Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP)
Manchester City’s latest quest for Champions League glory began with success when Pep Guardiola’s men came from behind to beat Porto 3-1 at the Etihad on Wednesday.
Luis Diaz’s solo effort punished a sloppy start by City for the champions Portugal, who felt badly done when Sergio Aguero equalized with a controversial penalty.
However, the quality of the Premier League squad shone after halftime when Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick and substitute Ferran Torres propelled City to the top of Group C.
Guardiola admitted on Tuesday that he still feels guilty about the experimental training and training that led to City’s latest Champions League calamity in last season’s quarter-finals against Lyon just over two months.
The Catalan is in the final year of his Etihad contract and potentially his last chance to land the most desired City award when they brought him to Manchester five years ago.
However, in the first few weeks of the season, City seemed a faded force since Guardiola’s reign by winning back-to-back Premier League titles between 2017 and 2019.
Without injured Kevin De Bruyne, the English giants were once again far from their best and Porto took advantage early on.
Former Benfica captain Ruben Dias was at fault for giving the ball away for the opener against his former rivals.
But Diaz still had a long way to go to overcome the timid challenges of Rodrigo and Joao Cancelo before unleashing a powerful effort in the far corner.
The visitors’ lead lasted only seven minutes and City achieved good fortune.
Gundogan inadvertently caught Porto goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin as he attempted to steer the ball towards the goal and after the German’s shot came off the post Raheem Sterling was pushed into the box by Pepe.
After a lengthy VAR review, Gundogan’s challenge was not considered a foul to overturn the initial decision to award a penalty and Aguero smashed his first goal of the season.
Porto still had the best chance to regain the lead before half-time as Matheus Uribe shot with the gaping goal on a misplaced clearance from Ederson.
Kyle Walker then stopped Dias from scoring an own goal by turning Moussa Marega’s cut-back towards his own goal.
City regained control after the break, but it wasn’t until one moment of Gundogan’s magic 25 minutes out that they got past.
The midfielder won a free kick on the edge of the box and then rolled the ball over the wall to Guardiola’s relief on the sidelines.
Gundogan was starting for the first time since testing positive for the coronavirus and he was replaced seconds after scoring as Guardiola added another injection of pace to Phil Foden and Torres.
The 20-year-olds combined to seal the points as Foden’s pass fed the Spaniard, who jumped inside Pepe before curling up in the far corner.
Marchesin kept the score at the end with excellent saves from Riyad Mahrez and Rodrigo, while spirits erupted between Guardiola and Porto boss Sergio Conceiçao after Pepe and Sterling clashed.
However, City suffered a late injury when captain Fernandinho, who had only been on the pitch for nine minutes, was forced to leave with what looked like a muscle problem.
© 2020 AFP