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Sports

John Stones at the double as Manchester City maintain winning ways to fire four past Feyenoord

For the serial European under-achievers of Manchester City, this was a great night. They have only won their Champions League group once, from six attempts, which explains in part why they have not made their mark on the knock-out rounds either.

For the serial European under-achievers of Manchester City, this was a great night. They have only won their Champions League group once, from six attempts, which explains in part why they have not made their mark on the knock-out rounds either.

So to open their campaign like this, with a 4-0 win away at the Dutch champions, maintaining total control, never once looking bothered, was the perfect start to their long campaign. Especially as Napoli, the next best team in the group, lost away in Ukraine at the same time. If City do not finish top of Group F from here it would be entirely their mistake.

But while this was a great European night for City, it was not a great night for Europe. The Champions League is meant to provide robust competition between the continent’s best teams. This was the Dutch champions, remember, with their bright young coach, in their historic stadium, cheered on by 44,000 loyal fans. And it felt more like City playing an FA Cup game away to a Championship side.

The gap between the teams was so big that at no point did this feel like an even contest, especially not with City scoring their first after two minutes and their second after 10. It was all far too easy, and fairly reminiscent of the second half against Liverpool last Saturday, when City put three goals past 10 tired men.

Clearly City are playing very well at the moment, creating and taking chances like never before. Even Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are combining well up front, which did not happen much last season. But this evening, like Liverpool, did not feel like much of a test.

Any trepidation or anxiety from City about this evening cannot have lasted even two minutes. That is how long it took for them to go ahead, with a goal that showed up the uncomfortable distance between the sides. David Silva forced a corner down the left, took it quickly to Kevin de Bruyne and then crossed, before the Feyenoord defence could even switch on. John Stones got ahead of Jan-Arie van der Heijden to head, with Tonny Vilhena just stood on the line as the ball rolled through his legs and in.

This is meant to be a club built around the value of hard work; the club motto, Geen woorden maar daden, means ‘more words than deeds’. But these players, Dutch champions, could not even make it difficult for City, who looked like scoring every time they attacked. Eric Botteghin had to scramble a Jesus header off the line but soon enough the visitors had their second.

This was a classic Guardiola move, a series of swift incisions, Aguero to Bernardo Silva to Kyle Walker, bursting down the right. He whipped in his low cross, Aguero darted away from the defender and volleyed straight in.

That was the end of the Feyenoord challenge, in truth, and it just became a question of how many City would score. Aguero had another saved and when the third came it felt almost farcical. Benjamin Mendy hammered a 30-yard shot, Brad Jones spilled it and Jesus tapped it in. The Feyenoord defenders thought he was offside but he was not.

From then on all Feyenoord had for their fans was tackling. Michiel Kramer and Vilhena were booked for fouls on Walker and De Bruyne, and by half-time all the famous atmosphere had been sucked out of the evening.

Guardiola, from then, had an eye on other challenges, not least Watford away on Saturday afternoon. So he took off Aguero on the hour mark, just as he did to Jesus against Liverpool. For as long as Guardiola is going to keep playing them both together, he is going to need them both sharp.

City were just as dangerous as ever, especially when they had De Bruyne firing in his immaculate set pieces. He worked an angle with a short corner and curled in a brilliant cross, Stones got up ahead of Botteghin again, thumping his second goal of the night against Brad Jones.

With City in complete control of possession, and the game, Sterling, Leroy Sane and even Fabian Delph came on at the end. The former Aston Villa man thought about scoring a fifth, then decided against it. Maybe Vicarage Road will prove harder than this.

Feyenoord (4-3-3): Jones; St Juste, Botteghin, Van der Heijden, Nelom; Amrabat, El Ahmadi, Vilhena; Berghuis, Kramer, Boetius

City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D Silva; B Silva, Aguero, Jesus

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