Manchester City 3-1 Crvena Zvezda: Red Star defeated despite taking first-half lead at the Etihad

The reigning champions of Europe welcomed Crvena Zvezda to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, keen to kickstart their 2023/24 UEFA Champions League title defence with a win against Serbian opposition. But Barak Bakhar’s side have tasted European glory too in 1991, and would be looking to record their first win on English soil in fifty years.

MCI: Ederson; Gómez, Aké, Dias, Walker; Nunes, Rodri; Foden, Álvarez, Silva; Haaland

CZV: Glazer; Rodic, Dragovic, Djiga, Mijailović; Stamenić, Hwang; Mitrović, Ivanić, Bukari; Ndiaye

Manchester City found themselves trailing for the second time in under a week on Tuesday evening, falling behind on the stroke of half time when Osman Bukari slammed Crvena Zvezda into a surprise lead at the Etihad Stadium. Played through on goal by Mirko Ivanić, he was able to remain calm when one-on-one with Ederson before surviving a VAR check for a potential offside offence.

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But City weren’t behind for long, and just ninety seconds into the second half, Julián Álvarez restored parity. Latching onto Erling Haaland’s pass, the Argentine forward was able to round Omri Glazer – slotting home from a tight angle to ensure the home faithful would be treated to a blockbuster final period.

And on the hour mark, he would complete his brace as his free-kick took full advantage of a Glazer mistake. The shotstopper attempted to punch the delivery away from danger, but misjudged his connection – allowing the ball to sail uncontested into the top corner, handing City full control of the fixture.

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With less than twenty minutes of regulation time remaining, Rodri added City’s third – and his first goal on the European stage since that decisive goal against Internazionale in Istanbul. Receiving Phil Foden’s pass, the Spaniard danced through the defence before curling past Glazer.

Manchester City are on the road next time out in the UEFA Champions League, travelling to RB Leipzig on 4 October. Crvena Zvezda will be at home, welcoming Young Boys to the Rajko Mitic Stadium.