Aguero’s hat trick eases Man City past Monchengladbach in UCL opener

Sergio Aguero notched a hat trick to help City see off Borussia Monchengladbach in Manchester.

MANCHESTER, England — Three points from Manchester City’s 4-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League:

1. Aguero helps Guardiola gain revenge on Schubert

So much for the notion that Borussia Monchengladbach were Pep Guardiola’s bogey team. Or, indeed, for the idea that manager Andre Schubert was the Catalan coach’s nemesis. Gladbach beat Bayern Munich in last season’s Bundesliga, and Schubert took four points from his meetings with Guardiola, but when the German eventually leaves Manchester — a day later than planned — it will be with nothing to show for an elongated trip. After Tuesday’s postponement, Wednesday’s eventual meeting was one-sided.

Manchester City outclassed their visitors, extending their immaculate record under Guardiola with a 4-0 thrashing. They have now won all seven games this season, scoring 21 goals, of which Sergio Aguero has contributed nine. Remarkably, he has played two games in Europe for Guardiola and scored hat tricks in both. On this occasion, each came with trademark expertise before his replacement, Kelechi Iheanacho, was set up by another substitute, Leroy Sane, to score an injury-time fourth.

Manchester City

Borussia Monchengladbach

Game Details

City beat Borussia home and away last season but only after trailing in both games. They were fraught affairs, this one altogether more comfortable in comparison. Aguero put City ahead after eight minutes, darting past Andreas Christensen to meet Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross with the most clinical of finishes. He added a second from the penalty spot in the 28th minute and ended another European night with the match ball after accepting Raheem Sterling’s pass and waltzing around the otherwise excellent Yann Sommer to place the ball into an unguarded net in the second half.

While this was deemed the competition’s most difficult group, it already looks as though Borussia and Celtic will perish while Barcelona and City progress. Guardiola has questioned the view that the demands of the Premier League make it hard for clubs to challenge in both England and Europe. As they fashioned a series of chances, City look well qualified to prosper on both fronts. Barcelona, however, will present a stiffer test of their former captain and manager’s ambition.

2. Gundogan class for City in debut

It was the opportunity to seal an ideal introduction. Fernandinho launched a lightning counter-attack. Kevin De Bruyne and then Aguero supplied square passes. And there was Ilkay Gundogan, unmarked 12 yards out from goal and able to open his Manchester City account after 12 minutes, only for Sommer to save his tentative shot. Yet while the chance was gone, he nonetheless contributed to a goal; Gundogan was tripped by his Germany teammate Christoph Kramer, securing the penalty converted by Aguero.

Gundogan had scored from 12 yards in a Champions League final himself — for Borussia Dortmund in 2013 — but while he completed his debut without returning to the scoresheet, City could still savour the sight of him in action. Gundogan was promoted for an eagerly-anticipated bow as Monchengladbach were spared a meeting with David Silva, who had been named in Tuesday’s team but was omitted as a precaution. The German’s debut had been delayed by a knee injury, but it was a sign of his significance to Guardiola that he was signed while sidelined and that he was the Catalan’s first buy.

Ilkay Gundogan put in a top performance for Manchester City against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.

The expectation is that he will prove a pivotal player, even if the excellence of Silva, De Bruyne and Fernandinho prompts the question of where. Gundogan debuted as a straight swap for Silva in the inside-left channel, even if there are reasons to believe his manager envisages him as the pivot at the base of the midfield. Yet Gundogan possesses the attributes to operate anywhere in the central triangle; that he materialised in the 18-yard area was a reminder that he possesses the skills to operate as a box-to-box midfielder. His qualities as a passer enable him to dictate play and a footballer who can use the ball with such accuracy in advanced areas of the pitch could be invaluable. It was no wonder he received a loud ovation when he was replaced after 81 encouraging minutes.

3. Gladbach fans do their club proud

It was imaginative, though probably not legally binding. Borussia’s sporting director, Max Eberl, had written an absence note to employers asking them to excuse those supporters who had remained in England for a further 24 hours for what he termed “the important duty to support Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League.” Each away fan found a copy on his or her seat.

There were perhaps 600 of them, an impressive number considering most had been expecting to be back in Germany at some stage on Wednesday. They had responded to Tuesday’s postponement defiantly, bouncing and chanting, bare-chested in the rain. The fans who returned the following day were admirably vocal, especially as their team was outclassed. At least the weather was more accommodating; After the Manchester monsoon, the Etihad Stadium was bathed in sunshine when they arrived.

Truth be told, they had little to cheer bar a few bright breaks from Oscar Wendt on the left flank and a shot from Lars Stindl that Claudio Bravo parried. The World Cup winner Kramer was removed before half-time. Guardiola admires Schubert’s attacking football, but Borussia’s high defensive line amounted to an open invitation to City. Playing wing-backs is a questionable ploy against a team whose wingers operate as close to the touchline as Jesus Navas and Raheem Sterling and Barcelona should also fancy their chances of piercing a defence with pronounced holes in it.

Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.

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