Guardiola’s passionate call to arms to the City fans to mobilise had plenty of merits but this particular Champions League group would be a tough sell to most supporters, even if an offer for adults to watch all three home European games for £50 is some deal. No one expects City to do anything but breeze through it, not when you compare their resources to opponents Dinamo, Atalanta and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The strength of City’s squad still takes some digesting at times. Guardiola rested Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko after their exploits at Everton on Saturday and replaced them with the two most expensive full-backs in football history, Joao Cancelo (£60 million) and Benjamin Mendy (£52m).
Credit to Dinamo, though, they get to the break with the game goalless, largely thanks to some errant finishing from City and a blanket defence. Midfielder Nikola Moro was so deep Dinamo were almost operating with a flat back six for long periods as City pressed and probed, teased and taunted, without the end product Guardiola craved.
Sergio Aguero went close a couple of times, Bernardo blasted wide twice, David Silva scuffed a shot past a post after a handball in the build-up by Kevin Theophile-Catherine was missed and Ilkay Gundogan rattled the woodwork after lovely move culminating in a clever dummy from Riyad Mahrez.
Dinamo barely crossed the halfway line. Put it this way – Guardiola had his hands on his head when Mendy, in a rare moment of carelessness from City, passed straight to a yellow shirt. You would have thought by the City manager’s reaction that his team were 3-0 down. Heavens knows how Guardiola would have coped at Old Trafford on Monday with all those mistakes and mishaps.
Guardiola resisted any changes at the interval but, with little headway made early in the second half, he drafted in Raheem Sterling for Bernardo, who had been subdued. The Football Association are expected to make a decision this week about a potential charge for Bernardo for his controversial tweet and video about Mendy and, whether that was on the player’s mind or not, the Portuguese was not his usual busy, daring self.
So step forward Sterling who, much like he had been against Preston just days after being confined to the bench in the 8-0 demolition of Watford, resembled a caged animal desperate to be let loose here. He needed just 10 minutes to change the dynamic of this game, stealing in ahead of his marker to tap in on the goalline and finish off a beautiful, sweeping team move.
City is so good, and they score these sort of goals so often, that they are starting to make them look routine, but if they were routine goals everyone would score them. The speed of the movement and the precision of the passing did for Dinamo, Mahrez finding Gundogan who rolled a pass across the penalty area to Rodri. The Spaniard had one thought in mind and dissected Dinamo’s defence with a gorgeous diagonal pass that Mahrez glided on to and squared for Sterling to poke home ahead of the lunging Emir Dilaver.
The goal was vital because City was struggling to catch much of a break in front of the net, or from the officials in fairness, and Guardiola was getting increasingly agitated about the latter. He finally snapped with 20 minutes to go when Sterling went down under a (fair) challenge from Peter Stojanovic in the penalty area and was suitably booked by referee Serdar Gozubuyuk for remonstrating angrily with the fourth official, Kevin Blom.
The City manager seemed irritated that too many fouls had gone unpunished and his sense of injustice must have peaked when Aguero, brought down in the area by Dino Peric, was strangely denied a penalty by the Video Assistant Referee.
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Source – The Telegraph