With their path to the Champions League last 16 already secure, Manchester City cruised to a straightforward 4-1 win against Dinamo Zagreb in the evening’s early kick-off.
Two wins in their last seven games and no clean sheet in nine wasn’t the best form going into the game, even if they didn’t need a win, but a Gabriel Jesus hat-trick, plus one from Phil Foden, ensured his side eased into the next round on a bitterly cold night in Croatia.
Fresh off the back of derby defeat to local rivals Manchester United, Guardiola rang the changes. With their route through as group winners already secure the Spaniard brought in eight new faces to his starting XI.
Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus were the only players to keep their place from the weekend, and among those there were starts for Foden, Eric Garcia and Riyad Mahrez.
City may not have had anything to play for, but Dinamo did. And it showed in the early exchanges.
The Croats needed a favour from Atalanta in the other group match in Donetsk, but started much the brighter and opened the scoring through an exquisite strike in the 10th minute. There didn’t seem a huge amount of danger, but Dani Olmo let a cross from the right ghost over his shoulder, before cracking a volley first time into the net.
City’s first proper sight of goal came nearly 10 minutes later, when Ilkay Gundogan drove a low effort from 15 yards out but Dominik Livakovic in the Dinamo net was equal to it and parried it safe.
But it was Dinamo that continued to create the better chances, despite seeing less of the ball. Olmo went close again from longer range, Mislav Orsic had a header saved and a three-on-two counter attack should have led to a second goal but the final pass was wasted.
That said, the visitors did get an equaliser, coming in controversial fashion. With a Dinamo player down injured in his own box, City played on. Mahrez had the ball on the right of the box and clipped in a cross that Gabriel Jesus headed in.
It wasn’t a head injury, and Mahrez and City had absolutely no obligation to stop. That didn’t stop Dinamo complaining as, and after, Jesus scored.
Swiftly after the interval the visitors managed to take the lead for the first time in the game.
A well-worked move on the left-hand side found its way to Jesus and the Brazilian cut inside and bent his effort round the keeper. Five minutes later and the striker got his hat-trick, when Benjamin Mendy drove down the left and his sharp cross found Jesus at the far post to gobble up the chance at a third.
Even goals aside, City were far superior in the second 45. Where before they had been sloppy in possession and hustled off the ball, here they were calm and clinical.
With Jesus’ work done and now rested, substitute Raheem also found the net, slamming home an Otamendi header that had hit the bar, but the England forward was offside and it failed to count.
Another Englishman did manage to get on the scoresheet, however. Bernardo Silva was fed down the right and his cut-back found Foden, who side-footed in from eight yards.
The game was much like the group; a straightforward task, carried out professionally.
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