Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Kevin de Bruyne proves his class as Manchester City finish in style

Pep Guardiola's team score five in comprehensive win over Norwich

Ederson of Manchester City holds the Golden Glove Award and Kevin De Bruyne holds the Playmaker Award alongside Pep Guardiola. Getty
Ederson of Manchester City holds the Golden Glove Award and Kevin De Bruyne holds the Playmaker Award alongside Pep Guardiola. Getty

Perhaps it was only fitting that a record of Thierry Henry’s was equalled during a display of superlative brilliance.

It was an illustration of Kevin de Bruyne’s talents that, as he became joined Henry as the only players to register 20 Premier League assists in a campaign, he did so while scoring two spectacular, sensational goals.

Much like Henry, De Bruyne’s talents extend beyond simply creating. He can score, and can do so stylishly.

So can Manchester City. Five more goals took them to 102 for the season. They are serial centurions. “It is the centre of football to score goals,” said Pep Guardiola. “It is not the first time for us.”

It is the third in seven seasons: they are the sort of numbers more associated with the 1920s than the 2020s. There was a landmark, too, for Raheem Sterling: the scorer of the 100th made it 30 in a club campaign for the first time himself.

The statistics were for others, the sentiment for David Silva, who bowed out of the Premier League to applause from City’s staff and substitutes: “I was the smallest standing ovation of all time but he will come back to receive the ovation he deserves,” Guardiola said.

“What he has done for this club is extraordinary.” De Bruyne added his tribute: “One of the best players who has ever played in the Premier League.” But if the Belgian upstaged the elegantly classy Silva at the last, that probably suited an essentially shy figure.

Norwich, whose season promised far more when they beat the other City in September, exited the division with the fifth-lowest points tally in its history and a 10th consecutive defeat. But for a string of saves by Tim Krul, it could have been heavier.

Briefly, though, Norwich thought they had an early lead, Onel Hernandez drilling a shot past Ederson before he was belated ruled offside, they remain rooted on one goal since February and the Brazilian claimed the Golden Glove, aided by an outstanding save from Teemu Pukki.

And after that early false dawn, Norwich soon trailed with a scrappy opener summing up their defensive problems. They were carved open too easily for Sterling to cross; two defenders had a chance to clear, neither did and Gabriel Jesus pounced.

Then De Bruyne befuddled Marco Stiepermann with quick footwork before beating Krul with an inch-perfect shot that nestled in the top corner. The Belgian initially looked reluctant to celebrate.

If he was more focused on assists, he got drew level with Henry’s tally 17 years ago with a defence-splitting ball for Sterling, who slid a shot under Krul.

“I have got two more [assists],” said De Bruyne, annoyed he has had others chalked off. A third was denied him when he tackled Kenny McLean, the ball fell for Riyad Mahrez and the substitute struck. It was not, it transpired, De Bruyne’s latest assist but his 13th league goal was curled in via the far post. Henry, who used to score from similar positions himself, could scarcely have done it much better.

Updated: July 26, 2020 11:14 PM

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