Makeshift striker Torres proves worth again for Man City
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Ferran Torres is proving to be a more-than-adequate makeshift striker for Manchester City.
The Spain winger scored for the third straight Champions League game to set City on its way to a 3-0 win over Olympiakos on Tuesday, which maintained the English team’s 100% record in Group C.
Torres, in his first year at City following an offseason move from Valencia, has only been deployed as a striker because of injuries to Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus.
Jesus has regained fitness after six weeks out and came on in the second half, adding the second in the 81st minute with a rasping shot into the roof of the net from a narrow angle. Joao Cancelo added a third goal in the 90th.
It remains to be seen whether the cameo from Jesus is enough to convince City manager Pep Guardiola to start him in the big match against Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday.
Guardiola could do worse than stick with Torres, however.
Having scored in the 3-1 win over Porto soon after coming on as a substitute, Torres then netted the opener in City’s 3-0 victory at Marseille last week.
Kevin De Bruyne was the supplier for that goal at the Stade Velodrome and the Belgium playmaker was at it again at Etihad Stadium, cushioning a pass through to Torres who took the ball on, had an extra touch, and drove a shot through the legs of the goalkeeper.
“It was another great goal and we’re happy to have a player like that, particularly with Agüero out for another little while,” City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said. "Jesus made his comeback tonight, but Torres has certainly shown his value to the team.”
City was rarely threatened by the visitors from Greece but the goal from Jesus, who entered in the 69th minute for his first appearance since the opening match of the season at Wolverhampton, did come as some relief.
Again it was De Bruyne with the assist — he also set up two goals against Marseille — but Jesus did the hard work as he drove forward down the right channel before unleashing a fierce, rising shot inside the near post.
Cancelo was one of five second-half substitutes and he scored just his second goal for City with a left-footed shot from outside the area.
City only requires a draw in the return match in Greece after the international break to secure progress to the knockout stage with two group games to spare.
Olympiakos is in third place, three points behind Porto in second.
“In three weeks’ time in Piraeus, if we can play like we did today in the second half, we will be able to get something more out of the encounter," Olympiakos coach Pedro Martins said. "When we play to our abilities, we can get good results. But not if we play as we did in the first half.”
While scoring three goals a game in the group stage is no mean feat, Guardiola might be happier with his team's improved defensive record in recent matches. Since losing 5-2 to a counterattacking Leicester side in late September, City has only conceded three goals in eight games in all competitions.
The team has kept three straight clean sheets for the first time since September last year.
The defense, which will be buttressed by the return of center backs Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte after they were rested for the Olympiakos game, will be given a severe test by Liverpool, a 5-0 winner in the Champions League on Tuesday at Atalanta.
“Some players still need a bit of time to hit their best," Guardiola said. “Now we have a few days to recover before the Liverpool game.”
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