Pep's in seventh heaven

Belgian Kevin de Bruyne providing the assist for City's fourth goal in the 7-2 win over Stoke, scored by Gabriel Jesus. He has helped set up 32 league goals in just over two years.
Belgian Kevin de Bruyne providing the assist for City's fourth goal in the 7-2 win over Stoke, scored by Gabriel Jesus. He has helped set up 32 league goals in just over two years.PHOTO: REUTERS

Players in great form as de Bruyne runs show but City coach not happy at conceding twice

LONDON • Pep Guardiola was left swooning over the best performance of his Manchester City reign - a 7-2 demolition of Stoke City.

Kevin de Bruyne was the architect and did everything but score. He had two assists and played a part in three more, as City scored seven for the first time since the Spaniard took charge in July 2016.

Saturday at home was the first time City had scored that many in the league since defeating Norwich 7-0 in November 2013.

Gabriel Jesus scored twice, and further goals from Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva made them the first team to net 29 goals in the first eight league games of a top-flight campaign in England since Everton in 1894-95.

City are on 22 points, two clear of United at the top of the Premier League, and even Guardiola struggled to find fault with a team who are the league's most fluent, averaging 22.4 passes per scoring attack.

But he was disappointed at having conceded goals either side of half-time, with the first from Mame Biram Diouf, and the second a Kyle Walker own goal.

"You can always do better but I cannot deny that today was the best performance since I arrived here. We played a good 45 minutes, and maybe more than that," he said. "Except for two actions which we have to learn more about, we produced a really good performance from everybody.

"Everybody helped to give us an extra pass, and after the quality of the people in the middle, our wingers and strikers made the difference."

It is true that a host of City's players are in tremendous form. Sterling took his tally to seven, with Sane and Jesus on six.

Yet none of his team-mates are operating at de Bruyne's level. He has helped set up 32 league goals since his September 2015 debut, more than anyone else.

But he shrugged off the rave reviews, saying: "We play in a flow at the moment - we are playing well. Not just me."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes was disappointed with his team's defending. He said: "We came up against an exceptional City side and we've been found wanting, in terms of physicality and the ability to get close to them."

He defended his decision to give a debut to 18-year-old right-back Tom Edwards, who endured a torrid afternoon against Sane, although he did create Stoke's second goal before an ankle injury forced him off.

"We didn't have too many options," said Hughes. "It's unfortunate for him, but it's a learning experience, not only for him, but for everybody today. He'll be better for it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Pep's in seventh heaven'. Print Edition | Subscribe