Already-qualified Manchester City took on Red Star Belgrade in Serbia on Wednesday in their final group stage game, looking to reach an impressive 20 games unbeaten in the UEFA Champions League – further extending the record they already hold for an English club.
CRV: Glazer; Nedelijkovic, Djiga, Spajic, Dragovic; Kanga, Mijailovic, Hwang; Bukari, Ndiaye, Olayinka
MCI: Ortega Moreno; Lewis, Stones, Akanji, Gomez; Phillips, Kovacic; Hamilton, Nunes, Grealish; Bobb
Pep Guardiola made nine changes from the side that beat Luton 2-1 on Sunday in the Premier League as they entered the game already guaranteed to advance as group winners.
Jack Grealish and Mateo Kovacic kept their spots with Kalvin Phillips receiving a rare start as academy graduate, Micah Hamilton, made his Manchester City debut on the right of the forward three.
Despite being unbeaten in 122 league games at their home ground and being top of the Serbian league, Red Star Belgrade were set to finish fourth in the group regardless of the result against the reigning European Champions.
The Serbs got the game underway but City quickly settled and gained control of the ball, with nine changes not upsetting their rhythm.
The treble winners confidently passed the ball around with chances coming but a lack of fluidity in the final third keeping the score level, until the 19th minute when the Manchester-born youngster, Micah Hamilton, scored on his senior debut.
Having gone one and one with his marker, Hamilton twisted before thundering an angled shot into the roof of the net to put City ahead. With the breaths of every City fan held inside the stadium, VAR confirmed it was a goal with the 20-year-old onside by a fraction.Embed from Getty Images
Down the other end of the pitch, there was hope for the hosts as Kosta Nedelijkovic picked up the ball on edge of the City box, found free with enough time to cut the ball onto his left and take the shot that curled just over the bar.
The 30-minute mark saw Stefan Ortega get in on the action, comfortably sliding out to collect a poor cross from Red Star.
It was another powerful run down the right by Nunes in the 38th minute but the pass was too far ahead of Oscar Bobb with the opportunity to double City’s lead flashing before his eyes.
This was followed by two further half-chances before the half-time whistle; Nunes drove forward, playing the ball to Hamilton who whipped in a low cross that just missed the sliding foot of Oscar Bobb with Kalvin Phillips reviving the ball, though his long-range effort flew over the bar.
City held the lead at the break courtesy of Micah Hamilton’s debut goal in what was an enjoyable first 45 minutes for the Blues, with over 70% possession.
The treble winners began the second half with a confident Hamilton close to a second three minutes in, as he curled a low shot just past the post.
Stefan Ortega was called upon again with a save from point-blank range in the 51st minute, followed by one from distance from Guelor Kanga as the Serbs looked to pull one back with a high press.
Oscar Bobb made it two for the visitors with an incredible solo goal becoming the second City youngster to score his first senior goal for the club.
He dribbled past Red Star’s defence, shooting low into the bottom corner just out of the keeper’s reach and doubling the advantage.Embed from Getty Images
Following the substitution of Mahamadou Susohoon on for his City debut, the home side pulled one back with Hwang In-beom taking advantage of City’s lack of shape, shooting underneath Stefan Ortega.
With the Sky Blues back on the ball, Micah Hamilton’s debut got better and better as darted between two defenders before being pulled back, winning a penalty that was left to Kalvin Phillips to convert.
A first Manchester City goal for England international Kalvin Phillips saw the midfielder confidently bury the ball in the back of the net, extending City’s lead to three with five minutes plus added time left to play.Embed from Getty Images
It was Red Star back on the attack with Mijatovic’s shot hitting the post. An offside flag was raised with a potential penalty checked by VAR, the decision ultimately no penalty.
In the first of five added minutes, Red Star substitute Aleksander Katai scored a powerful header from a corner to bring the final score to 2-3.
A flawless Champions League group stage for the reigning champions sees them pick up six wins from six games, becoming only the second English club to win all six group matches.