Erling Haaland misfires, Julian Alvarez inspires: Who will stop Man City in the Champions League?

ETIHAD STADIUM, MANCHESTER — The name Glazer and footballing catastrophes have gone hand in hand in Manchester for years.

But the Glazer family’s rank mismanagement of Manchester United tends to take place in the shadows away from the green and yellow protest scarves.

By contrast, their namesake and Red Star Belgrade goalkeeper Omri Glazer made a show of himself under the bright lights of the Etihad Stadium in a 3-1 Champions League defeat on Tuesday night.

In truth, it’s a little harsh to single Glazer out. The Israeli international’s sterling work before halftime, repelling Rodri’s piledriver and thwarting Phil Foden from point-blank range as Manchester City racked up 22 shots on goal, played a significant part in Red Star claiming a shock 1-0 lead over the European champions.

Livewire forward Osman Bukari only needed one shot as he caught Ruben Dias napping to give the Serbian giants their ill-deserved advantage. It was their only shot of the half and Pep Guardiola’s treble winners were handed a rare lesson in efficiency.

MORE: Who will win Champions League 2023/24 title? Predictions, betting tips, odds for UEFA tournament

Julian Alvarez was a menace to Red Star before the break, always popping up in space he had no right to have on the edge of the area. When the Argentina star burst into the opposition box early in the second half, he appeared to have run out of room altogether as Haaland overhit the pass.

However, the man nicknamed La Arana (the spider) showed the sort of dexterity you’d only normally associate with an eight-legged creature as he touched the ball around Glazer and rolled his studs over it to finish in one rapid-fire movement.

The Red Star goalkeeper remained busy. He made a hash of an Alvarez shot from range in the 57th minute but instantly atoned with a fabulous stop to deny Haaland on the follow-up.

Glazer’s luck ran out a few moments later after Marko Stamenic brought down City full debutant Matheus Nunes on the left-hand corner of the penalty area. Alvarez’s free-kick dipped and curled sharply, but not to the extent that Glazer should have punched fresh air and heard the dreaded nestle in his top corner.

Available in the US

Available in the UK

Red Star midfielder Mirko Ivanic gave Glazer a conciliatory hug, an expression of sympathy that said it could have been any of the visiting players to crack under the pressure City were exerting. Who’d be a goalkeeper?

There was no time to sulk for the 27-year-old, who again denied Haaland on a rare night of personal failure for the Ballon d’Or nominee and he also saved sharply from City substitute Jeremy Doku before their Champions League final hero Rodri did his thing of expertly picking out the corner with a precise side-footed finish.

It says a lot of the jeopardy or lack thereof that exists for most of the elite sides at this stage of the Champions League that by far the most involved player for a club who were themselves European champions in 1991 was their goalkeeper. Adding a couple more group games from next season is hardly going to enhance the spectacle of an increasingly polarised sport.

As early as the first half, some of the press box conversation had turned towards who might stop City in their quest to go back-to-back. If anyone, it’ll be one of the usual suspects. 

Available in the US

Available in the UK

Bayern Munich were City’s toughest opponents during last season’s knockout stages. Their lack of a striker badly undermined them during a 3-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium. They’ve added Harry Kane, who will be an immediate problem for City’s near neighbours in Munich on Wednesday.

Real Madrid were swatted aside in the semifinal second leg, arguably the most complete and ruthless performance of the Guardiola era. They’ve added Jude Bellingham but lost Karim Benzema.

MORE: Who escapes the Champions League ‘Group of Death’? Predicting PSG, Newcastle, Milan, or Dortmund to progress

You wonder how Xavi’s vibrant but untested Barcelona side might stand up to such an examination. Tuesday’s 5-0 win over Royal Antwerp suggests it might be fun finding out. 

City overcame going a goal down and being without Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones, Jack Grealish and Mateo Kovacic to secure a win that never really felt in doubt against Red Star. Haaland misfired and another of the world’s best young strikers, Alvarez, irresistibly took centre stage.

An awful lot can happen between now and next May’s final at Wembley. But it feels certain that a formidable City team yet to hit top gear will take some beating now the Champions League monkey is off their back.

Share with your friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get The Latest Sports News
Straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.