Football Features

“It’s main event time” – Winners and Losers as De Bruyne inspires Man City to big win vs. bogey side Wolves

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:51, 21 September 2020 | Updated: 17:17, 24 November 2022

In an intense night of football, Manchester City beat Wolves 1-3 at Molineux.

City started their Premier League season with an impressive showing at a ground where they lost last season. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Kevin De Bruyne

The best player in the league is still the best player in the league. We’ve seen Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang strut their stuff already but tonight it was main event time, it was time for Kevin De Bruyne to remind us all of his genius and prove why he is the best player in the league, well, he did exactly that.

Kevin De Bruyne rocked up at Molineux against a team that beat City twice last season and absolutely bossed the match from start to finish. He was involved in everything, even the goal City conceded! For the opener he won and converted the penalty in emphatic fashion and for the second goal, what ended up being the match-winner, it was his sublime pass, his perfectly weighted through-ball, that allowed Raheem Sterling to cut the ball back for Phil Foden to finish. For the third goal he pressed and won the ball back, allowing Gabriel Jesus to score.

Even after that, De Bruyne just did not stop. He kept on driving City forward, making pulsating runs, penetrative passes and just dominating the match (his 5 tackles was a game-high and only Ruben Neves regained possession more than his 9 times).

Pep Guardiola has clearly realised that his best chance of success was to ditch the two “free 8’s” thing and instead play two specialised midfielders and then just unleash De Bruyne. It worked last season and looks like it will work this season too.

Loser: Roman Saiss

Why’d you do it, Roman?? With the game not even 20 minutes old Kevin De Bruyne was haring into the box but running towards the by-line, not goal. At most he could have whipped in one of those low crosses, but it’s possible that Saiss could just have shuttled him out.

Instead the Moroccan slid in to try and… pick off the ball? It was an absurd risk and so needless too. Sliding in like that gave De Bruyne the chance he needed to turn a possible chance to create a shot into an almost surefire goal from the penalty spot, and sure enough the Belgian went down and that, as they say, was that.

Winner: Daniel Podence

When Wolves signed Daniel Podence, no one really batted an eyelid. They even handed him their no. 10 shirt and still people were either unbothered or confused as to who he was. A mid-season signing from Olympiakos was hardly going to set off the alarm.

But behind the scenes Nuno Espirito Santo was clearly building him up. And so in the opening week of the season it was Podence’s wonderful cross that Raul Jimenez finished superbly. Then again tonight it was Daniel Podence’s wonderful cross (that was preceded by a delicious nutmeg on Kevin De Bruyne) that was finished wonderfully by Raul Jimenez again.

Perhaps the best thing you can say about Podence is that, one week ago when Wolves sold Diogo Jota to Liverpool, no one batted an eyelid. There was no panic from the Wolves faithful, because perhaps they trusted that Podence could be their new pocket rocket in attack.

Loser: City’s defenders

Is it John Stones? Nathan Aké? Benjamin Mendy? Nico Otamendi? Aymeric Laporte? It doesn’t matter who it is, does it? They will always give you a chance, they will always leave themselves open at the back and make sure that any offensively minded side can have chances.

Alright Wolves weren’t at it in the first-half, but in the second period they came flying out of the blocks and would cut City to ribbons on the break. They doused them wide, sending crosses in. They lifted balls over the top, sending strikers through. Podence and Jimenez each clocked up one enormous miss each before they combined to finally punish City.

Winner: Phil Foden

Coming into this game after weeks of negative press following personal indiscretions, Phil Foden needed a good performance. And he delivered exactly that. Not only did he play well (in a more advanced role on the “right” side of attack) but he ended up scoring the decisive goal in the game, arriving late into the box to finish impressively.

For years Foden was held back by Pep Guardiola, with the Catalan insisting he’d get his chances but he had to develop. Many wanted him to move to get games, but Foden stayed put and did develop and now he’s in the team for the first game of the season and scoring as well. He’s earned his spot and now he’s taking his chance.

Winner: Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola suffered his worst season as a coach last season, winning only the EFL Cup but suffering 9 losses in the league and getting dumped out of the Champions League by Lyon. It was an embarrassing time, really, and now he was going to enter his first-ever fifth season at a club. And thanks to City’s delayed start to the season he was going to have to start it against his bogey side.

Then City turned up and delivered an absolute masterclass. They smoked Wolves in that first-half, dominating every single phase of play. At half-time the only surprise was that they’d only scored twice. Sure Wolves got at them a bit in the second-half, but they managed to hold them off, recover and extend their lead. Last season they would have lost that game (in fact they literally did), but this season they showed a bit more steel, with Nathan Aké playing well on debut and John Stones not being a total disaster.

This was a huge win for Manchester City and a big, big moment for Pep Guardiola as he heads into the undiscovered country.