Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan ran the show as Manchester City won their first Champions League match of the season 3-0 at Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Sky Blues’ defensive ranks were already depleted after John Stones joined Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines in midweek, with Kyle Walker’s early injury scare at the Metalist Stadium causing further headaches for Pep Guardiola.
Walker remained on the field, though he looked to be suffering. Fortunately, Mahrez’s opener halfway through the opening period came to help ease his manager’s nerves
Starting XI: Pyatov (6); Bolbat (6), Kryvtsov (7), Matviyenko (5), Ismailly (6); Alan (6), Stepanenko (6); Marlos (5), Taison (7), Solomon (6); Moraes (7*).
Substitutes: Antonio (5), Konoplyanka (6).
Key Talking Point
Walker may have carried on, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be fit for the coming weeks. The alarm bells were ringing when his night seemed set to end prematurely, demonstrating just how desperate City are getting at the back.
Guardiola has no choice but to give the kids a chance, Eric Garcia the leading candidate for promotion from the youth team. Any more injuries and the youngsters will have to be thrown in at the deep, so they’d best get some experience sharpish.
Starting XI: Ederson (5); Walker (6), Fernandinho (6), Otamendi (6), Zinchenko (7); Rodri (8), Gundogan (8*), De Bruyne (7); Mahrez (8), Sterling (6), Jesus (6).
Substitutes: Mendy (6), Cancelo (6), B. Silva (7).
STAR MAN – Ilkay Gundogan
Mahrez and Gundogan were a brilliant double-act for the visitors, tearing the Ukrainians to shreds in the first half. The latter marginally outperformed his counterpart, putting in a productive shift for the Premier League champions.
A much-maligned figure at the Etihad Stadium, he did all that was required from him in the middle of the park as the club looked to put a nightmare showing at Norwich behind them.
The Champions League campaign has started in fine fashion, with the Citizens’ solid display enough to keep their doubters quiet for now.
Wow, Walker seems to be in trouble too. Another injury announcement tomorrow? Another regular starting defender out for a few weeks?
— Vatsal Udani (@udani09) September 18, 2019
City welcome Watford to the Etihad on Saturday afternoon before travelling to Preston the following Tuesday as they begin the defence of the League Cup.
Shakhtar return to league action on Sunday at Desna, with a home fixture versus Vorskla to come five days later.