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Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan were key Man City’s win

todayMarch 20, 2021 3

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Just as the rest of the world was beginning to cower in the corner of their living rooms at the prospect of another frightening and mind-numbing 30 minutes of football, Pep Guardiola sent up the Bat-signal.

In the blink of an eye, our protagonist was dressed head to toe in his superhero outfit, stood by the side of his desperate caller.

On 80 minutes, Kevin De Bruyne stepped onto the Goodison Park pitch. Four minutes later, De Bruyne had played a significant role in swinging the game in Manchester City’s favour. Seven minutes after that, he wrapped up a 2-0 victory over Everton, sending his side into the FA Cup semi-finals.

All in an evening’s work – well,10 minute’s work, to be precise.

The entire nation must have cheered and whooped upon seeing arguably the best player in the Premier League strip off to save us from the torture of extra-time in the then-bore draw. But no one would have hollered louder than Ilkay Gundogan, the Robin to Kevin De Bruyne’s Batman.

Gundogan has stepped out of his teammates’ shadows this season to become a hero in his own right in this Man City team, and in fact, his deadlock-breaking diving header was his 16th goal in all competitions this season – making him the club’s top scorer for the campaign.

But ask any DC Comics fanatic and they’ll tell you that without Batman, Robin is just a fully grown man, wearing his bright underpants over his trousers (they probably wouldn’t tell you that, to be honest).

Gundogan has regularly demonstrated that he can be a match-winner without De Bruyne by his side, but as Saturday evening’s drab affair against Everton proved – it certainly helps if the Belgian maverick is on the pitch.

It was as if De Bruyne’s arrival had suddenly reminded Gundogan that he was in fact, a contender for the Premier League’s Player of the Season award, and he began making the runs and finding the spaces which have transformed him into the most dangerous midfielder in England this year.

Saying that, perhaps it was more a case of De Bruyne’s presence freeing up the German superstar, and allowing him to slink into the shadows whilst Batman fought five baddies all at once with his frightening speed and awareness.

It was that higher level of thinking which allowed the Man City star to receive the ball on the edge of the penalty area, gamble in possession and jink beyond a couple of defenders, culminating in Aymeric Laporte’s crack at goal.

The centre-back’s shot was tipped onto the crossbar, and for the first time in 84 minutes, Gundogan was unmarked and untracked, waiting to head the ball into an open net with typical aplomb.

As is often the case however, Robin rarely is allowed the headlines, and although Batman has been generous this season, he wanted everyone to know that it was he who had won the game in 600 seconds.

De Bruyne was alert enough to take advantage of a clipped pass dropping into his path, and he steered the ball onto his left foot before burying it with more ease than most players could achieve with their stronger peg.

That was the pair’s 41st goal contribution of the season, a tally which has seen them stroll to the top of the Premier League, reach the Carabao Cup final, the FA Cup semi-final, and the Champions League quarter-final. Not bad going from the dynamic duo.

And with that, De Bruyne disappeared into the night. Well, that part isn’t true. He trotted down the tunnel at the final whistle, having saved his teammates from the possibility of an FA Cup exit, and saving a nation from chronic boredom.

Not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need.

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From weight rooms to COVID-19 tests, the NCAA’s lack of care for women athletes is on full display

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