Man City continue perfect start as Julian Alvarez sparkles after Champions League scare

Irish Mirror   19/09/2023 21:50

They have started this European campaign where they left off.

And you would have to be brave to bet against Manchester City repeating last season’s Treble success. Not for the first time a Glazer got it horribly wrong in Manchester as City completely overwhelmed Red Star Belgrade despite going behind at half time.

But even without Red Star keeper Omni Glazer’s howler - as he mistimed a punch on Julian Alvarez’s second goal - this ended up being all too easy for City. City boss Pep Guardiola said in the build-up any team can win the Champions League once but it takes a truly great team to win it year after year.

Guardiola’s men must already have an eye on Wembley for this season’s final on June 1 and the holders already look like they will be the team to beat. They have a very easy looking Champions League Group and they have made a perfect start in the Premier League with five straight wins.

And that is even without Erling Haaland hitting top form as the City goal machine drew a blank against Red Star Belgrade. But you suspect when he finds his shooting boots, the goals will fly in.

Instead, Argentina star Alvarez struck twice and Rodri - who scored the winner in last season’s final - got the other to underline yet another majestic midfield performance. There is surely no better defensive midfielder in Europe right now.

The only real surprise was the scoreline was not even more comfortable because City were on a completely different level to their opponents. City had a total of 37 shots - 16 were on target - and are unbeaten in 27 home games in the Champions League. They just look unstoppable.

Rodri helped Pep Guardiola's side secure a victory

But this time they were actually made to work for their victory because, despite City’s first-half dominance, they were behind at the break. It was so one-sided it was almost embarrassing but Guardiola even claimed afterwards that he was pleased that his side were given a scare so it was not too easy.

Red Star keeper Glazer defied City almost single-handedly as the reigning champions created a little piece of unwanted Champions League history in the first half. City took 22 shots at the Red Star goal in the opening 45 minutes which is the most of any team since Opta began collecting stats in 2003/04.

Glazer defied Rodri with a super save, Phil Foden headed straight at the Red Star keeper from point blank range while Haaland headed against the crossbar. Nathan Ake had a header well saved.

Bernardo Silva went off injured just before the break, Jeremy Doku came on, and it threatened to go wrong as the visitors stunned the Etihad by taking an unlikely 45th minute lead against the run of play.

Red Star midfielder Mirko Ivanic's through ball put in Osman Bukari who raced through and slotted past City keeper Ederson. An offside flag went up immediately but TV replays showed Ruben Dias played Bukari onside and VAR awarded the goal.

The Etihad could hardly believe it. But everyone knew it could not last and City were on level terms within 72 seconds of the restart. Haaland turned provider as his clever pass put in Alvarez who skipped round Glazer with some lovely footwork and then slipped it into the net from a tight angle.

It only got worse for Red Star on the hour mark. Alvarez swung over a free kick, Glazer made a horrible hash of a punch and the ball ended up in the net. City got a third after 73 minutes as Rodri picked up the ball on the edge of the box, drove forward and then found the bottom corner with a precise low shot. That wrapped it up for City and, yet again, they are the team to beat.

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