Manchester City 4-1 Club Brugge: Sterling ends drought as City go top
Raheem Sterling ended his goal drought as Manchester City edged closer to the Champions League knockout stages by grinding their way to a 4-1 victory over Club Brugge.
Second-half substitute Sterling, who has become a peripheral figure at the Etihad Stadium since declaring his openness to a move away, struck for the first time since August in what ended up being a comfortable victory for Pep Guardiola's side, who moved top of Group A.
Phil Foden put City ahead inside the opening quarter of an hour, but an own goal from John Stones restored parity two minutes later and the hosts struggled to create further chances in the first half.
However, unlike in their 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace at the weekend, City found a way to break down a low block and secured all three points thanks to goals from Riyad Mahrez, Sterling and Gabriel Jesus – enough to leapfrog Paris Saint-Germain, who were held by RB Leipzig.
Brugge sat deep from the off, at times operating with a six-man defence, but City took just 15 minutes to make the breakthrough.
After seeing a lovely lifted effort hit the upright, Joao Cancelo drilled a low cross into the centre of the box that Foden tapped home for an easy finish.
The hosts were only in front for two minutes, though, with Charles De Ketelaere's cutback deflecting off Bernardo Silva onto Stones' head and into the back of the net.
City did not manage to get another shot on target before half-time, but they regained their lead nine minutes after the restart when Mahrez got in front of Eduard Sobol to nod Cancelo's cross home.
Guardiola sent Jesus and Sterling on and three minutes later the latter tucked home his second goal of the season from inside the six-yard box after a neat team move, though his celebrations were muted.
Jesus made the scoreline appear more comfortable than it looked like it would for a long time when he was teed up by Cancelo in the second minute of stoppage time.
What does it mean? City back on track
They may have had their chances of winning a fifth straight EFL Cup ended by West Ham and lost to Palace in the league last week, but City got exactly what they needed against Brugge.
It was far from a vintage display – it looked like an upset could be on the card when Stones became the first City player to score an own goal in the Champions League for more than five years.
However, they avoided the ignominy of becoming the first English side to lose a home game against Brugge in European competition, with the Belgian side having now lost 12 and drawn two of their 14 such games.
Driving runs from left-back and pinpoint deliveries saw Cancelo make a pivotal impact against Brugge. He supplied seven key passes, three of which were assists, and went very close to scoring himself when he struck the upright in the first half.
Sterling stakes his claim
Having only started six games in all competitions this season, Sterling showed he still has the quality to make the difference for City. He has now been involved in 25 goals in 28 home games for the club in the Champions League – only Sergio Aguero (27) has played a part in more.
Key Opta Facts
– Manchester City have won their past nine home Champions League matches – the only English side to have a longer home winning run in the competition were Manchester United between September 2006 and April 2008 (12 in a row).
– Club Brugge have lost all four of their Champions League matches against English opponents by an aggregate score of 14-3 – Mahrez has scored in each of those games (two games for Leicester City, two games for Man City).
– Manchester City have scored 15 goals after four Champions League matches this season, the most by an English side at this stage of a campaign since Arsenal scored 15 in four games in 2010-11.
– Although they have only faced them in each of their past two Champions League matches, Club Brugge have conceded more goals against City in the competition than versus any other side (nine).
– Foden scored his seventh Champions League goal for Manchester City – only Wayne Rooney (nine) has scored more goals aged 21 or younger among English players.
City have a trip to arch-rivals Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday, while Brugge do not face Standard Liege in the Pro League until Sunday.