Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City put Saturday’s poor performance away at Spurs behind them and booked their place in the round of 16 of the Champions League for the eighth consecutive season.
Guardiola - who recently signed a two-year contract extension - has been questioned of late about his tactics and whether his City squad are still playing for him after four intense seasons.
However, tonight he silenced the critics - for now at least - after his team produced a solid performance to pick up a 1-0 win away at Greek table-toppers Olympiacos.
A first-half strike from young Phil Foden was enough to take all three points back to Manchester.
Story of the Match
Olympiacos - who had eight first-teamers out - lined up in a deep line block with three centre-backs and two wingbacks and four deep midfielders just in front of them leaving striker Kostas Fortounis isolated for most of the game.
City made five changes from the defeat to Spurs, with Benjamin Mendy, John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden brought into the starting XI as Pep rang the changes
The first 10 minutes really set the tempo for the game, with City being on the front foot pressing back Olympiacos back deeper and deeper towards their own goal.
The Citizens started strongly, moving the ball quickly from back to front. Guardiola’s team have sometimes been criticised for transitioning the ball too slowly, however, with constant bursts from the likes of Bernardo Silva and Foden this wasn’t the case for City who were quick in getting the ball forwards.
Gabriel Jesus should have made it 1-0 to the visitors in the 30th minute when he was played through on the left-hand side by Silva. However, despite being put through one-on-one, the Brazilian couldn't finish off the opportunity as Jose Sa managed to get an outstretched leg to the effort.
The visitors got their reward just minutes later though a great team move which resulted in in Raheem Sterling backheeling the ball to Phil Foden who cleverly placed his shot across goal into the bottom right-hand corner for his fourth goal of the season and his first in Europe this term.
The home side would go into the break finding themselves only one behind, and even though they hadn’t had a shot yet, still well and truly in the game.
A defensive error presented City with a golden opportunity to double their lead early in the second half however Ilkay Gundogan couldn't direct his first time effort on target, with his curled effort from the edge of the box flying wide of the target.
City carried on the offensive throughout the second half and should have had another when right-back Joao Cancelo found himself up the field after a wonderful passing move, but the defender's effort was comfortably collected by Sa.
Just a few minutes after Cancelo’s chance Bernardo Silva had a chance to double the away sides lead, after a great piece of dribbling from Sterling and cross which resulted in pinball style situation in the box where the ball fell to Silva who couldn’t get the ball out of his feet quick enough and somewhat stabbed the ball straight at Jose Sa.
City made a host of changes in the latter stages of the match. Rodri, Sterling, Mendy, Jesus and Gundogan were all subbed off with; Mahrez, Zinchenko, Doyle, Fernandinho and Aguero taking their places.
Olympiacos came the closest they came all game to a goal in the 88th minute, the ball fell to striker Fortounis, however, the chance went beginning as he volleyed wide from 20 yards out. To say this was their closet chance is a major compliment to City’s defence and midfield who shut out the Greek side all evening.
Is the double pivot the one for Manchester City?
Whenever the double pivot has been used by Guardiola it has always been questioned by the fans on if it’s too slow or too defensive.
However, tonight it showed that it can be neither of these things.
Whether Guardiola played it for more of a defensive assurance as he didn’t have his first choice backline out or seen something in the Olympiacos side it could exploit we will never know but it proved that yes it can work when needed if Gundogan and Rodri both play to the level they did this evening.
Is one goal enough?
With all respects to the Greek side, they aren’t the toughest side Manchester City will face in Europe this season.
Nevertheless, no matter how good City prove to be against the bigger and better sides, they still need to kill off games.
One goal proved enough tonight but against higher-level opposition they will most definitely concede more chances and therefore need to take more of the chances they’re creating to kill off games they control.
Despite a subdued start to their domestic campaign, City have been perfect in the Champions League.
With all the noise from Guardiola’s contract extension seeming to show his desire to win the competition that has eluded him whilst at City. This strong desire seems to be in the players also, who have been hard done by in the past few campaigns, after four good UCL performances.
Manchester City will look ahead to their busy fixture schedule now but will be sure to take one game at a time, as they look to close the points at the top of the league.
Their charge up the table will begin again on Saturday as they face Burnley at the Etihad. Olympiacos have no climbing to do as they sit top of their league on goal difference. They travel away to joint first placed Aris at the weekend, as they look to break from the pack, in what promises to be a thrilling game of football.