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FC Copenhagen 1 Man City 3: Kevin De Bruyne masterclass puts holders in total control ahead of Etihad second leg

PEP GUARDIOLA has been studying the body language of his players as they have gone through the gears in recent weeks.

And all he will see from his main man Kevin De Bruyne is someone desperate to make up for lost time.

Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden all netted as Man City ran out 3-1 winners in Copenhagen

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Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden all netted as Man City ran out 3-1 winners in CopenhagenCredit: EPA
Man City had most of the shots and possession
Man City had most of the shots and possession
Man City were on top for most of the game
Man City were on top for most of the game
De Bruyne took up a position high up the pitch next to Erling Haaland
De Bruyne took up a position high up the pitch next to Erling Haaland
De Bruyne ran the show at the Parken Stadium
De Bruyne ran the show at the Parken Stadium

The brilliant Belgian had to sit out four and a half months of this season due to hamstring surgery.

But he has looked a guy determined to make a difference since he returned to the first team just over a month ago. And boy is he doing exactly that.

KDB was the star turn again here in Denmark – scoring the opening a goal and creating a second.

His assist for Bernardo Silva’s nonchalant finish came as a result of a block tackle and probably wasn’t what he had in mind.

That’s how good this guy is – and shows how his return could not have come at a better team for the treble winners.

And then in stoppage time he was at it again – teeing up his accomplice Phil Foden to add a third.

That’s nine goal involvements in seven matches since the former Chelsea man returned.

City could – and should – have won by more but Copenhagen don’t lose many here and Guardiola’s men have one foot in a seventh straight quarter final.

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In fact the Danish champs had tasted defeat in only two of 18 home matches in this competition at their Parken Stadium – and as usual the atmosphere was fizzing.

Yet this was their first competitive game since Jacob Neestrup’s men clinched qualification for the knock-out stage by beating Galatasaray in mid December.

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A winter break of 63 days did not look ideal preparation for facing a City team who have won their last 10 matches in that period.

Yet at least their players would be fresh – and had been given plenty of time to prepare their gameplan since the draw was made just before Christmas.

Guardiola restored Jack Grealish to the starting line-up for the first time in a month and the team he picked ould not have been much stronger.

He talked in the build up about how the whole club are now Champions League believers – after finally winning the competition in June.

And they looked confident from the off here – wasting a good early chance as Kevin De Bruyne nodded Nathan Ake’s cross wide.

Ruben Dias also went close – forcing a smart save out of Kamil Grabara with a downward header.

City were in complete control – the only surprise was it took them 10 minutes to go ahead.

Phil Foden has been edged back out wide sine the return of KDB to the starting line-up – but has still proved equally effective there.

Jack Grealish was handed his first start for in six games for Man City

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Jack Grealish was handed his first start for in six games for Man CityCredit: AP
However, he picked up an injury

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However, he picked up an injuryCredit: AFP
Grealish was replaced after just 20 minutes

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Grealish was replaced after just 20 minutesCredit: Reuters

And it was the apprentice who slipped a pass through to the master De Bruyne – and he beat Kamil Grabara with an angled drive.

The Belgian has surprised his team-mates with his levels since he returned from injury a month ago and here he was again – making a difference on the big occasions for them.

Grealish had made a promising start in his first chance to start in a month but his night ended prematurely after just 20 minutes.

He went down under pressure from Cupido Goncalves but did not seem to be kicked – which will be a worry for City – and had to be replaced by Jeremy Doku.

It didn’t alter the flow of the game though and a panicked Denis Vavro was lucky to see his header rebound off his own bar.

Then Erling Haaland tried a spectacular overhead kick to Doku’s cross but was narrowly off target.

Silva was all over the pitch making things happen

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Silva was all over the pitch making things happen
Foden was a constant threat from the right wing before combining with De Bruyne for City's third goal
Foden was a constant threat from the right wing before combining with De Bruyne for City’s third goal

Copenhagen had barely had a kick – but then Ederson gifted them an equaliser 10 minutes before the break.

He got his pass out from the back all wrong and presented it to Mohamed Elyounoussi whose shot was blocked by Dias.

Yet the rebound fell perfectly for Magnus Mattson who swept home brilliantly from 20 yards. What a way to mark your debut.

They know a thing about fairytales in the home of Hans Christian Andersen – and after beating Manchester United in October, the home fans were suddenly dreaming of another one.

Their team could not quite get to the interval on level terms though as De Bruyne’s tackle on Mattson saw it fall into the path of Bernardo Silva.

The Portuguese maestro had plenty to do but finshed delightfully with the outside of his foot to put the visitors back in front.

No doubt Guardiola would have had words at half-time about throwing away their lead – but Ederson would have been a relieved man going in at the break.

City were back in control after the break and De Bruyne was denied a second goal by a flying stop from Grabara.

Doku also brought the best ouf of the former Liverpool keeper as City looked to put the tie to bed on the night.

Grabara denied Haaland twice but then De Bruyne – inevitably – teed up Foden to round things off in stoppage time.

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