Manchester City overcome Red Star scare in Champions League opener


Who can stop Manchester City retaining the Champions League? This is a question many will ponder and for which Red Star Belgrade had no answer. By the end of this opening group game that is. Because, 45 minutes in, Serbia’s champions of the past six years led and threatened to do what Lyon were the last to do five years ago to the day: defeat Pep Guardiola’s side, in Europe, at their home.

Yet City are the masters of refusing to be beaten and so cue two Julián Álvarez strikes minutes into the second half which overturned Red Star’s advantage, broke them, and had Guardiola’s men coasting before Rodri applied the coup de grace.

As the Spaniard did with the goal that claimed the club a first Champions League in May, this was a curled finish that had Guardiola pumping the air and purring about his midfielder’s excellence.

“He is the best [in Europe]. Hopefully he can be [even]better, have a good mentality but he is an extraordinary holding midfielder. He loves to arrive in the final third and dribble and shoot,” the manager said.

“Champions of Europe” had been the stadium announcer’s rallying cry and City were a picture of poise and control, threading the ball through Red Star with the aplomb of the continent’s regal power.

Guardiola, the arch technical area prowler, waited 12 minutes before entering the zone, from where he implored Kyle Walker and Matheus Nunes to spray the ball along the right for Bernardo Silva to use. It was shifted to the Portuguese – momentarily – before play went back across the field.