Manchester City ran out comfortable 1-0 winners over Olympiacos in a low tempo affair, thanks to a well-crafted goal finished off by Phil Foden. The game will, however, be one quickly forgotten about.
The Champions League is a showcase of the top European teams competing at the pinnacle of footballing competition. Those watching the game tonight could have been forgiven for thinking they had turned on a training session, rather than an actual football match.
Olympiacos have been deprived of several of their first team squad due to injuries and Covid. That is known. But their sheer lack of quality or even interest in the game was frankly shocking at the elite level.
It took 62 minutes for the Greek outfit to get within 40 yards of the City goal with the ball. They had their first shot in the 89th. It was woeful from a team who have, in the past, caused English teams problems, mainly Arsenal.
Foden’s goal on 36 minutes was a thing of beauty. Wonderful, one-touch play freed Raheem Sterling inside the box, his first touch backheel into the path of Foden was perfect, and the prodigiously talented midfielder made no mistake, sweeping the ball beyond the reach of Jose Sa with nine first half minutes remaining.
Until the goal, City had failed to test Sa in a manner their dominance merited. Despite being camped in the opposition third, Rodri’s early thunderbolt straight at the Olympiacos keeper was the closest thing they had conjured to an opener in the first half an hour.
The indication of change arrived just three minutes before the goal. Clever play by Bernardo Silva freed Jesus in on goal down the left channel, but his shot from a narrow angle was well saved by Sa. As it turned out, City did not have long to wait, with Foden’s finish giving them the minimum their play deserved.
Spurred on, Sterling first had a long range effort pushed away by the home goalkeeper, before his well-struck freekick was excellently palmed over the bar in additional time. At the interval, City had 12 shots to zero, and 66% possession. The Under 21s would have provided a sterner test.
Half time: Olympiacos 0-1 Manchester City
The second half produced more clear-cut opportunities, but the same patchy finishing again cost City the second goal that would undoubtably have put the game to bed. Cancelo was perhaps guilty of the worst miss, his shot when one-on-one with Sa hit straight at the Olympiacos man when anywhere else would have resulted in a goal.
Ilkay Gundogan put a good chance just wide at the very start of the half from some terrible Olympiacos defending, while Jesus, Sterling and Silva twice all had presentable chances to kill the game off. This failure meant that with 10 minutes remaining, the home side had hope, and they finally started participating in the game.
Despite this, City never looked in any danger of conceding. Konstantinos Fortounis’ effort from 20 yards was the closest the home side came, with his shot comfortably wide of Ederson’s far post. The whistle came as City simply ran down the clock for the four minutes added on.
With four wins from four, City are through to the last 16, and a result at Porto in the next match week will guarantee their position as group winners. Olympiacos need to win both their remaining games, and hope City beat Porto, for them to stand any chance of progressing.
Full time: Olympiacos 0-1 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Phil Foden