This was not necessarily a stroll in the Parken, but Manchester City made it all look relatively easy nevertheless. Such is the tempo and intensity that Pep Guardiola’s side are currently playing with that they can afford to let their opponents a goal and still triumph by two.

Winning away in Europe is rarely straightforward but City dominated this Champions League last-16 first leg against FC Copenhagen in rather hostile surroundings and achieved the ultimately comfortable victory that their display deserved.

Whether it was Kevin De Bruyne’s early goal, Bernardo Silva’s instinctive finish on the cusp of half-time or Phil Foden’s late flourish, all of the visitors’ goals were neat and tidy — as City generally are themselves.

That being said, when Ederson gifted Copenhagen with a first-half equaliser after the home team had offered scant little beforehand it did showcase a slither of sloppiness. Still, the way Magnus Mattsson took his shot on his debut for the club was impressive and deserved its moment.

In the grand scheme of things, though, that strike will likely mean little. This was City’s 11th victory on the bounce — and ninth consecutive win in this competition, which is a record for an English club — and has put them all but into the quarter-final draw. The home leg next month will surely be a formality.

Story of the game

Starved of football for the past two months due to the winter break in Denmark, the home crowd in the Parken stadium were ready and gasping for action by the time kick-off came around.

This was just the second time the Danish club had been this far in the Champions League — the first being in the 2010/11 season when Chelsea eliminated them — and the hosting of the current European champions only elevated the much-anticipated occasion.

Jacob Neestrup’s side had already pulled off a shock or two during the group stages by taking points away at Bayern Munich, defeating Manchester United at home and advancing from Group A at the English club’s expense despite having collected just one point from their first three games.

Getty: Justin Setterfield
Getty: Justin Setterfield

Yet, taking on Guardiola’s City is another task entirely. The visitors arrived with a full complement of players and their starting lineup was as strong as possible. The manner in which they started the game spoke of a team currently purring. Copenhagen struggled to hang on.

De Bruyne spurned a good chance from a Nathan Ake cross and Kamil Grabara, the Copenhagen goalkeeper, clawed away a Ruben Dias header. It looked set to be a long evening for the home team, and that feeling was only enhanced when City took the lead after 10 minutes.

Dias’s cross-field pass picked out Foden on the right wing and the England international menacingly cut inside. A cute ball in behind Scott McKenna, who was making his competitive debut for Copenhagen having arrived on loan from Nottingham Forest last month, sent De Bruyne in on goal and he finished with aplomb.

Guardiola’s 450th game as City manager was off to the perfect start — albeit Jack Grealish pulling up with an apparent groin injury and having to be replaced by Jeremy Doku was far from ideal.

The substitute was quickly into the action, playing in the overlapping Silva whose centre was almost turned into his own net by Denis Vavro. Doku then crossed for Haaland but his first-time acrobatic effort flew over.

There had been no let up for the hosts. Copenhagen were limited to 22 per cent possession and only 52 completed passes during the first half hour but when their chance was handed to them, they happily took it.

Ederson had been redundant and was under little pressure when he attempted a clearance in the 34th minute but instead pulled his pass straight to Mohamed Elyounoussi. The former Southampton winger’s shot was blocked by Dias but Mattsson collected the rebound and curled a 20-yard shot into the far corner.

Getty: Justin Setterfield
Getty: Justin Setterfield

That strike certainly lit up the stadium but having got back into the game, Copenhagen couldn’t remain level until half-time. On the cusp of first-half stoppage-time, the ball deflected out of a challenge between De Bruyne and Mattsson on the edge of the area and fell kindly for Silva, who anticipated well and tucked it home.

Having overcome the scare of not holding the lead at the break, City were back on top in the second-half. Within 10 minutes of the restart Grabara was stretching to push away a fizzing De Bruyne shot that was destined for the bottom corner.

The Copenhagen goalkeeper also had to dive across to palm a Doku effort away for a corner as the visitors sought a two-goal advantage to take into the second leg. Haaland’s header from a Silva delivery bounced on top of the crossbar and the striker was later denied by Grabara from close range.

But City scored their third goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time to all but secure their place in the quarter-finals. Foden and De Bruyne exchanged passes in the Copenhagen area and the Belgian’s pull-back was met first-time by Foden with an assured finish.

Player of the match: Kevin De Bruyne

The Belgian is certainly back with a bang. It is now nine goal involvements in his last seven appearances since he returned from a five-month lay-off with injury. He scored City's first here and then assisted their other two goals.