Manchester City came from behind and Julian Alvarez scored two second-half goals as Pep Guardiola’s men began the defence of their Champions League title with a win against Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade.
European Cup winners themselves in 1991, Red Star threatened a famous win when Osman Bukari put them in front at the end of the first-half.
But City took less than 90 seconds to level after the restart as Alvarez raced onto Erling Haaland’s return pass, rounded Red Star keeper Omri Glazer with a superb piece of deception and squeezed the ball home from a tight angle while still running at full speed.
Glazer spoiled an otherwise superb performance 13 minutes later when he went to punch Alvarez’s free-kick away from danger but instead got only the faintest touch on the ball which did not divert it away from the far corner.
Rodri’s last European goal was the historic effort than secured the trophy against Inter Milan in June. The Spain midfielder ensured City took a successful first step towards this season’s final at Wembley by scoring their third as he advanced unchecked into the Red Star box and guided a precise shot into the bottom corner.
The hosts deserved their win – by the final whistle they had amassed 77% possession and had an incredible 37 shots to Red Star’s three.
A rare blank for Haaland
While the excellent Alvarez could celebrate doubling his tally for the campaign, which now stands at four, it was a rare night of frustration for Haaland.
With 30 goals in 26 Champions League games before this match, it is fair to say the 23-year-old has taken a liking to this competition.
His 27th start in the Champions League will not be one that sticks in his memory though.
At various points both the Norwegian and his manager were left shaking their heads at Haaland’s failure to convert any of a growing number of opportunities he would normally have buried.
It was a powerful header that triggered the negative response from Guardiola as Haaland rose majestically and met the ball powerfully, only for it to come crashing back off the crossbar.
Shortly afterwards, Haaland seemed sure to score with a first-time shot on the turn from Alvarez’s cut back, only to blaze over.
City were ahead by the time Haaland probably sensed it was not to be his night. Again the Norwegian rose to meet a far-post cross a couple of strides from goal. This time he took the downward option. Glazer got a hand to it and somehow shovelled the ball on to the post, where it was cleared.
Haaland had one more opportunity, another header, which he failed to keep on target.
Red Star dreams dashed