By Jack Wilkinson
Manchester City 2-0 Cardiff: Champions cruise back into top spot
Watch highlights as Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane fire City above Liverpool with six games to play; Phil Foden makes first PL start, Cardiff remain five adrift in final relegation spot
Last Updated: 04/04/19 6:27am
Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Cardiff at Etihad Stadium.
Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring inside six minutes before Leroy Sane added a devastating second on the stroke of half-time to wrap up an eighth straight league win for the champions.
The margin of victory would have been wider for Manchester City had it not been for the woodwork and the inspired Neil Etheridge, who atoned for his error in De Bruyne's opener with no fewer than nine saves.
The victory moves Pep Guardiola's side a point clear of title rivals Liverpool with six games remaining in this season's captivating title race.
For Cardiff, they stay five points from safety in 18th place, though their survival bid will hinge on the results they get from the teams around them, rather than the favourites for the title.
Man City: Ederson (7), Danilo (7), Stones (7), Laporte (7), Zinchenko (6), Fernandinho (7), Foden (7), De Bruyne (8), Mahrez (7), Sane (8), Jesus (7).
Subs: Walker (7).
Cardiff: Etheridge (7), Peltier (5), Morrison (6), Manga (6), Bennett (6), Gunnarsson (6), Ralls (6), Camarasa (6), Murphy (6), Hoilett (6), Niasse (6).
Subs: Cordova-Reid (n/a), Bacuna (n/a), Mendez-Laing (5).
Man of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne.
Manchester City nearly took the lead with just 33 seconds on the clock, but Gabriel Jesus could not stretch far enough to get a toe on De Bruyne's teasing ball across the face of goal.
Riyad Mahrez's deflected drive through bodies drew a fine save from Etheridge inside four minutes, but the Cardiff stopper was at fault two minutes later when he allowed De Bruyne's mis-hit cross from an impossible angle to beat him at his near post.
Manchester City's relentless attacking play pushed Cardiff back and forced errors, but Jesus lashed over from eight yards after a defensive mix-up between Etheridge and Bruno Manga cushioned the ball into the Brazilian's path.
Cardiff began to halt the frequency of attacks, but they were fortunate not to go two down on 39 minutes, Jesus guilty of going alone and firing wide after being played through on the counter by De Bruyne, who wanted the return pass.
Phil Foden was handed his first Premier League start as Man City made seven changes from the win at Fulham. Danilo, Stones, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Sane and Jesus all came in as Walker, Otamendi, Gundogan, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Aguero and Sterling dropped out. Joe Ralls replaced Harry Arter in Cardiff’s only change from their defeat to Chelsea.
But the hosts eventually doubled their lead a minute before the interval as Jesus cushioned Mahrez's cross into the path of Sane, who rifled his 15th goal of the season into the bottom right-hand corner.
Phil Foden looked to get in on the act six minutes after the restart, but Etheridge stayed big to thwart the England U21 international and ushered in a half where he single-handedly prevented Manchester City from running riot.
After Sean Morrison narrowly avoided scoring an own after blocking De Bruyne's shot, Aymeric Laporte's header was saved by the Cardiff goalkeeper at point-blank range. Sane then stung his palms before Foden struck the woodwork after cleverly hooking a corner towards goal.
Foden drew Etheridge into action at full stretch with a rasping 25-yard drive on 70 minutes but the goalkeeper ensured Cardiff left Manchester with their heads held high, though they could have had more had Oumar Niasse managed to beat Ederson at the end of a late counter.
18 - Phil Foden (18y 310d) is the youngest player to make his first Premier League start for Manchester City since Jose Pozo against Leicester in Dec 2014 (18y 273d), and youngest English player to do so since Daniel Sturridge in Jan 2008 against Derby (18y 151d). Future. pic.twitter.com/NU4xT2WgvI— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 3, 2019
- Manchester City have won 23 of their 25 home matches across all competitions in 2018-19 (L2), including 16 of 17 in the Premier League (L1).
- Only Chelsea in 2004-05 (31 games) and Manchester City themselves last season (30 games) have reached 80 points (assuming three pts for a win) in fewer games in English top-flight history than the Citizens have this season (32 games).
- Cardiff remain the only side in Premier League history to have never won a midweek match (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) in the competition (P11 W0 D3 L8). They have scored just two goals in their 11 such fixtures.
- Cardiff boss Neil Warnock has lost all eight of his managerial league matches against the reigning top-flight champions, including six in the Premier League; only Paul Jewell (8) and Paul Lambert (7) have a poorer 100% loss rate against reigning champions in the competition.
- With an average age of 25 years and 139 days, Manchester City's starting XI against Cardiff was their youngest in a Premier League match since April 2011 against Sunderland (24y 341d).
Pep Guardiola: "Foden is so young, 18 years old but he looks like he has a lot of experience. We know he has to play and play with us. We don't have any problems because we know he is going to play well. He's a guy who always has chances, he always is there. He's ready, he's absolutely ready to play with us. He did everything well."
Neil Warnock: "We're odds on to go down but we're going to give it our best shot. I think we've got six winnable games and even the tough ones I think we can get something out of. People will write us off, but we'll keep firing back."
Man of the Match - Kevin De Bruyne
The champions were not at their best but De Bruyne was the dominant force in the game. The Belgian was outstanding and back to his best, hitting form at the just the right time for City's title defence.
Jamie Redknapp on De Bruyne: "You've got Bernardo Silva who has been amazing this season, as has David Silva, but De Bruyne possesses something different where he can score goals from distance.
"His weight of pass, I thought today it was a masterclass in midfield. Especially when you are getting tracked every step of the way. He never seems to be uncomfortable getting man-marked.
"He is a great player. It's like time stands still when he has the ball. He can always pick the right pass, he is effortless when he glides around the field."
Man City take on Brighton at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm). Earlier that day, Cardiff travel to Burnley in the Premier League (kick-off 3pm).