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De Bruyne Returned & Tore Apart Copenhagen. City Did Not Notice the Danes

Manchester City defeated Copenhagen in the first match of the Champions League round of 16.

The Champions League returned, and on the first day of the playoffs, Manchester City, the defending champion of the tournament, played. For Pep Guardiola's team, perhaps there could not have been a better opponent for the first round of the playoffs. Copenhagen is the main outsider, and although someone believed that the Danes would give a fight at home, there was no sensation.

The City lineup was familiar - Ederson in goal, Holan in attack, Foden, Grealish, Bernardo, Walker... All familiar faces. Only one name stood out from the list - Kevin De Bruyne returned to the squad of the townspeople. The midfielder was injured in August and recovered only in January. He missed the entire group stage, so the match against Copenhagen became his first Champions League match since the final against Inter.

Despite the fact that De Bruyne, after recovering, played only one full game out of four, he scored one goal and made four assists. The hosts had something to fear - the Belgian was in top form.

By the way, about the Danes. Not only were they out of shape (they played their last official game in December - since then, only friendlies), but they also could not count on their most important midfielder, Lucas Lerager.

No miracle happened. From the first minutes, City took the ball, and the difference in class was evident at all levels - even the Danes lost the battle comically, flying several meters away from the players of the "citizens."

De Bruyne, it seems, missed the Champions League and did not hesitate to speak up - he opened the score on the 11th minute. And he did it beautifully - he deceived the goalkeeper with a fake move, promising to pass to Holan, but shot himself. Goalkeeper Grabara fell for it and conceded.

The Danes' situation was so bad that in the first 15 minutes, City had nearly 80 percent possession. Copenhagen just heroically defended. And such domination by Guardiola's team momentarily relaxed. In the 34th minute, Ederson passed the ball from the goal, and the agile Danes only needed that. Magnus Mattson scored the first goal in the Champions League playoffs in the history of Copenhagen and equalized the score.

Shortly before the missed goal, City was hit by injuries. Jack Grealish almost instantly fell to the ground with a grimace and eventually left the field; later on, Phil Foden was also injured. The 47th number stayed in the game, and the problems with time disappeared, although the Danes did not play less roughly (which was the reason for the mini-epidemic).

In added time to the first half, De Bruyne made a magnificent pass to Silva in a great position, he scored - and put City ahead. Copenhagen could not come up with anything meaningful. And there were no opportunities - according to statistics, the guests possessed the ball for 75% of the time.

In the second half, Guardiola slightly adjusted the settings, and it became very difficult for the hosts to breathe. The "townspeople" were even more active in front of Grabara's goal and did not allow the Danes to do anything in attack. 0.03 xG - that's how much Copenhagen earned in the second 45 minutes.

However, City, whose expected goals indicator was off the charts in both halves, also struggled to score. Holan was left with nothing, but already in added time, the guests, with the help of De Bruyne, increased their advantage - the Belgian played beautifully in the penalty area with Foden, and Phil scored. Then the referee ended the beating, putting a point on the 3:1 in favor of the Englishmen.

Copenhagen can certainly be proud that in the second Champions League playoffs in their life, they shook the nerves of Manchester City and even scored. But this is the limit. The "citizens," on the other hand, confirmed their class - confidently won, as they should have, and did not spend much effort. And the return of De Bruyne was a gift to the fans; with such a midfielder, Guardiola can certainly aim for a second consecutive Champions League victory.

Published by Patrick Jane