Manchester City preserved their 100% start to the new Premier League season with a 2-0 victory at home to Nottingham Forest despite Rodri’s red card.
Forest boss Steve Cooper lauded a trip to the Etihad Stadium as “the toughest game in the world”. City lived up to that billing with a suffocating opening half-hour, racking up two goals and 90% possession.
However, a man advantage certainly helps a visiting team. City’s unflappable Rodri uncharacteristically lost his cool at the start of the second half, leaving the champions with ten players and dramatically altering the complexion of the contest.
Pep Guardiola’s side managed to hold off Forest without quite slipping towards a complete backs-against-the-wall performance.
How the game unfolded
Forest arrived in a stubborn block which had earned a hard-fought point when these sides last met in February. Yet, the visitors’ resolve was pierced after just seven minutes. Long before the red mist descended, Rodri spotted the overlapping run of Kyle Walker – unshackled to outnumber Forest’s five-man backline. City’s skipper cushioned the ball down for Phil Foden to fizz the hosts into an early lead.
The devilishly slick interplay inside Forest’s box came at the end of 46 consecutive passes, lasting an interminable two minutes and 16 seconds. Only one goal in the last 17 years of Premier League football has been preceded by more passes (per Opta).
Erling Haaland shrugged off his recent wastefulness with his first effort of Saturday’s contest, crisply finishing off another dizzying sequence of positional interchange down City’s right flank that left Forest’s backline seeing stars in the sky-blue shirts.
Yet, the tide emphatically turned on Rodri’s red card inside 60 seconds of the restart. Morgan Gibbs-White chased City’s star midfielder into the corner, poking Rodri into a blind fury that compelled him to thrust both his hands around the neck of Forest’s number ten.
While Cooper ditched Forest’s defensive rearguard in search of a comeback, Guardiola hurriedly reshuffled his pack into a rare back-five, hunkering down for the entire second half.
City attempted just one shot with ten men and boasted only 31% possession but Ederson – who flirted with a hot-headed moment of his own – was hardly overworked in the club’s 20th consecutive victory at Fortress Etihad.
GK: Ederson – 6/10 – Shortly after Rodri lost his head, Ederson threw his towards Taiwo Awoniyi in a bizarre rush of blood.
RB: Kyle Walker – 7/10 – Leapt with the glee of a goalscorer after teeing up Foden. Walker took advantage of his newfound freedom.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 5/10 – Sauntered out of defence into midfield but was easily flustered in possession when put under pressure.
CB: Ruben Dias – 7/10 – City’s stopper was the last line of defence. Given more work to do as the game wore on.
LB: Josko Gvardiol – 6/10 – Exploited his versatility when City were reduced to ten, shuffling infield without any fuss.
CM: Matheus Nunes – 6/10 – Given licence to roam around the final third, surging into space through the middle and down both flanks.
CM: Rodri – 2/10 – Played with an air of calm before completely losing his head after what seemed like minimal provocation.
AM: Julian Alvarez – 6/10 – Buzzing between the red shirts, Alvarez was a menacing nuisance before he was sacrificed in a tactical reshuffle.
RW: Phil Foden – 8/10 – With Walker haring up and down the right flank, Foden could wander infield and pepper the contest with some mesmeric touches in the tightest of spaces.
ST: Erling Haaland – 7/10 – In the right place all the time, Haaland was only treated to a few chances and took just the first of them. Seemed to enjoy holding up the ball for City’s ten men.
LW: Jeremy Doku – 6/10 – Even at the velocity which he can quickly reach, Doku had a clear picture of his surroundings, routinely picking out his teammates after beating a red shirt.
SUB: Kalvin Phillips (52′ for Doku) – 4/10 – Barely saw any of the ball, limiting his influence on proceedings.
SUB: Nathan Ake (57′ for Alvarez) – 6/10 – Came on to shore up City’s backline and did exactly that.
SUB: Jack Grealish (87′ for Foden) – N/A
Subs not used: Stefan Ortega (GK), Scott Carson (GK), Sergio Gomez, Rico Lewis, Oscar Bobb
Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – The use of Walker as a sixth forward unravelled Forest. Guardiola rapidly reacted to Rodri’s dismissal, limiting Forest to few clear sights of goal.
GK: Matt Turner – 5/10 – Not given a chance for any of City’s well-taken goals.
RWB: Ola Aina – 4/10 – Deployed on both flanks, Aina found it tough to cope with his opponents wherever he was fielded.
CB: Serge Aurier – 6/10 – Tenacious in the tackle, Aurier actually managed to hold his own in one-v-one duels.
CB: Willy Boly – 3/10 – Given the unenvious job of sticking touch-tight to Haaland. Boly emerged from the contest with mental and literal bruises.
CB: Moussa Niakhate – 2/10 – Bamboozled by the blur of blue shirts buzzing past him.
LWB: Nuno Tavares – N/A – Endured a horrendous afternoon, spiralling from calamitous towards incompetent. A first-half injury spared Tavares any more failure.
RM: Morgan Gibbs-White – 6/10 – Desperate to drift centrally but didn’t shirk his defensive duties. Brilliantly baited Rodri into a red card out of nothing.
CM: Orel Mangala – 4/10 – Struggled to get involved in the match aside from a glut of lazy fouls.
CM: Ibrahim Sangare – 3/10 – Too often too clumsy in his rushed attempts to win the ball.
LM: Nicolas Dominguez – 4/10 – On his Premier League debut, Dominguez skirted around the fringes of the match.
ST: Taiwo Awoniyi – 7/10 – A one-man wrecking ball, Awoniyi was a threat before the momentum and numerical advantage shifted in Forest’s favour.
SUB: Gonzalo Montiel (39′ for Tavares) – 6/10 – Always seemed to be playing catch up. Often made up the ground but never made it easy for himself.
SUB: Callum Hudson-Odoi (56′ for Sangare) – 5/10
SUB: Anthony Elanga (56′ for Aurier) – 5/10
SUB: Chris Wood (76′ for Awoniyi) – 5/10
SUB: Divock Origi (76′ for Aina) – 5/10
Subs not used: Odysseas Vlachodimos (GK), Joe Worrall, Ryan Yates, Cheikhou Kouyate
Steve Cooper – 4/10 – Forest were no match for City before the red card. Cooper did try take his chance by positively setting his side up but the pile of forwards thrown on got in the way of each other.
Player of the match: Phil Foden (Man City)
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