Reigning champions Manchester City made a winning start to their UEFA Champions League (UCL) Group G campaign, after coming back to win 3-1 against Red Star Belgrade at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s treble winners might have swept all before them last season, but there were little signs of a loss of appetite as a wave of Sky Blue descended on their visitors in North West England. It’s five years to the day that Manchester City last lost a European game at home and that stat may have been ringing in the ears of Red Star Belgrade keeper Omri Glazer, when Erling Haaland rocketed the crossbar on the 25th minute mark after total dominance from the hosts.
It was hard not to admire the character displayed by the visitors however, and last season’s invincible winners of the Serbian SuperLiga were roared on by fans who happily reminded those in the stadium that their club are European Cup winners themselves. After several more superb interventions from a defiant Glazer, the visitors took a barely believable lead when Osman Bukari broke City’s defensive line and finished emphatically seconds before HT.
That goal proved to have simply poked the bear, and after racking up 22 shots – the most any side has managed in the first half of an UCL match – their 23rd effort was decisively tucked home by Julián Álvarez after a neat touch took him around the visiting keeper. Full of confidence, City almost doubled their lead immediately but Kyle Walker’s 8-yard finish was ruled out for a narrow offside.
Another superb Glazer stop denied a frustrated Haaland, but the keeper was at fault on the hour mark after missing what appeared to be a simple punch when Álvarez’s free-kick sailed over his head and into the net. Yet, Glazer would make amends for that error shortly after, denying Haaland from point-blank range as the game threatened to get away from Red Star Belgrade.
An inevitable third goal arrived when Rodri sumptuously side-footed home to send the Sky Blues cruising towards another triumph. A testing night for the visitors, but, despite the disappointment of losing a lead they held at the interval, it’s likely that coach Barak Bachar will have been pleased by many elements of his side’s display against one of Europe’s best sides.