Wednesday, 18 September 2019

City put aside domestic slip with win at Shakhtar

City put aside domestic slip with win at Shakhtar

Manchester City ignored their defensive injury crisis to make a flying start to the Champions League campaign with a 3-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

City boss Pep Guardiola was forced to deploy Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho at centre-back after losing Aymeric Laporte and John Stones to recent injuries.

But Fernandinho slotted in comfortably at the back as City easily subdued Shakhtar with first-half goals from Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan at the Metalist Stadium.

Gabriel Jesus netted City's third goal in the closing stages to ensure they made the long flight home with three points stowed away.

There was more good news for Guardiola as French defender Benjamin Mendy, on as a late substitute, made his first appearance since April after returning from a knee injury.

With Dinamo Zagreb and Atalanta making up Champions League Group C, City are expected to cruise into the last 16.

This mature performance was the perfect opening to their bid to win the Champions League for the first time, especially coming after Saturday's shock 3-2 defeat at Norwich in the Premier League.

City have failed to get past the quarterfinals in Guardiola's previous three seasons in charge, while the Spaniard hasn't won the tournament since the second of his two titles with Barcelona in 2011.

Those past failures gave extra significance to City's opening match.

Nicolas Otamendi is the English champions' only fit centre-back, so Fernandinho was pressed into action, with Guardiola giving the Brazilian the captain's armband for his first start this season.

The 34-year-old had lost his place as City's holding midfielder following the pre-season signing of Rodri from Atletico Madrid.

Fernandinho adapted well enough against the limited threat posed by Shakhtar, who are meeting City for a third successive season in the group stage.

City became the first English team to win at Shakhtar with a 3-0 victory last season and this was an equally comfortable success.

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