Manchester City enjoyed a respite from domestic difficulties and found its scoring touch in a resounding 3-0 win at Marseille in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Once so dominant in the Premier League, the cash-rich club has made an unconvincing start. City sits in 13th place with only two wins from five games and eight goals scored, amid suggestions its usually prolific attack has been found out by English defenses.
A poor Marseille side was not the stiffest test to prove the doubters wrong, but Ferran Torres, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling all netted to give City a boost and first place in Group C after last week’s 3-1 home victory against Porto.
“We played really well, we didn’t concede much,” City coach Pep Guardiola said. “We were controlled, we were so aggressive without the ball. I’m so satisfied with the performance.”
Marseille, on the other hand, has not even scored yet and is already starting to stare elimination in the face.
“It’s a different level and we have to be honest about that. We need to learn from these matches and improve, but it’s a tough defeat,” Marseille winger Florian Thauvin said.
“When you spend the whole match 30 meters from your own goal and you have 70 meters to cover in order to score a goal, it’s difficult to have the legs to do that.”
The home side gifted City the lead in the 18th minute when midfielder Valentin Rongier’s sloppy sideways pass was intercepted by Kevin De Bruyne on the right flank. He quickly teed up Torres to sweep home from close range and claim another goal after also scoring against Porto.
Another panicky moment nearly offered City a second goal, but left back Oleksandr Zinchenko’s low strike from the edge of the penalty area shaved the post.
City’s second came in the 76th when Phil Foden sprinted down the left and his back-post cross was headed down by Sterling. The loose ball landed near the penalty spot and Gundogan assuredly clipped it past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
“When they played with five at the back we had to make the pitch high and wide,” Guardiola said. “Raheem was exceptional and Phil as well.”
Five minutes later, City attacked down the right and De Bruyne offered Sterling a tap-in.
“It was a tough match to play and we paid for our mistakes,” Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas said.
Perhaps one of those mistakes was deploying Thauvin as a makeshift striker and surprisingly leaving playmaker Dimitri Payet on the bench. The home side offered nothing during the first half, except for when City goalkeeper Ederson made a simple stop from Nemanja Radonjic’s tame shot late on.
Ederson patted away a speculative drive from Thauvin early into the second half as Marseille improved slightly on a largely comfortable night for City.
There were no fans inside the 67,000-capacity Stade Velodrome because of coronavirus restrictions, but some Marseille fans lined the streets outside and lit flares when the home team’s bus arrived.
City’s players all took a knee against racism before the start, but Marseille’s players stayed standing.
In Group C’s other match, second-place Porto beat third-place Olympiakos 2-0 at home to leave both sides on three points.
Marseille travels to Porto and City hosts Olympiakos in next Tuesday’s games.