Olympiacos vs Manchester City score: Phil Foden carries English side into last 16

    It may not have been the most riveting of contests but Manchester City’s passage to the knockout stages was rarely in doubt even if the margin of victory over Olympiacos was merely one goal from Phil Foden.

    The 36th minute strike, turning in Raheem Sterling’s elegant cutback from the byline, was no less than City merited even if they struggled to convert more than one of their 22 efforts on goal. Rather more pleasing for Pep Guardiola will have been how his side kept Olympiacos at arms’ length with the Greek side registering just two shots, desperate late efforts as the Greeks chased an equalizer.

    Read the key talking points from City’s win below

    Phil Foden’s eye for goals

    When Foden scores, City don’t lose. That record now stands at 18 games as part of a rather impressive scoring record for the young midfielder. A return of 19 goals in 85 games is impressive enough in and off itself but when you factor in how many of those appearances have come off the bench, particularly early in his career, it is all the more impressive. After tonight’s opener in Olympiacos he is averaging a goal ever 207 minutes, a return that plenty of strikers would not sniff at.

    There is already a trend emerging in those goals that Foden scores. He rarely scores from outside the box, preferring instead to ghost into areas where he has the time to pick him spot and roll the ball into the bottom corner. 

    That trait was apparent tonight, as the ball came to Jesus on the left channel Foden was the furthest forward, in the sort of position on the shoulder of the last defender where many forwards might opt to sprint in behind. Instead as Raheem Sterling darted to the byline the young midfielder slowed and checked his run. As Olympiacos hurried back Foden waited, in position that when Sterling rolled the ball back to him he had time to set himself for a low, powerful drive beyond Jose Sa.

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    It was the sort of finish to put you in mind of a younger Frank Lampard or other midfielders who became well known for their goal return. So far Foden has won much praise for his creative skills and rightly so, there are few players his age who display such vision for the right pass and the right moment to play it. But it may be his ability to consistently get in the goals that will truly set him apart.

    Jesus at a defining period in City career

    Is it unreasonable to ask Gabriel Jesus to be an replacement for Sergio Aguero? Certainly it is a significant demand but at some stage Manchester City are going to have to decide whether the young Brazilian is truly the heir to their greatest ever goal scorer.

    This was a game to leave you more unsure than ever. Jesus does so much so well: his movement out to the flanks, his interplay with the wide forwards and his energetic pressing. But then there are those opportunities that he seems to snatch at

    It has not always been thus. When he arrived from Palmeiras in 2017 it seemed to be a matter of when, not if, he would overhaul Aguero as he provided the goals and all-round play that Guardiola demands from his forwards. Throughout his time with City the goal return has been solid with 71 in 158 goals. It just has not quite kicked on, almost every season he seems to hit that two in every games return.

    Tonight he struggled when chances came his way. None of these were simple – his first four efforts were worth a combined 0.56 expected goals – but he rarely seemed to be putting himself in the very best position to convert those chances. A through ball from the inside left channel found Jesus for perhaps the best chance of the game.

    None of this should obscure the fact that Jesus is a very good player, one whose contract City are reportedly ready to extend before it enters its final two years. Perhaps this is nothing more than him finding his footing after an injury he described as “complicated”. Maybe he could do more with more service, he is getting a third fewer shots in the Premier League this season than last. Perhaps these are just the growing pains of a striker who is still just 23.

    Whatever the reason the time when City have to decide if Jesus is their Aguero successor is coming, as has been apparent as they carefully manager his workload. As yet he is not providing a convincing argument either way.

    Notable performances

    Raheem Sterling: Wearing the Manchester City armband brought the best out of Sterling, a direct, assertive and ingenious display typified by his brilliant backheel assist for Foden. RATING: 8

    Jose Sa: It is rarely a good sign for a team when your best player is your goalkeeper and so it proved to be with the Portuguese shot stopper, particularly in the first half, where a string of solid saves gave Olympiacos hope of a late fight back. RATING: 7

    Ruben Dias: He has looked at ease from the moment he arrived at Manchester City and that was the case yet again today, albeit with very little pressure on him. He wins his headers, makes his interceptions and rarely does anything without due care. RATING: 6

    Up next

    City will travel to Porto in a week’s time with a point enough to guarantee them top spot in Group C. Olympiacos will hope that Guardiola’s side do better than that as they look to close the gap on the Portuguese side, starting with a game away to Marseille.

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