Manchester City was handed arguably the easiest group of any world power in the Champions League.
Manchester City decided to hand the advantage right back.
Maybe not in totality, but City’s 2-1 home defeat against Lyon offers an inauspicious start to what the Citizens (and bookies) surely expected to be a legitimate challenge for European glory.
Fresh off dominating the Premier League like no team had before, City set its sights on capturing the Champions League title for the first time in its history. A squad stacked with talent that fit seamlessly together at every level seemed capable of such a feat, maestro’d by arguably the world’s best manager in Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola wasn’t on the touchline for Wednesday’s match, serving a suspension that carried over from last season’s quarterfinal loss to Liverpool. Assistant coach and longtime Guardiola confidant Mikel Arteta took his place, and while it would be unfair to lay the failure at Arteta’s feet, something was off.
City was routinely slow to locate Lyon players in transition, slow to chop down space on defense, slow to recover after giveaways, and Maxwel Cornet punished the hosts midway through the first half.
Nabil Fekir almost singlehandedly engineered the second goal, winning the ball in City’s half then taking a few touches and stinging a left-footed drive past goalkeeper Ederson:
Bernardo Silva pulled one back in the 67th minute, but City couldn’t take advantage of its 70 percent possession and doubling up Lyon on shots.
The truth is, City is still almost assuredly going to advance out of Group F. With due respect to Lyon, Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk, it would be foolish not to expect that.
Then again, the Citizens sit bottom after one round, with a trip to Hoffenheim in 13 days. So expecting a breeze to the knockout stages is a little more in question than it was 24 hours ago.
Real Madrid’s new No. 7 does best impression of the old one
While Cristiano Ronaldo was off getting red-carded elsewhere in Spain, 25-year-old striker Mariano made the most of his substitute appearance with a Ronaldo-esque goal in stoppage time to seal Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Roma:
Isco scored the opener on a gorgeous free kick late in the first half, while Gareth Bale doubled the lead in the 58th minute as the three-time defending European champions expertly broke down Roma, which reached the semifinals of the competition last spring.
Is Real Madrid worse off without Ronaldo and former manager Zinedine Zidane? Probably, as literally any club would be. But the side still features pretty much every mainstay of the past few years, and new boss Julen Lopetegui has four wins in five matches to start the season, so they’re very much in the mix to win the crown yet again.
Pogba propels Man United in Champions League opener
Paul Pogba opened United’s European campaign with a bang, scoring twice and assisting a third goal in a 3-0 win over Swiss-based BSC Young Boys.
His best effort came on the first goal, when he pulled quickly to his left foot and finished with an incredibly precise chip into the upper-left 90:
Young Boys were never a match for Uniteds, and these are the kind of games you get in the Champions League group stages, with Young Boys running away with the Swiss Super League last season and then getting run over by giants once they hit Europe.
United will take it, having now won three straight after a poor start to the season, including a pair of Premier League away fixtures despite going down a man in both.
The Red Devils also caught a break with Ronaldo’s red card, which means he’ll miss the home fixture against Juventus in a little over a month’s time.
Elsewhere in the Champions League
Benfica 0-2 Bayern MunichAjax 3-0 AEK AthensShakhtar Donetsk 2-2 HoffenheimViktoria Plzen 2-2 CSKA Moscow
Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.
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