
Made some big challenges in fairness – and showed why City won’t miss Vincent Kompany as much as some fear.
Oleksandr Zinchenko – 6
Solid, but you get the impression he will be easily displaced by Benjamin Mendy when – or if – the fun-loving Frenchman is fully fit. Goes about his job well and is reliable, both qualities that could keep him at City for many years.
David Silva – 6
Strangely subdued at the London Stadium, he and De Bruyne have not found their unique wavelength yet.
His flick on to make it 3-0 was the best bit of play in the game – but that was ruled out by VAR and the silky Spaniard was strangely subdued.
Rodri – 8
City’s new £62.5million man grew as the game went on.
Although West Ham allowed him so much time on the ball, he showed his range of passing, on the half-turn, thirty yard lofted cross-fielders – as well as those textbook Fernandinho tactical fouls.
You don’t have to watch him play for long to see he is the perfect kind of Guardiola player.
Pep said before the game: “Rodri will be incredible for us.
“He doesn't have tattoos or earrings.
“His hair, he looks like a holding midfielder! A holding midfielder must be like this, think about the rest [of the team].”
Kevin De Bruyne – 6
Looked a bit off the pace at times, until he left Fabian Balbuena for dust on 50 minutes.
Raheem Sterling – 9
It doesn’t matter where the England star plays across the front three, he is so dangerous.
Tucked away his one-on-one with Lukasz Fabianski so easily. Then he beat the offside trap by millimetres, before lobbing brilliantly. He had looked offside but VAR showed he was bang on.
And his final finish inside the near post made England fans wish there had been a major international tournament this summer. Top drawer.
Gabriel Jesus – 7
Was given the job of being the fox in the box and did exactly that – and so little else. If he keeps turning up and finishing like that every game, Guardiola will be a happy man.
Riyad Mahrez – 8
City’s most dangerous player in the opening stages, but shot wide after 20 minutes when he should have scored.
The weight of his pass for Walker as the full-back bombed on the right and crossed for the opener was simply world class.
His snakehipped sidestep then tricked Issa Diop into challenging for a penalty.
THE biggest critics of VAR have shifted their ire from its simple existence, to lamenting the confusing, emotion-killing fan experience.
And they are right to do so – but it can be changed so easily.
There are monstrous screens behind both goals at the London 2012 stadium.
But neither showed what happened in either incident where Raheem Sterling was offside, then onside, nor the bizarre re-taken penalty, nor Michail Antonio's reviewed 'elbow' on Aymeric Laporte.
It turned out that all the decisions were correct, but nobody knew why.
The Lukasz Fabianski incident was even more confusing.
He didn't have his foot on the line when the kick, which he saved, was taken. But virtually nobody in the stadium saw that.
As Sterling said after the game: "At the end of the day, as long as the decision is right, that is all that matters."
True for the players, but it's time to stop insulting fans' intelligence and show them what is going on there and then.
Rugby union will prove, once again, during next month's World Cup, that they have their version – called TMO – just right.
Referees are mic'd up and it is broadcast and show in the stadium. Who loses out? Nobody.
It's time for football to follow the egg-shaped ball.
Sergio Aguero (on for Jesus '69) – 7
Made Premier League history and converted the penalty after it had to be re-taken for a VAR infringement by Declan Rice.
Ilkay Gundogan (on for De Bruyne '79) – 6
Not much to do, other than help keeping the ball tick over.
Phil Foden (on for Silva '79) – 6
The 19-year-old made some strong late runs into the box and showed plenty of energy. Expect this substitution to happen more as the season goes on, especially given Silva is now 33.
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