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Erling Haaland’s double helps Manchester City see off Young Boys

A third win in Manchester City’s so far perfect defence is the latest clue Pep Guardiola’s team may emulate Real Madrid and become the second club to retain this title in the Champions League era.

After his criticism of the Wankdorf’s artificial surface the City manager’s charges performed well enough. If they did not reduce the Swiss champions to bystanders, as City can many sides, victory is the perfect warm-up for Sunday’s challenge: the 191st Manchester derby.

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A maximum nine points means Guardiola’s side are close to entering the knockout phase but Erik ten Hag will note how City could be loose in possession as he prepares Manchester United for the match at Old Trafford. And there is further hope for United: Meschack Elia’s equaliser means City have managed only three clean sheets in 14 games.

On the clash with their crosstown rival, Guardiola said: “Old Trafford is another game. In the Premier League we have 87 points to play [for still], here in the Champions League we cannot miss chances. The derby is important and United have a lot of confidence after the victory yesterday [against Copenhagen] and it is always tough at Old Trafford. But we have time to prepare and we are going to prepare as much as possible.”

The decisive blow came from the trusty boot of Erling Haaland whose 67th-minute penalty came after a Mohamed Ali Camara foul on Jack Grealish. Towards the end the striker added his second – and a 37th in the competition in 33 appearances, one more staggering statistic that highlights what a phenomenon he is. Guardiola said: “People want him to fail – I am sorry but this guy will score goals all his life, with the chances [we create] he is an incredible threat.”

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City’s satisfying night was the best answer to the question of how they might fare in their first ever meeting with this opponent on the synthetic grass. “On this pitch it is more difficult, the ball comes in a different [way]. But the way we played positionally was really good,” was Guardiola’s verdict.

Manuel Akanji pounces to break the deadlock for Manchester CityManuel Akanji pounces to break the deadlock for Manchester City. Photograph: Michael Zemanek/Shutterstock

Grealish was in the starting XI for a major match for the first time since missing a month with a painful dead leg. He produced a defiant display laced with the type of skill that had him stick out a leg and pull down a Rodri ball with aplomb then fashion a cross for Matheus Nunes to blast over. A blur of action in blue followed. Nunes slipped Haaland through but he sprayed wide, then Grealish hammered a sublime pass to Jérémy Doku. The Belgian dropped a shoulder, swept inside and let fly with his left – Anthony Racioppi stayed upright and repelled but the winger should have scored. Nunes thought he had done precisely this when following up a Grealish lasered effort that Racioppi spilled, but goalline technology showed the ball did not go in.

Now, though, the one-way traffic was reversed as City were turned and Cedric Itten curved the ball to Sandro Lauper who, really, had to score. But the midfielder dawdled and an elongated Nathan Aké leg saved the visitors.

On the bench, Guardiola had Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva whose trickery might break the contest open, the latter in particular seeming a candidate to replace Nunes. Yet he stated after that Foden “had a problem”, which may threaten his participation at the weekend.

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For an unknown reason Grealish suffered jeers from the home support throughout. When he dropped a corner over for Manuel Akanji to take aim, the winger initiated what ended as the perfect riposte: City’s opener. The defender’s first effort went for another corner but, when it broke, Rúben Dias’s header was palmed on to the bar by Racioppi and, this time, Akanji’s finish was lethal.

Coming from a former Basel player, this was definitely bitter for the home faithful, but their mood soon changed. The equaliser came via a break as Elia skipped past Rico Lewis and lobbed a spiralling finish over an onrushing Ederson. Cue a mighty roar from most inside Stadion Wankdorf and City were rocked. Lewis fired a long-range rocket but this was blocked before Lauper, twice, tried and failed to give his side the advantage. Then Guardiola could thank Ederson for the score remaining level when the Brazilian saved a swerving Itten attempt.

Now came the clincher. Haaland’s ruthlessness allowed Racioppi no chance from the spot before the Norwegian hooked in late on. Next up City focus on the weekend squabble with their neighbour.