Manchester City inspiration David Silva begins final climb of Champions League mountain

By Sports Desk October 01, 2019

And so, Pep Guardiola is two from two in his latest quest for a fourth Champions League crown, to add to the three he won at Barcelona - one as a player and two as a coach.

Unlike significant sections of the Manchester City faithful, Europe's top competition has no need to seduce Guardiola. He remains enthralled by the big trophy, despite the path towards it seeming to mock him fatalistically over recent years.

The Catalan's contract in Manchester suggest he will get another tilt at continental glory next season – UEFA investigations pending, of course – and the super clubs will never linger far from the door.

For one similarly esteemed performer on the field during City's 2-0 Group C win against Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday, the clock ticks a little louder.

David Silva has seen every act of City's uneven, frustrating, confusing and occasionally enthralling relationship with the Champions League. From the opening-night nerves against Napoli back in 2011, to goals in home and away wins over Bayern Munich and a bitterly timed early injury that robbed a torpid 2016 semi-final against Real Madrid of his beguiling qualities.

In 2010, the Spain playmaker joined a club without a major trophy in 34 years. He was integral to ending the drought, scampering and scheming in that unmistakable style of his in the left channel before Yaya Toure settled the 2011 FA Cup final against Stoke City.

Four Premier Leagues, four EFL Cups and another FA Cup have followed, with Silva claiming showpiece final goals to go with the one he netted to start Spain's demolition of Italy in the Euro 2012 showpiece. That was his second European crown with La Roja and he's also a World Cup winner.

The Champions League is his final frontier and, this being his final campaign at City, Silva looks to have one roll of the dice remaining.

A groin injury to his partner in playmaking perfection, Kevin De Bruyne, left Silva as City's chief creator as Dinamo's massed ranks of day-glo defence set about a lengthy vigil at the Etihad Stadium.

The 33-year-old's precision touches sometimes contrasted to a jarring extent with Benjamin Mendy's trigger-happy crossing bombardment, while namesake Bernardo Silva again strained unsuccessfully for last season's form.

At odds with their change strip, Dinamo's defence looked to submerge Europe's most prolific attack in darkness. Space was at a premium, but for Silva there is always just enough.

Shimmying around that patch of grass between the left-hand edges of penalty and six-yard boxes, where he casts his most convincing spells, City's captain knitted everything together.

A deft pass almost allowed Ilkay Gundogan to open the scoring, as Silva himself should have done from close range. A Mendy missile landed at his feet, bringing a reminder that finishing has never been his strongest suit.

City were held to their first goalless opening 45 minutes of the season and, as game-breaker Raheem Sterling replaced Bernardo Silva, their number 21 was prodding and cajoling with increasing intent.

Shifting closer to his old ally Sergio Aguero, Silva ducked past two challenges to have a 55th-minute shot blocked – one of those half-dribbles where a shift in balance and twist of the hips means little pace is required.

Sterling has the latter quality in abundance and after Silva darted to the byline to prompt a 65th-minute corner, the England winger opened the scoring.

Rodri's slide-rule pass, after Dinamo only partially cleared, found Riyad Mahrez in the inside-left position to cross for Sterling to apply the finish.

Both passes in the build-up were the sort Silva has played countless times in sky blue – it is nice to think of them as his legacy, building the sort of City goals he cutely crafted long after he is gone.

After nearly laying on number two for Aguero, Silva made way to a warm ovation for his presumed heir Phil Foden. The teenager gleefully thrashed in the game-sealing goal. Time waits for no man.

Against Dinamo, like in many other games over the past decade, Silva was City's inspiration. As the club captain who will lift any trophies come May, he should also be his team-mates' motivation to plot a route to Istanbul and that final frontier.

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