With a victory over Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade, Manchester City came back from behind, and Julian Alvarez netted two goals in the second half to start their Champions League championship defense under Pep Guardiola.
Red Star, the 1991 European Cup winners, had a chance to make history when Osman Bukari gave them the lead late in the first half.
Nevertheless, it took City less than ninety minutes to draw even after the break when Alvarez pounced on Erling Haaland’s rebound pass, skillfully sidestepped Red Star goalkeeper Omri Glazer, and squeaked the ball home from close range while continuing to run at full speed.
Thirteen minutes later, Glazer ended an otherwise outstanding performance as he attempted to punch Alvarez’s free-kick away from danger but only managed to make a slight contact with the ball, causing it to stay in the far corner.
The game-winning goal against Inter Milan in June marked Rodri’s final European goal. By moving unopposed into the Red Star area and placing a crisp shot into the bottom corner, the Spain midfielder gave Manchester City a good start to their season at Wembley. It was their third goal of the season.
The hosts deserved to win because, towards the end, they had 77% of the possession and had attempted 37 shots compared to Red Star’s three.
Uncommonly blank for Haaland
Haaland experienced a rare night of frustration, while the brilliant Alvarez could rejoice, doubling his campaign total, which currently stands at four.
Before this match, the 23-year-old had scored 30 goals in 26 Champions League appearances, so it’s safe to say that he’s grown fond of the league.
Nothing will linger in his memory from his 27th Champions League start, though.
Several times, Haaland’s inability to capitalize on an increasing number of chances that he would have ordinarily buried had both his manager and the Norwegian shaking their heads.
Guardiola reacted negatively to a strong header as Haaland rose beautifully and met the ball with force, only for it to smash back off the crossbar.
After Alvarez cut back, Haaland appeared certain to score with a first-time shot on the turn, but he blazed over.
Haaland probably realized that his night was over when City had already taken the lead. Two strides from goal, the Norwegian soared once more to meet a far-post cross. He went in a downhill direction this time. Glazer reached out and managed to somehow slide the ball onto the post, where it was removed.
There was still one more chance for Haaland, a header that he could not keep on target.
Dreams of a red star dashed
The surname Glazer is not common in this region of the world.
The goalie for Red Star Belgrade caused City supporters to become enraged for 45 minutes, just like the owners of Manchester United often do at Old Trafford.
The opening session was one-sided, with the Israel international denying Rodri, Nathan Ake, and Phil Foden.
It should have been better for Foden in particular, who was unmarked and in a reasonably central position on the edge of the six-yard area.
These opportunities came as part of a 22-shot burst City produced in the first half of a Champions League match without any goals, which ended in no score.
After waiting a long time for the video assistant referee to reverse the first offside call, Bukari’s conversion of Mirko Ivanic’s through ball caused a stir among the City supporters, causing chaos on the Red Star bench.
Bernardo Silva had been replaced by Jeremy Doku by then, and the latter did not appear impressed enough to leave the action so quickly.
When the halftime siren went out, Glazer and Red Star were hoping for a historic triumph, something the Serbian team had not experienced in England since 1973.