Manchester City 2-0 Cardiff City
Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League thanks to a 2-0 win against struggling Cardiff at the Etihad Stadium.
The Citizens went into the game having been knocked off top spot on Sunday when Liverpool nicked a last-gasp win against Tottenham at Anfield.
Cardiff arrived desperate for a win after slipping five points adrift of safety in their fight to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
However, once Kevin De Bruyne put City ahead in the opening stages, it was one-way traffic with Leroy Sane adding the second and final goal of the game before the half-time break.
City’s eighth successive league win moves them a point ahead of Liverpool on the same number of games, while the Bluebirds remain five points adrift of safety in 18th.
Danilo, John Stones, Phil Foden, Fernandinho, Riyad Mahrez, Sane and Gabriel Jesus replaced Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling in seven changes to the City side which won at Fulham on Saturday.
Neil Warnock opted to make just one change to the side that lost 2-1 to Chelsea on Sunday as Joe Ralls came in for Harry Arter.
Jesus almost put City in front inside the opening minute, but he was inches away from converting De Bruyne’s tempting low ball across the goalmouth from the right.
On four minutes Mahrez cut inside from the right on to his left foot and lashed a fierce effort which took a slight nick off Bruno Manga and was superbly parried away by Neil Etheridge.
The opening goal came two minutes later when Aymeric Laporte spotted the run of De Bruyne down the left of the area and he somehow managed to send a rising shot past Etheridge into the roof of the net from a very tight angle.
City continued to completely dominate possession with Jesus firing over the top from inside the area, before toe-poking an effort just wide via a deflection off Manga after being set up by De Bruyne from the left on 27 minutes.
Foden and Fernandinho tried their luck from distance, before City added a deserved second just before half-time when Jesus chest down a Mahrez cross into the path of Sane and the Germany international drilled a low left-foot effort into the bottom corner of the net for his 15th goal of the season.
Foden went close in the 51st minute when he was played in down the left of the area, but this time Etheridge produced a fine save to thwart him.
Laporte sent a header over the crossbar and De Bruyne lashed a low strike just wide as City stepped up another gear to try make the scoreline even more convincing.
However, the hosts found Etheridge in inspirational form as he pulled off a number of fabulous saves to deny a Mahrez strike, another close-range Laporte header, Sane’s low attempt towards the bottom corner and a Foden shot from the edge of the box.
And when Foden did beat Etheridge with a curling effort on 69 minutes he watched as the ball rebounded off the post.
City had over 20 shots on target at this point and Cardiff had their first on 74 minutes when Oumar Niasse’s effort from outside the box was comfortably held by Ederson much the amusement of the home fans.
Mahrez had a penalty shout waved away by referee Jon Moss two minutes later when he went down in the area after a slight touch from Manga, before Jesus tried a clever flick when he met a De Bruyne cross from the right, but sent his effort the wrong side of the upright.
Cardiff should have got a goal back on 86 minutes when they caught City on the counter-attack, but when Niasse got clear inside the area, Ederson came out to make a vital block and denied him.
Craig Smithson is a journalist with over two decades of experience at the keyboard. A life-long Middlesbrough fan, Craig has an in-depth knowledge of all football and is also a keen fan of boxing amongst other sports.