Man City recover from Red Star shock for winning Champions League start
Manchester City's Julian Alvarez celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Champions League group G football match between Manchester City and Red Star Belgrade in Manchester, England, Tuesday September 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, (AFP) – Julian Alvarez saved Manchester City's blushes after Red Star Belgrade took a shock lead at the Etihad as the holders began their Champions League defence with a 3-1 win on Tuesday.

The visitors' goal had been bombarded before they stunned Pep Guardiola's men when Osman Bukari opened the scoring in first half stoppage time.

However, Alvarez continued his sparkling early season form by levelling just two minutes after the break.

The Argentine then got some help from Red Star goalkeeper Omri Glazer as he flapped at Alvarez's free-kick to allow the ball to fly into the far corner.

Rodri rounded off the scoring with a composed finish 17 minutes from time.

Red Star were expected to be lambs to the slaughter after City followed up their treble success last season with a perfect start five games into the new Premier League campaign.

But the English champions made life difficult for themselves with some wayward finishing, while Glazer performed heroics for the Serbian giants before the break.

Rodri and Alvarez stung Glazer's palms before Erling Haaland headed against the crossbar from point-blank range.

Phil Foden then nodded an even easier headed opportunity straight at the Israeli goalkeeper.

City's stretched squad due to injuries was shown as they named only eight of a permitted 12 substitutes, two of which were goalkeepers.

Bernardo Silva was replaced just before half-time by Jeremy Doku in what could be another injury problem for Guardiola.

Red Star had barely been out their own half in the opening 45 minutes, but City were stunned when Bukari burst in behind and finished confidently past Ederson.

The Ghanaian's joy was temporarily quelled by the offside flag.

But a VAR check revealed he had been played onside by Ruben Dias.

City quickly went to work after the break to ensure that was to be the only shock of the night.

Haaland may not have found his range in front of goal, but the Norwegian's clever pass played in Alvarez to round Glazer for the equaliser.

All of the Red Star goalkeeper's good work was then forgotten as his miscued punch just helped Alvarez's free-kick on its way into the top corner.

Rodri was the City hero when they finally conquered Europe for the first time by beating Inter Milan 1-0 in Istanbul in June and the Spaniard is picking up the healthy habit of scoring vital goals.

The midfielder was afforded far too much room on the edge of the area and picked his spot with a perfectly weighted curling effort into the far corner to secure the three points.

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