Man City 3-1 Red Star: Pep Guardiola's make a comeback
19th September 2023

Man City survive a scare to kick off their Champions League defence with a 3-1 win over Crvena Zvezda as Julian Alvarez nets twice after Pep Guardiola’s had trailed the Serbs at half-time

  • Red Star took the lead in the first half before Alvarez equalised in the second
  • Alvarez added another before Rodri provided their third of the night
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ 

See, don’t make Manchester City angry. This is what happens when they’re angry. Red Star Belgrade led for a bit. Not long, but a bit.

They actually took the lead on the stroke of half time. Perfect time to score. In theory, anyway. In reality, it gave a frustrated City time to breathe and they quickly released the air from the Serbian balloon.

Last year’s champions began their defence with slight imperfections, missing a hatful of chances and requiring something of a helping hand by a man called Glazer, yet equally it all felt nicely measured.

They battered Red Star in a way the scoreline did not do justice. Not many others around Europe are quite this inevitably good when a goal down but that is partially why Pep Guardiola won the lot.

Kyle Walker revealed earlier this week that City’s boss had shown them a diagram of a mountain and told them they now stand at the bottom, effectively to forget about the triumphs a few months ago.

Julian Alvarez scored twice as Man City beat Red Star 3-1 in the Champions League

Osman Bukari shocked City by scoring a shock opener for the outsiders in the first half

He and his team-mates were ecstatic – heading over to the bench to celebrate with the staff 

However, it didn’t last long as City’s Julian Alvarez equalised a minute into the second half

Guardiola can talk all he wants about scaling another hill, and it is a motivational tactic for a group of players who have heard and achieved it all at this stage, but some are understandably still revelling in how this club climbed the last peak. And they always will. It’ll never be topped. They might go and win a Quadruple at one point but it won’t have that same feel.

The sound of Fleetwood Mac, the Treble’s soundtrack, filled the concourses. A montage of the heroics was beamed on the big screens. Mike Summerbee wandered out with the Champions League trophy. The UEFA anthem was given a good jeering. Everything and nothing changed in June.

City, who have not dropped a point on this competition’s opening night for five years, camped in Red Star’s third, attacking the end where a new flag for the Istanbul matchwinner unfurled: ‘Can we talk about Rodri?’ They almost were early doors when dancing through challenges, he unleashed a missile at Omri Glazer, who instinctively palmed away with one strong arm. Those in this part of the world are used to Glazers palming people off instead, so that felt a novelty.

So too did the sight of Erling Haaland crashing a free header into Glazer’s crossbar rather than beyond the goalkeeper. Phil Foden, operating off the left and floating inside, stood it up beautifully. Haaland, it could be argued, tried to manufacture too much pace on the effort, neck veins visible as he cranked to make contact. The Norwegian later spooned over after Glazer had superbly tipped Nathan Ake’s header wide.

Glazer was initially having the game of his life, flinging himself down to thwart Foden’s header and Red Star somehow led seconds before the break. Osman Bukari saw Mirko Ivanic was knocking a ball over the top, skipping past Ruben Dias and slipping beyond Ederson. Disallowed for offside, only for replays to show Dias comfortably played Bukari on. Suddenly, there was a game on.

Guardiola will think there should not have been. No team had registered more shots in a Champions League first half than City’s 22 since Opta started recording statistics in 2003.

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Alvarez was on fire for Manchester City and went on to score their second goal of the game

His second goal came from Omri Glazer’s howler as he tried to punch Alvarez’s free-kick clear but ended up diverting the ball into the net

Rodri then added the third and final goal of the game in the 73rd minute to see it end 3-1

Kyle Walker also found the back of the net but his goal was disallowed shortly after their equaliser

Walker was correctly ruled offside as VAR intervened to deny him a rare goal for his club

The 23rd ended up being the equaliser and potentially one of the greatest upsets in European history lasted for little over a minute. Haaland showcased why he is so much more to this team than a goalscoring cyborg, drifting off the front and laying on a plate for Julian Alvarez. The Argentine rounded Glazer and tucked home for his third of the campaign.

Kyle Walker thought he had given them a lead shortly after, before that was adjudged offside. Glazer made his first real mistake of the evening by then not gathering Alvarez’s effort, only to then jump up to stop Haaland’s follow-up.

If that error was bad, this next one came with sound effects. Alvarez’s free kick, a cross, had whip but looked eminently catchable. Glazer, unchallenged, elected to punch. He threw a limp fist down a different line to the actual ball, missing it and turned back in horror. By the hour, City led and normality restored.

There was also time for Rodri to roll home into the far corner after cleverly seeking space by using decoys Foden and Jeremy Doku. Guardiola, arms aloft, saw the job completed.


Manchester City starting XI: Ederson, Walker (C), Dias, Ake, Gomez, Rodrigo, Bernardo, Nunes, Foden, Alvarez, Haaland

Substitutes: Ortega Moreno, Carson, Phillips, Doku, Gvardiol, Akanji, Bobb, Lewis 

Red Star Belgrade starting XI: Glazer, Mijailovic, Djiga, Dragovic, Rodic, Hwang, Stamenic, Bukari, Ivanic, Mitrovic, Ndiaye

Substitutes: Degenek, Spajic, Kanga, Katai, Olayinka, Krasso, Milunovic, Kangwa, Lucic, Kabic, Popovic, Vasiljevic 

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