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Ilkay Gündogan lights up Manchester City’s easy win over Shakhtar Donetsk | Football

In the context of a defensive crisis caused by injuries to centre-backs Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, this was a particularly fine display from Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s team could have claimed victory in this opening Group C game by double the scoreline and there was little beyond the usual alarms expected at this level to concern a patched-up rearguard.

Yet of the Fernandinho-Nicolás Otamendi centre-back partnership Guardiola did have a warning. “Nico is 31, Fernandinho is 34, and next alternative is 18 [Eric García],” he said. “For [the next] three or four months I don’t know what will happen. Both were incredible tonight.

“Nico showed incredible personality after what happened in previous game [a mistake that gifted Norwich a goal on Saturday]. We need another solution – Rodri or Kyle [Walker] maybe because they cannot play every game at their age.

“Fernandinho can play in any position but it is impossible for them to play every few days. The next options are Eric García and Taylor Harwood‑Bellis and they are teenagers.”

Fernandinho’s inclusion was one of four changes from Norwich. The others were the Silvas – Bernardo and David – who were replaced by Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez, plus Sergio Agüero, replaced by Gabriel Jesus.

Luís Castro’s Shakhtar side was as expected, lining up in their familiar 4-2‑3‑1 with Júnior Moraes, one of the Ukrainian team’s five Brazilians, the lone striker. Within seconds of kick-off Rodri managed to miss with a header when scoring appeared easier, Serhiy Bolbat having fouled Raheem Sterling along City’s left.

After that, the visitors found a killer fluidity, the superb Ilkay Gündogan creating their opener. De Bruyne won a tackle on the edge of the area and when the ball found Gabriel Jesus, Gündogan smacked it off Andriy Pyatov’s right post and Mahrez was there to turn home a first goal of the season.

Riyad Mahrez fires in the rebound to guve Mancehster City the lead. Photograph: Michael Zemanek/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

This did not tame the home side, though. Instead they came at City in waves that had a concerned Guardiola prowling his technical area. When Taison nutmegged Rodri he tore forward and slid the ball to Júnior Moraes. The noise in the stadium surged as the No 10 pulled the trigger but Ederson’s save kept City’s lead intact.

It was about to be doubled, and this was City at their best. Rodri pinged a pass to Mahrez whose control was instant. He moved forward, found Gündogan making a sweetly timed run, and the No 8 made no mistake.

The half ended with Sterling setting up Mahrez, though his effort ballooned over, before a late scare for City was ended when Fernandinho blocked Júnior Moraes’s finish towards an empty net.

For the second half Castro took off Manor Solomon for Yevhen Konoplyanka, the Israeli having failed to make an impact, and Donetsk soon had a golden chance to pull one back.

Ederson misjudged a charge out to the ball allowing Júnior Moraes to aim a lob towards an empty net, but the effort went wide. Almost instantly Gündogan went close at the other end, but the midfielder was unable to finish.

The same player overran the ball when put clean through from a Sterling pass, the mistake causing Guardiola to throw his hands in the air – the manager was conscious one more goal would finish it.

Considering the defeat at Norwich and loss of Laporte and Stones, this was moving towards the kind of assured evening Guardiola wanted. Confirmation came when Jesus scored, and there was even a late cameo for Benjamin Mendy, making his first appearance since April.

On Saturday Watford are the visitors when Guardiola’s new central defence will be tested for the first time in the Premier League. He may be relieved that injury to Troy Deeney, a centre-forward who rarely gives defenders an easy time, means Fernandinho will at least not have to deal with him.

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