Guardiola praises Riyad Mahrez’s ‘incredible’ performance

Manchester City manager says winger has ‘gift’ after playing key role in win at Everton

  Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez  celebrates after he scored his team’s second goal against Everton   at Goodison Park. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez celebrates after he scored his team’s second goal against Everton at Goodison Park. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

 

Riyad Mahrez decorated Manchester City’s victory against Everton on Saturday with a glittering display that left Pep Guardiola purring over his “gift” and illustrated why the Algerian has been Manchester City’s standout performer of the campaign.

Mahrez was back to the level that led to him being voted as PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2015-16, the season in which the 28-year-old proved pivotal in Leicester City’s title triumph. At Goodison Park, he operated on a level above even Kevin De Bruyne.

It was the winger’s first-half burst along the right that initiated Gabriel Jesus’s opener. Then, when Dominic Calvert-Lewin equalised, Mahrez’s 25-yard free-kick following the break was a thing of beauty. He was also instrumental in Raheem Sterling’s third, combining with Sergio Agüero to create the opening.

As Guardiola said: “All this season he is playing outstanding. The action on the first goal, the second one, the two assists he did, one especially to Raheem. His commitment defensively. One year he was the best player in the league so is an exceptional player. I’m happy for him because he’s playing at an incredible level.”

‘Incredible mentality’

In the 3-0 Champions League win at Shakhtar Donetsk, there was a moment when the ball was pinged to Mahrez at speed. He killed it dead, moved inside and the tone was set, the player going on to register the opener.

Having arrived in summer 2018, Guardiola stated in pre-season that this could be Mahrez’s year and he has so far started five games, four in the league. “I said many times in our press conference last season that I think he played good but played [only a] few [times],” the manager said before pointing to Mahrez’s captaining his country to glory in July. “I think the Africa Cup [of nations] made him believe how good he can be. He knows it, but I think it helps to win this kind of trophy for Algeria, for his country.

“From the beginning, he arrived with an incredible mentality. He has the feeling when he gets that ball in that position, the 18-yard box close to the area, something is going to happen. It’s a feeling and I think all the spectators can have that feeling and that is because he has a gift. He has something special.”

Challenge

Of the free-kick that beat Jordan Pickford to his right, Mahrez said: “Firstly I wanted to put it the other side of the keeper. Then I noticed there was a big space, I tried to whip it in and it had a little bounce before he touched it so it was difficult for him.”

City’s victory ensured Liverpool’s lead was kept at five points. “It’s very important,” Mahrez said. “It was 1-1 so to score at this moment of the game was crucial and with the third goal we killed the game.”

Mahrez’s form is also a further challenge to Leroy Sané. The German is injured but when he returns a wish for more game-time may be stymied by the Algerian.

Part of Guardiola’s success is predicated on competition in all positions, as was shown at Everton by Jesus being preferred to Agüero, the Brazilian subsequently scoring. “I try to make all of them involved, it’s simple like that,” said Guardiola.

– Guardian

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.