Manchester City survived the mildest of scares to start their Champions League defence with victory after Red Star Belgrade took a shock lead at the Etihad.
Osman Bukari scored on the stroke of half-time, before goals from Julian Alvarez, Rodri and an own goal by Red Star goalkeeper Omri Glazer ensured City took a step towards qualifying from a group they are strong favourites to win.
The Serbian side, European Cup winners in 1991, spent almost the entirety of the 90 minutes repelling waves of City attacks but opened the scoring when Bukari converted a one-on-one opportunity beyond Ederson. The Red Star forward was initially flagged offside but the goal stood following a Video Assistant Referee review, sparking jubilant scenes between manager Barak Bakhar and his players on the touchline.
The scoreline scarcely did justice to the balance of the first half, during which Phil Foden and Erling Haaland were guilty of spurning clear-cut chances and Glazer made numerous saves. City racked up 22 shots on goal before the break, the most by any team in the first half of a Champions League game since Opta records began 20 years ago.
It seemed a question of when not if City would equalise, and so it proved. Alvarez struck within 90 seconds of the restart, showing quick feet in the penalty area to shift the ball beyond Glazer and finish exquisitely from a tight angle. City were in front in the 60th minute, when Glazer marred an otherwise excellent performance by miscuing a punch into his own net. Rodri continued his strong form with a stylish finish to effectively end the game as a contest in the 73rd minute.
City finished the game having amassed 37 shots on Red Star’s goal, 16 of them on target, with their only concern the loss of Bernardo Silva to an apparent muscle niggle.
Guardiola rues injuries but Manchester City's European juggernaut powers on
Alvarez leads City to victory after minor stumble against Red Star – as it happened
10:31 PM BST
Guardiola on Bernardo's injury
I don’t know what he has. I didn’t talk with the doctor. Hopefully it is not bad.
10:28 PM BST
Guardiola on Alvarez
He deserves it, every single game he is working, scoring goals, making assists. He deserves it.
10:13 PM BST
Guardiola's reflections on the game
Football is the only game where dominance doesn’t count. The guys performed really well, we played really good we were consistent. But we did not score enough goals. When you have this many shots it means you have played well. If we keep creating this amount of chances we will win games. At half time I said ‘guys we cannot say we are playing bad’.
09:55 PM BST
FT: Man City 3 Red Star Belgrade 1
Bukari’s goal to give Red Star the lead on the stroke of half time gives a misleading flavour to this game, because City were utterly dominant throughout. They racked up a quite ridiculous 37 shots on goal and 16 on target, who knows what their final expected goal figure was on the night. A winning start in their Champions League defence, and this a group you would fully expect them to win.
09:52 PM BST
Just the four minutes of added time
Erling Haaland will be irritated that he hasn’t made hay tonight and added to his Champions League tally. He has certainly had the chances.
09:49 PM BST
88 minutes: Man City 3 Red Star 1
Rico Lewis finds himself in space down the right, but the move breaks down at the edge of the area. The home team are content to run down the clock now.
09:45 PM BST
85 minutes: Man City 3 Red Star 1
The City youngster Bobb’s first action was to have a shot from the edge of the box, which almost squirmed through Glazer’s hands. Red Star look like emerging from the Etihad with a respectable scoreline.
09:43 PM BST
82 minutes: Man City 3 Red Star 1
City are making another couple of changes: Rico Lewis, Oscar Bobb (which sounds like the name of a Cheltenham Festival winner) and Kalvin Phillips are coming in for Foden, Dias and Rodri. Slightly worrying for Phillips that he is being grouped with the two kids for the low-key minutes...
09:39 PM BST
79 minutes: Man City 3 Red Star 1
With Kevin De Bruyne out injured, and Erling Haaland categoried as a pure goalscorer, there might be an argument that Rodri is the most rounded player in the Premier League right now. He is certainly the best in Europe in that sole No 6 role. City on easy street now.
09:35 PM BST
75 minutes: Man City 3 Red Star 1
City in again, but Alvarez looks for Haaland with a square pass rather than shooting before Foden blasts over the bar from distance. This game could end with the kind of scoreline that reflects the pattern of the game.
09:33 PM BST
GOOOAAAALL! Rodri with a slick finish
The man who scored the winner in last year’s final has added the third. Rodri carried the ball to the edge of the Red Star box and then stroked the ball into the far corner with his right instep. That’s the finesse City lacked earlier in the game.
09:32 PM BST
71 minutes: Man City 2 Red Star 1
City engaging in some keep-ball now, they are on course to win yet another opening group match in the Champions League.
09:29 PM BST
69 minutes: Man City 2 Red Star 1
Yet another save from Glazer! This time it was a loose ball that dropped for Doku to shoot from a tight angle. Red Star look punch drunk and are grasping for the ropes.
09:26 PM BST
66 minutes: Man City 2 Red Star 1
City close to a third again. Ake with a dart into the box, his driven cross was palmed away by Glazer but Alvarez fired into the side-netting from a tight angle.
09:24 PM BST
63 minutes: Man City 2 Red Star 1
This is now a question of how many City want to win by. Glazer, to his credit, responds to that dreadful error with a good save to deny Haaland once again. Yet another header on target but to no avail.
09:21 PM BST
GOOAAAAALLL! After so many great saves, Glazer has a shocker
The goal might well go down to Alvarez, who whipped the ball in from a wide free-kick. Glazer tried to punch it away one-handed, but went close to completely missing the ball and only deflected it into the net. That is probably an own goal on second look, the cross was going wide.
09:18 PM BST
57 minutes: Man City 1 Red Star 1
The game has hit a lull for a few minutes, as if both teams know the conclusion this game is heading towards. Doku has shown a couple of nifty touches in confined spaces since coming on.
Double save from Glazer! He spilled a long-range shot from Alvarez, and then smothered the rebound from Haaland.
Gomez off, Akanji on for City as Guardiola makes another change.
09:13 PM BST
52 minutes: Man City 1 Red Star 1
Ederson trying a first-time backheel 20 yards out had Guardiola rolling his eyes on the touchline. Very amusing stuff.
At the other end, Walker thought he had given City the lead after a run in behind and a scramble in the box. But the flag went up for offside.
09:10 PM BST
49 minutes: Man City 1 Red Star 1
Ndiaye unwisely tries to take on Walker on the counter-attack, and the City defender easily wins that battle.
Then Red Star try to send Bukari away with a ball over the top, but Ederson rushes out of his area to sweep up and keeps the ball with a first-time backheel. Crazy stuff.
09:08 PM BST
GOOOAAAALLL! Alvarez equalises with a gorgeous finish
It took around 90 seconds for City to equalise. Haaland did well to get his head up and find his team-mate Alvarez with a pass into the box, who took one touch to push the ball beyond the goalkeeper, and a second to flick the ball home from a tight angle with his right foot.
09:06 PM BST
47 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Dias looks for Doku with a diagonal pass into the box but the ball is overhit.
09:05 PM BST
We are back under way in the second half!
City get us going. Surely it is only a matter of time before they put this right.
08:57 PM BST
Quite remarkable stats
Manchester City have had 22 shots on goal, seven on target, no goals. Red Star have had one shot, one on target, one goal. Efficiency...
In fact, City’s 22 shots is the most of any side in the first half of a Champions League game since Opta records began 20 years ago.
08:52 PM BST
HT: Man City 0 Red Star Belgrade 1
So we have another Glazer who is unpopular in Manchester. Red Star’s goalkeeper enjoyed an excellent first-half, but really City - and in particular Foden and Haaland - will be kicking themselves for their wastefulness.
Then came Bukari’s goal right on half-time, which was the perfectly executed counter-punch. No question he was onside.
At the very least, it sets up the second half a treat.
08:49 PM BST
Bukari sprints over to the dugout to celebrate with his manage Barak Bakhar, team-mates and all of the staff! Regardless of the final score, even scoring first and leading at half-time is a turn up for the books.
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) September 19, 2023
08:48 PM BST
Red Star may just have scored! Var taking a look
One pass split the City defence open and Bukari was clean through. He took his time, kept his head and placed his finish beyond Ederson. The flag went up for offside, but the replays suggest he may well have been onside...
08:45 PM BST
43 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Some suggestion that Bernardo Silva is struggling with a knock, and his race is indeed run. Doku is going to replace him in City’s attack. Might be just the player to break down this deep-lying Red Star defence.
08:43 PM BST
41 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Another glaring headed chance wasted from City! This time it was Foden who was found by another wicked delivery from Gomez wide left. Foden was unmarked and only four yards out or so, and he put his header straight at Glazer.
08:40 PM BST
38 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Alavrez finds a lovely pocket of space to the right of centre and unleashes a shot towards the bottom left-hand corner. He strikes the ball so well from range, but once again Glazer was equal to it.
08:38 PM BST
36 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
City are cranking up the pressure once more. Rodri pounced on a loose ball ahead of the goalkeeper Glazer in the box, but rather than shooting on the turn he dinked a ball up to the back post. Gomez met it on the volley, and his shot deflected behind for a corner. Glazer punches the delivery away.
08:36 PM BST
34 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Bernardo Silva tries to cut inside from the right, but his shot was tame and trickled into the arms of Glazer. Probably one of his easier saves of the night.
Haaland then misses another big chance! Was an excellent pull-back from Gomez, straight to the feet of Haaland eight yards out but he scooped his shot over the bar. Maybe he was having to dig it out a touch.
08:32 PM BST
31 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Red Star produce their first threatening attack of the night, with four or five runners away on the break. The ball was wroked to Hwang on the right, who fizzed a ball across the area which Ederson pushed away at full stretch.
08:31 PM BST
29 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Another good save from Glazer in the Red Star goal. This time City threatened from a corner, with Rodri blocking off defenders and Ake free to head at goal. Not quite enough power behind the effort.
08:27 PM BST
26 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Haaland plants a header against the bar! Foden with a delightful cross dinked from the left, and Haaland was free as a bird at the back post. Only Glazer to beat but his header cannoned off the woodwork. Guardiola turns away in frustration.
08:26 PM BST
24 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Do not adjust your sets...Rodri has been booked for stopping an opposition breakaway. That will annoy Guardiola given how suspensions can creep up on you in this competition. City not quite doing the simple things well enough around the edge of the box, too many passes the wrong weight or poor touches.
08:23 PM BST
21 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Haaland had more time than he thought after a cross was floated to the back post, and the header almost seemed to take him by surprise and it skewed wide. Gomez is getting plenty of touches down the City left.
Bukari had the chance to lead a counter-attack for Red Star after a City attack broke down, but his touch let him down badly.
08:20 PM BST
19 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
City are starting to pull Red Star apart now. Rodri finds Bernardo in the penalty box after a passing lane opened up but for once his touch let him down. Then Ederson comes out of his box to pluck the ball down and play a short pass.
08:19 PM BST
17 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
That was Man City’s best bit of interplay. Foden’s flick around the corner found Alvarez, who had space to carry into because Haaland took a couple of defenders with him, but Alvarez’s shot was straight at Glazer.
08:17 PM BST
15 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Excellent save from the Red Star goalkeeper Glazer! The away side lost the ball sloppily at the edge of their box, Rodri could have looked for the pass to Haaland but took on the shot with his right foot, caught it sweetly and Glazer tipped it over the bar.
08:15 PM BST
13 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Strong defending from Ruben Dias, who already has the measure of Red Star’s striker Ndiaye. City having all of the ball, the game is developing into an attack against defence session despite a brought enough first first minutes.
08:12 PM BST
10 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Phil Foden turns his man in midfield and opens things up for City, but his through ball towards Haaland was a little overhit. Then the ball came back into the box and Foden tried an overhead kick, but he kicked fresh air.
08:10 PM BST
8 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Man City keep jabbing away at their opponents and they have another corner, this time it was Bernardo with one of those typical City underlapping runs to the bar-line. Foden’s strike from distance deflects behind for another corner.
08:09 PM BST
6 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
City have another corner, this time via a blocked Walker cross from the right. Red Star look to be defending in a 4-4-2 diamond shape, or a 4-3-1-2, so the space is down the flanks for City. The visitors stand firm and clear.
08:05 PM BST
4 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
Man City win their first corner of the night through an underlapping run from Rodri, surprisingly. His cross is turned behind by the defended. Nunes gets his head on the delivery but his effort was always rising.
Then Red Star get the ball down and play from their own penalty area, and do so well enough for Ndiaye to win a foul on halfway.
08:03 PM BST
2 minutes: Man City 0 Red Star 0
The visitors look determined not to sag back all the way to the edge of their box, but City can make you do that with their build-up play.
By City standards, it looks quite an orthodox back four. Neither Gomez nor Walker are really inverting, with Dias and Ake as the centre-backs.
08:01 PM BST
After a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the natural disasters in Morocco and Libya, not exactly overserved without a blemish.
Then Red Star get the game started.
07:56 PM BST
The players are on their way out of the tunnel
Mike Summerbee walks out before the team carrying the Champions League trophy, and he laps up every second of having his hands on the cup with the big ears.
07:44 PM BST
Guardiola on the task at hand
In this competition if you’re able to win nine points at home you are close. Mentally, we have to be prepared when everyone talks about how good we are. You have to be careful.
07:30 PM BST
Man City fans will be awfully pleased that Bernardo Silva stayed
07:25 PM BST
Kolvarov on Red Star
Aleksandar Kolarov, the Serbian left-back who scored Manchester City’s first Champions League goal in 2011, says Red Star are an ageing team and that is a bit of a worry. Kolarov was speaking to Laura Woods on TNT Sports with Ally McCoist recalling Red Star wiping the floor with his Rangers side in the 1991 European Cup.
07:12 PM BST
Guardiola is in the building
07:11 PM BST
The Red Star team and subs
Red Star Belgrade: Glazer, Mijailovic, Djiga, Dragovic, Rodic, Hwang, Stamenic, Bukari, Ivanic, Mitrovic, Ndiaye
Subs: Degenek, Spajic, Kanga, Katai, Olayinka, Krasso, Milunovic, Kangwa, Lucic, Kabic, Popovic, Vasiljevic
06:58 PM BST
Man City starting XI: Nunes, Gomez and Alvarez start
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) September 19, 2023
Matheus Nunes is handed his first Manchester City start.
Jeremy Doku, Manuel Akanji and Josko Gvardiol are the players to make way from the weekend win at West Ham.
Subs: Ortega Moreno, Carson, Phillips, Doku, Gvardiol, Akanji, Bobb, Lewis.
06:55 PM BST
Guardiola on the challenge of trying to retain the Champions League
We’re happy. We took a picture of the team with the four trophies there and to see the ChampionsLeague in front of you makes you feel so happy. We cannot deny it. But it’s done.
If I wanted to live for the memories, I would not be here. I would be at home or on some beach. But once we are here, we have to do it.
This is a challenge, go for it, try to do it. Okay, we have it, it belongs to us but the competition gives us a new challenge, go for it, at least try it and I don’t have any doubts we are going to try.
That means just Madrid, or maybe the Arrigo Sacchi period with Milan, did it in a row. I was incredibly proud to be manager of the Barcelona team that won two titles in four years but we didn’t win it in a row.
It’s so difficult but just try it. Be ourselves and if we’re able, okay. If we’re not able to do it, like in the previous six seasons together, qualify for next season and try it again.
06:46 PM BST
Kyle Walker on the hunger in the City dressing room
The hunger is still definitely in the changing room and the manager still wants to win more,” said Walker.
You can see what he is like on the field and in training. He doesn’t settle for second and we should follow in his footsteps because he has managed some great teams that have won fantastic things.
What we have done is in the past now. You draw a line and the manager did a diagram for the first game of the season and we start at the bottom of the mountain again.
We’re climbing the mountain. Our flag will always be at the top of the mountain because we have won the Champions League now, we’ve won the Premier League. But to go again and again, that is what separates the good teams from the great teams.
06:40 PM BST
The challenge laid down by Pep Guardiola
By Ian Whittell
Guardiola has challenged his defending champions to prove they are no one-hit wonders when they start the new Champions League campaign with a home group clash against Red Star Belgrade.
Manchester City’s dominant European campaign, and treble-winning heroics, appeared to have satisfied the last great burning need from the club’s Abu Dhabi owners to conquer the continent.
Chief executive Ferran Soriano even admitted last week that he felt a weight had been lifted by the success against Inter Milan in Istanbul in June.
But Guardiola will not accept such an attitude from his players as they look to maintain a run of 26 home European games unbeaten; 24 of them wins.
“He feels that? That’s good,” joked Guardiola. “What’s important is the players don’t feel relaxed.
“So the board and the chairman and the CEOs are relaxed, that’s good. They don’t play tomorrow, they don’t score goals.
“For our club to win the Champions League is something incredible, incredible. But in perspective, for the Champions League, how many teams won one Champions League, just one? A lot.
“But there are a lot who won two, a lot won three, a lot won four, a lot won five, there is one team won a lot, a lot. So, in perspective, in the Champions League we didn’t do anything special.
“Just one. But for us, of course, this club didn’t have it and to be part of that, we’re incredibly proud.”
06:27 PM BST
Manchester City heavy favourites as they begin Champions League defence
The Champions League group stage draw was kind to holders Manchester City, and they begin their campaign with what appears a home banker against 1991 European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade.
Some bookmakers price the Serbian team at 33-1 or even bigger, longer odds than pretty much every Premier League opponent would be at the Etihad (with the possible exception of Luton Town). That gives you some idea of the task facing Red Star tonight, with City to face RB Leipzig and Young Boys later in the group.
Pep Guardiola’s ability to rotate is hampered by some injury problems, with John Stones, Jack Grealish and Mateo Kovacic still unavailable. Grealish’s absence ought to mean another start for Jeremy Doku, who capped an impressive performance at West Ham with a goal. The Belgian winger could prove to be a sneaky-good purchase, for a City squad who have lacked flyers on the outside since the departures of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and this year Riyad Mahrez. Guardiola, on the touchline again after undergoing a back operation in Barcelona, could choose to give back-up goalkeeper Stefan Ortega a start in place of Ederson. City face Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday.
What do we know about Red Star, apart from the fact Billy Bragg’s uncle once played for them? Well, it’s their first appearance in the group stages since 2019-20, when they found themselves in a group with Bayern Munich and Tottenham. Spurs beat them 9-0 across the two games. The season before, Red Star found themselves in a group with PSG, Liverpool and Napoli and unsurprisingly finished bottom, but did beat Jurgen Klopp’s team 2-0 in Belgrade. Experienced defender Aleksandar Dragovic will be one of the familiar names for watchers of European competition, having played for Bayer Leverkusen, Dynamo Kyiv and Basel, and spent a season at Leicester City. Manager Barak Bakhar is in his first season having come from Maccabi Haifa.
Full team news on the way shortly.