Monday 15 October 2018

City lose cloak of invincibility at wrong time

Shakhtar 2 Manchester City 1

Manchester City’s Leroy Sane drives at Shakhtar Donetsk’s Ivan Ordets. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester City’s Leroy Sane drives at Shakhtar Donetsk’s Ivan Ordets. Photo: Getty Images

Luke Edwards

Pep Guardiola always knew this moment would come, that a defeat when you are trying to win four competitions is inevitable, but even if this was a game Manchester City could afford to lose, the timing could not be much worse.

City were already assured of topping their Champions League group, but they were not just beaten by Shakhtar, they were outplayed and on Sunday they travel to Manchester United, their neighbours and closest rivals in the title race.

They will walk into Old Trafford shorn of their cloak of invincibility and will find Jose Mourinho's men well drilled and rested after Tuesday night's win over CSKA Moscow.

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus challenges for the ball with Shakhtar's Ivan Ordets. Photo: AP
Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus challenges for the ball with Shakhtar's Ivan Ordets. Photo: AP

City's early-season momentum made them look unstoppable, but there were signs they had started to stutter before this taxing trip across Europe. After the unimpressive performance against Feyenoord, the late winner against Southampton and the laboured victory over West Ham last weekend, they go into the busiest period of the season, the bleak midwinter that has always concerned Guardiola after last year's barren run, with an unfamiliar losing sensation. They have new questions to answer, a different test to pass.

This was the first time City have been beaten since April and all winning runs must end. It is by no means a disaster, but it adds intrigue to this most frantic of footballing months. Lose again at the weekend and City really will appear vulnerable. He may have made most of his senior players travel to eastern Ukraine but with Sunday's game against United in mind, there were seven changes to the side that beat West Ham last weekend.

The most notable of them was the inclusion Phil Foden, who at 17 years and 192 days, became the youngest Englishman - or should that be boy - to start a Champions League game.

The creative spark that ignited the England U-17s World Cup winning success, this local lad from Stockport is also the youngest player to appear in this competition since Cesc Fabregas did so for Arsenal 13 years ago. Foden must get used to night's like these and although he will not be over-exposed at first team level, Guardiola is taking a personal interest in his development.

Shakhtar, though, were brighter and sharper led 2-0 at the break. Taison made the first incision from midfield and fed Bernard. His first touch was poor, but no City defender got to him and, spotting the angle was perfect his right foot, he curled a shot into the top corner.

City were all over the place at the back and the second goal was a disaster. Taison spotted the early pass over the City backline and Ismaily read it perfectly, poking the ball past Ederson. City huffed and puffed but didn't pull a goal back until Sergio Aguero's penalty in stoppage time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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