Manchester City’s Champions League Quest Begins
Manchester City embarked on their quest to retain their Champions League title, facing an early shock but emerging victoriously with a 3-1 scoreline over Serbian giants Red Star.
An Unexpected Challenge from Red Star
When the draw was announced, there was a smirk caught on camera from Red Star’s captain, Aleksandar Dragovic. Little did he know, for large swathes of the match, the Premier League champions would find themselves cursing their fate.
The stars aligned for Red Star’s goalkeeper, Omri Glazer, who put up a Herculean performance. Despite one glaring error, he managed to keep the scoreline from escalating into an embarrassment, even as City fired an impressive 37 shots at his goal. However, the sheer might of talent in Pep Guardiola’s battalion was too overwhelming for the gallant Serbian side.
Breaking Down the Tactical Battle
No one quite knew what to expect as City took the pitch, but it became evident that Red Star wasn’t there to merely defend. Guardiola’s men, known for their fierce possession-based style, dominated proceedings, but the visitors, seemingly fearless, thrust forward in numbers, hunting for those precious breakaway opportunities.
Their ambition bore fruit just before the half-time whistle. As Osman Bukari took a daring shot, City’s defender Ruben Dias confidently stepped up, only to be shocked when VAR confirmed the goal. With an almost comical shot tally favouring City, Red Star had the audacity to lead at half-time.
Guardiola had done his homework, warning of Red Star’s aggressive nature and propensity to flood the final third with attacking intent. But what the Cityzens faced was something else entirely. Red Star were resolute, with Glazer denying City time and again, making some breath-taking saves against the likes of Rodri, Nathan Ake, and Phil Foden.
However, the tide turned shortly after the break. Julian Alvarez, showcasing a touch of brilliance, managed to outsmart Glazer and nestle the ball into the net. Alvarez was again instrumental when he caught Glazer off guard with an in-swinging delivery. This was followed by Rodri’s precise finish in the 73rd minute, reflecting City’s overwhelming control.
Player Ratings: The Stars and the Strugglers
- Ederson (6/10): Despite Bukari’s sharp finish, Ederson was alert and ensured City wasn’t caught off guard.
- Kyle Walker (6/10): A constant threat, utilising his blistering pace.
- Ruben Dias (5/10): A rare lapse in judgment saw him mistime his offside trap, leading to Red Star’s goal.
- Nathan Ake (7/10): An aerial threat, surprising for someone of his stature.
- Rodri (7/10): Dictated the game from midfield, and capped off his performance with a well-taken goal.
- Julian Alvarez (8/10): The standout player, with a fantastic goal and creating constant problems for Red Star’s defence.
- Erling Haaland – 5/10 – The inefficiency that haunted his play against West Ham United persisted into Tuesday’s clash.
- Phil Foden – 6/10 – Instead of sticking strictly to the flank, Foden seamlessly roamed infield, showcasing his uncanny knack for navigating compact areas.
Guardiola’s Magic Touch
The master tactician started the game by densely populating the centre with his intricate playmakers, shifting gears later on by allowing the pacey duo of Doku and Walker to exploit the flanks. Regardless of his tactical adjustments, City carved out chance after chance.
In Conclusion: The Road Ahead
As Manchester City embark on their Champions League journey, this early scare against Red Star may serve as a poignant reminder that in football, there’s no room for complacency. Guardiola will certainly use this to keep his team sharp and hungry for more European glory.
Player of the match: Julian Alvarez (Man City)