Thursday, Jul 9th 2020 7:27 AM

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Manchester City thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in Champions League opener

Manchester City

Manchester City bounced back from their shock defeat at Norwich in style as they opened their Champions League campaign with a 3-0 victory at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Manchester City celebrate Riyad Mahrez's goal against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League

Manchester City celebrate Riyad Mahrez’s goal against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League

Pep Guardiola, who used Fernandinho as a makeshift centre half in the absence of the injured John Stones, would have wanted a response from his side following defeat at Carrow Road and they made the perfect start, taking the lead in the 24th minute through Riyad Mahrez. Ilkay Gundogan doubled City’s advantage 14 minutes later before Gabriel Jesus made sure the visitors got back to winning ways in the 76th minute. Victory sees City become the first English winners in this season’s competition. They finish Matchday 1 in second place in Group C on goal difference following Dinamo Zagreb’s 4-0 win over Atalanta.

How City bounced back

City started on the front foot in Kharkiv but Rodri got an early header all wrong with the goal at his mercy, while Mahrez fired well over from distance.

Man City player ratings

Man City: Ederson (7), Walker (7), Fernandinho (7), Otamendi (7), Zinchenko (7), Gundogan (8), Rodri (7), De Bruyne (8), Mahrez (7), Gabriel Jesus (8), Sterling (7).

Subs used: Bernardo Silva (n/a), Cancelo (n/a), Mendy (n/a)

Mahrez did open the scoring shortly afterwards though after excellent link-up play between Gundogan and Jesus saw the former curl a shot against the post. The rebound fell nicely for Mahrez, who made no mistake finishing into an empty net. Shakhtar responded to City’s opener but Junior Moraes, who was picked out by Taison’s inch-perfect through ball, saw his shot blocked by the chest of Ederson. It proved to be a crucial save as City doubled their lead not long after through Gundogan, who took Mahrez’s pass in his stride before and firing home off the post. After the break, Gundogan saw a shot saved by goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and when the ball rebounded to defender Sergiy Kryvtsov, he inexplicably played the ball across the area to Raheem Sterling, who struck the post with his fierce drive.

Midfielder Fernandinho was pressed into action as a central defender by Pep Guardiola. Injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have left Nicolas Otamendi as the Premier League champions’ only fit specialist centre-back, forcing manager Guardiola to seek alternative solutions. Striker Gabriel Jesus was preferred to record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who was named on the bench along with Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva for the Group C encounter.

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez were also named in Guardiola’s starting XI as part of four changes from the side that suffered a shock defeat at Norwich last Saturday. Kevin De Bruyne then pulled a shot wide in the 68th minute as the visitors looked to score a third. It was all too comfortable for City and they eventually grabbed a third to make the game safe when a three-on-one counter-attack ended with De Bruyne playing in Jesus, who finished with ease to seal City’s victory.

Manchester City eased to victory

Manchester City eased to victory

Pep: No doubts about Fernandinho

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: “I didn’t have doubts he could do it and he’s going to do it [again]. Of course Ferna is a player who can play many positions and has good personality, and that’s why he is so important for us. “But Nico is 31, Fernandinho is 34, and next alternative is 18. For three or four months I don’t know what will happen. “Both were incredible tonight but we need another solution – Rodri or Kyle (Walker) maybe – because they cannot play every game at their age. But Fernandinho can play in any position and that’s why he’s so important for us.

“I think already about Watford as we don’t have much time but to start away in the Champions League and get a good result [is positive]. The way we played was very good, we created incredible chances but all the guys were fantastic – better than last season.” “The clean sheet will please Guardiola the most. Otamendi didn’t put a foot wrong alongside Fernandinho. I think we all assumed Fernadinho would slot in and do a solid job and that’s what he did. He’s not played all season but it’s amazing how he can come in and just do the job. “It was a brilliant performance by City, who will be really pleased with a 3-0 win. It was a really important win and for the doubters it was important Otamendi produced a good performance and helped the team to a clean sheet.”

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