LONDON: Kevin de Bruyne is back. Five months after limping off in the first half of Manchester City’s opening Premier League match, against Burnley, their Belgium playmaker returned decisively to eagerly-awaited duty.

A serious hamstring injury saw De Bruyne miss City’s victory in the FIFA Club World Cup last December. He returned to City’s matchday squad as an unused substitute in the 2-0 defeat of Sheffield United on December 30 then joined the action after 57 minutes of the 5-0 defeat of Huddersfield in the FA Cup third round.

De Bruyne provided City’s third goal after only one minutes on the pitch when his pass intended for Oscar Bobb was deflected into the net by Ben Jackson. In the 74th minute De Bruyne provided the assist for City’s fifth goal by fellow substitute Jeremy Doku.

Manager Pep Guardiola will not be confronted immediately by team selection issues. De Bruyne played well within himself and, with his injury history, Guardiola will almost certainly nurse him through the next month. He will want De Bruyne fully fit to lead their busy campaign in the Premier League as well as the Champions League and FA Cup. This likely means more appearances as a substitute before De Bruyne is ready for regain his status as a regular starter.

Guardiola said: “We are incredibly delighted to have him back because Kevin [de Bruyne] helps to win games. It is so important to have him back after a long injury but I don’t want to put all the pressure on Kevin’s shoulders because it is not fair to him.

“Of course he has a special ability and quality to do something that is difficult to find. We have guys in midfield who love to run. Kevin is exceptional. He is unique. We are really pleased he is back after more than three months with injury. He had a really good assist for the Doku goal. Really good to have him back.”

In the meantime City will hope to have Erling Haaland fit for Saturday’s league visit to Newcastle after being injured in the Club World Cup.

The FA Cup match of the day saw out-of-form Arsenal beaten 2-0 at home by Liverpool after an own goal by Jakub Kiwior and late strike by Luis Diaz.

Arsenal have now lost three games in a row in all competitions and the wayward finishing that has seen them drop down to fourth in the Premier League was evident again as they squandered a flurry of first-half chances.