Olympiacos 0-1 Manchester City: Phil Foden continues his fine form with winner
Pep Guardiola reckons Manchester City simply have no available time for meaningful training, so they devised their own glorified session out in Piraeus instead.
Olympiacos aren’t great but were made to look far worse in what appeared a 90-minute attack against defence drill. The attackers probed patiently, almost partaking in a game whereby the football was not allowed in their own third.
Guardiola’s side were not scintillating – far from it actually – yet this was probably their most dominant display of the season. As an illustration, the Greeks only registered their first touch inside City’s box with two minutes left.
Manchester City’s Phil Foden celebrates scoring the game’s only goal alongside Raheem Sterling, who provided the assist
Foden’s goal helped City cruise to an easy Champions League victory over Olympiacos with the visitors never being troubled
The England youngster continued his fine form for both club and country by clinching the all-important winner
Victory for Manchester City means they are through to the last-16 of the competition with two matches still to play
MATCH FACTS AND STANDINGS
Olympiacos (5-4-1): Sa 8; Drager 5 (Vrousai 66, 6), Semedo 6.5, Ba 6, Cisse 5.5, Rafinha 5; Masouras 6 (Soudani 78), M’Vila 6, Pepe 6 (Bouchalakris 71, 6), Camara 5; Fortounis 6
Subs not used: Karargyris, Tzolakis, Vinagre, Androutsos, Papadopoulos, Nikolis, Kitsos, Tsavos, Sourlis
Manager: Pedro Martins 6
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Ederson 6; Cancelo 8, Stones 7, Dias 7, Mendy 7 (Zinchenko 78); Gundogan 6.5 (Doyle 86), Rodri 6.5 (Fernandinho 75); Sterling 8 (Mahrez 76), Silva 7, Foden 8.5; Jesus 8 (Aguero 78)
Subs not used: Steffen, Carson, Laporte, Torres, Garcia, Nmecha, Palmer
Booked: Sterling, Ruben Dias, Gundogan
Goal: Foden 36
Manager: Pep Guardiola 7
Referee: Davide Massa (ITA) 6
Man City have qualified from their Champions League group
Foden scored after an excellent City move – more with Match Zone
Progression to the last-16 of this competition is secured with a 100 per cent record. Topping the group looks fairly certain too. Of course, qualification to that particular round is not their problem in Europe but we will save that focus for another day.
This was about attempting to locate an attacking fluidity their manager had openly admitted was missing. They passed, passed and passed again. Passed with an energy lesser spotted in recent weeks, with far greater urgency.
Their play was not absolutely perfect, with only one goal via Phil Foden, but the evening’s setting was. Olympiacos camped inside their own box and this, sans any sort of pressure from elsewhere in the group, was an opportunity to rediscover a bit of zip.
‘We were much more aggressive,’ Guardiola said. ‘The team is alive. The performance was top class. Unfortunately we didn’t get the second one because the game would’ve been completely different.’
Gabriel Jesus sees a shot saved by Olympiacos keeper Jose Sa on a night where the visitors laboured in front of goal
Looking to build up fitness following injury, Sergio Aguero was sent on as Gabriel Jesus’s replacement late on in the game
Ilkay Gundogan reacts after missing a chance to put the Premier League outfit 2-0 ahead against Olympiacos
City were never troubled in Greece and Pep Guardiola’s side responded well to their 2-0 defeat at Tottenham last Saturday
City did it without Kevin De Bruyne, left back in Manchester to rest alongside a fatigued Kyle Walker, and that the likes of Bernardo Silva started suggested that Guardiola viewed this as a chance for some to revive form.
Silva featured in an ever-changing front four, carving a chance for Gabriel Jesus when dropping deeper, only for the Brazilian to strike at the goalkeeper’s legs when free. Foden, Rodri and Jesus all might have scored earlier in the piece; Raheem Sterling’s menacing free-kick was scrambled over by Jose Sa.
The goal, coming with nine first-half minutes remaining, was more old City than recent City, brimming with one-touch vision. Ilkay Gundogan switched to Jesus, who immediately set Sterling into the area. Sterling, unselfish, saw the onrushing Foden out of the corner of his eye, backheeled for the youngster to wrap his foot around the ball and slamming low into the net. When they click, it all looks so easy.
That was Foden’s sixth of the season for club and country already and he is doing nothing to dampen the calls for Guardiola to start him every week. Incredibly, he has sat on the bench for City’s last four Premier League matches. Incidentally, only one of them brought victory.
City defender Joao Cancelo (right) competes for the ball along with Rafinha during the first half of the Champions League tie
Manchester City’s Sterling (left) fights for the ball with Olympiacos’ Yann M’Vila, who lunges in to intercept to play
Both teams observed a minute’s silence before the game to mark the tragic passing of football legend Diego Maradona
Those around the camp talk of how Foden’s industry and thirst for football rubs off on others and his pressing in conjunction with Sterling really ought to have brought a second goal to see the tie off. Gundogan was the eventual beneficiary of their harrying inside the Olympiacos box but the midfielder could only curl wide as the ball broke loose. ‘We need to work on scoring more goals (because) we’re creating the chances,’ Foden said.
They were never threatened at the other end, however. ‘That is a big compliment for John Stones,’ Guardiola said. ‘I am so happy for him.’
Silva passed another opportunity wide before Sergio Aguero made his entrance, a reintroduction after suffering a hamstring injury at West Ham last month. City would have won by a far greater margin had the Argentine been about all night and maybe that realisation will fill Guardiola with hope for the coming weeks.
RE-LIVE ALL THE ACTION AS IT HAPPENED…
Manchester City will hope to secure their place in the last-16 of the Champions League when they travel to Olympiacos as they look to get back to winning ways.
Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Greece off the back of a disappointing 2-0 Premier League loss at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, but can secure a place in the knock-out rounds in Europe’s top club competition if they avoid defeat at the Greek champions.
Follow Sportsmail’s DAN RIPLEY who will provide live UCL coverage of Olympiacos vs Man City including score, lineups and build-up.